Right now is a perfect time to buy and try low-alcohol drinks...
“Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, look at where our waistline is...” As we venture out of winter hibernation, and tentatively start to bare a little more skin in the warmer weather, it’s only natural that thoughts turn to ways we can tweak our lifestyle in order to be healthier, leaner, and perhaps even a little more motivated to hit the gym. One of those ways can be to reduce alcohol intake. But before you all roll your eyes and storm from the room slamming the door, the good news is it need not mean you need to give up all social activities. Our demand for a greater variety of lower alcohol drinking options is being met step for step by our winemakers, cider makers and brewers with a new generation of delicious, lighter drinks, that make absolutely no sacrifices in flavour and quality in the name of reducing alcohol.
Brancott Estate’s Flight range launched last year and was such a success it’s been expanded to include a sparkling sauvignon blanc and a rosé, which both have 9% alcohol by volume (ABV). The pair join the sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and riesling already in the range. “The 2014 vintage was ideal for Brancott Estate Flight,” says chief winemaker Patrick Materman. “The season started early which meant the grapes had plenty of time to develop intense flavours at a lower sugar level. The response to Brancott Estate Flight has been outstanding and we were keen to take advantage of this year’s outstanding fruit to explore new varietals for the range.” Villa Maria is also a key player in the growing trend for lower alcohol wines, releasing the new Private Bin Light range which includes a Private Bin Light sauvignon blanc, rosé and pinot gris. Senior winemaker Nick Picone says the biggest challenge for winemakers in creating low alcohol wines is looking for ripe flavours and acidity at much lower sugar levels. “The challenge is to not compromise on flavour with the palate weight, texture and complexity in comparison to standard alcohol wines.” While some traditionalists will maintain low-alcohol wine means sacrificing quality, the growing demand suggests otherwise, Picone says.
Those who are looking for lower alcohol wine options include as many traditional wine drinkers as those who are just looking for a healthier drink option or those who have a low tolerance for the effects of alcohol, he says. “Plus, the convenience of the lower alcohol means the wine lends itself well to certain social situations.” He adds that the low alcohol wine primary growth partnership research programme, being run by the Ministry of Primary Industries in partnership with wineries, means New Zealand is well positioned to be a world leader in the development of quality low alcohol wines.
Also worth trying
- Belle by Invivo Sauvignon Blanc
- The Doctors Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc
While low-alcohol beer has been around on the market for a while, finding one that comes complete with a full-flavour has been much tougher. Enter 2 Stoke, a light golden beer, with full-bodied taste and subtle bittering, at just 2% ABV. Scott McCashin from McCashin’s Brewery which produces 2 Stoke says it became clear there was a gap in the market for a full flavoured low-alcohol beer. “As part of getting an on-licence for our on-site bar, we had to provide a low alcohol option and we found there were very few commercially available low alcohol beers, let alone craft beers.” He says the biggest hurdle in creating a tasty low alcohol beer is that it gives brewers nowhere to hide. “The higher the alcohol content, the more ‘wow’ factor the beer has. It gives it more body and hides a lot of faults. “We make 2 Stoke by starting with Stoke Gold and evaporating off some of the alcohol which gives you a fuller flavour and body, compared with only fermenting a beer up to 2%. But it is also a costly way of doing it. “We have definitely achieved what we set out to do and we’ve had quite a few stories of people happily drinking 2 Stoke until several beers later they realise they are drinking a low alcohol beer.”
Among the big players DB last year addressed the growing demand for lighter drinks with the release of DB Export Citrus – a blend of DB Export lager with natural lemon juice. It went on to be one of the standout hits of the summer. They’re following it up this spring with the release of a grapefruit version. Says DB spokesman Simon Smith: “The reception to DB Export Citrus has been incredible. There is now a different set of expectations of the role beer plays for people when they spend time with their family and friends. They now look to be in greater control of their actions and enjoy experiences.”
Try 2 Stoke with caesar salad or seafood such as prawns or snapper.
DB has also been taking a fresh, low alcohol look at its cider portfolio and has just released Monteith’s Lightly Crushed Cider with a 2.8% ABV. The challenge for the cider makers, says Smith, was maintaining the body and full apple taste consumers experienced in the full alcohol version. They really had to “go back to the drawing board”.
“The trend towards health and wellness means consumers are being far more wary of what they’re consuming, which makes Lightly Crushed Cider a perfect alternative for summer socialising for those looking to have a refreshing drink but not a soft drink or light beer.”
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