How are those New Year’s resolutions going? Many people elect to have a healthier start to the new year with exercise and a better diet. Within that group, there are a lot of people that also like to participate in “Dry January” where they abstain from alcohol for the month. It is a good way of cutting out calories and not making bad food decisions after a glass too many!
Personally, I know myself too well and said I was going to have a “drier” January versus completely dry. No need to set myself up for failure! If you are like me and do not want to completely give wine up, then a good alternative is trying out some lower or low alcohol wines.
During fermentation, the yeast eats the sugar from the grapes and turns it into alcohol. Therefore, grapes with less sugar translates to less alcohol in the wine. Some cooler climate regions tend to have lower alcohol wines for this reason. The grapes do not have a chance to get very ripe like in a warmer climate. Think of a riesling from Germany versus a Zinfandel from California.
Keep an eye out for wines made in these cooler climate regions…Marlborough, New Zealand; Chablis, France; Alsace, France; Okanagan Valley, Canada; Champagne, France; Northeast Italy; Germany and Austria. Many wines from these regions will be under 12% alcohol and some even below 10%. Cooler climates tend to produce wines with higher acid, lower tannins and lighter body.
There are some other ways that wineries can lower the alcohol in their wines and include reverse osmosis, spinning cone technology and partial vacuum evaporation. There are many mixed opinions on some of these uses. However, the good news, is that they are improving and making better wines than in the past.
The popular New Zealand brand, Kim Crawford, just introduced Kim Crawford Illuminate which is both lower alcohol and lower calorie. They have it in sauvignon blanc and rosé. The two wines are 7% alcohol and 70 calories. Kim Crawford uses the spinning cone technology and they describe it as a process of low vacuum distillation to a small portion of the base wine that can target removal of alcohol without impacting the aroma of the wine.
Txakoli pronounced (chalk-o-lee) is usually going to be around 10 to 11% ABV. These come from the Basque region and go perfectly with many of the tapas they are renowned for. This one is slightly carbonated, has nice acid with citrus and green apple aromas. The Txueka family has been producing wine since the 1600’s.
Muscadet tends to be a cooler climate grape with nice acidity and lemon flavors. Perfect with oysters and other shellfish. This has some green apple and pear characters with notes of grass and a bit of sweet lemon.
Zweigelt is Austria’s most grown and popular red wine varietal. The Heinrich has aromas of plum and cherry. The palate brings a bit of sour cherries and black pepper spice. This is great with grilled chicken or a lighter pork dish.
This is a Beaujolais cru wine and is made with the gamay grape. Gamay is similar to Burgundy’s other red wine grape…pinot noir. Gamay tends to be slightly lighter than pinot noir but can be just as complex when it comes from one of the ten cru regions. This one has loads of fresh blackberries and black cherries with hints of cedar and walnuts.