Monday, March 12, 2007

A new trend in France: low alcohol and reduced alcohol wines

In reaction to stricter driving regulations and the decline of alcohol consumption in France, some producers have recently released new brands of low alcohol/reduced alcohol wines. These wines are also aimed at female drinkers who don't like to feel heady after just one glass of wine and also appreciate the reduced amount of calories.

Winemakers have different ways to produce low alcohol wines. This can be done naturally by using varietals such as Grenache and Cinsault that can reach maturity without accumulating too much sugar. They can also use yeasts that do not completely transform sugar into alcohol, leaving a certain amount of residual sugar in the wine. Other methods are more technology-based. Some remove the sugar from the must (Redux procedure). Others remove the alcohol from the fermented wine (reverse osmosis).

Now, do these high tech reduced alcohol wines still taste like wine? According to the French wine magazine La Revue du Vin de France, only few are successful, most are disappointing.

The magazine tasted 13 wines with an alcohol content ranging from 9% to 11.5%. The best rated brand was the Plume (means feather) range from Domaine La Colombette in the Languedoc. The domaine offers a white, rosé and red with an alcohol level reduced to 9% using reverse osmosis. The magazine gave the Chardonnay a 15.5/20 rating and noted that the wine was fresh and tonic with a vivid nose of citrus and stone fruits and a well balanced palate. They also found the Plume Grenache Rosé and Grenache-Syrah Rouge pleasing and well-crafted. But many were lower than average, including the Dix Vin Blanc and Dix Vin Rouge (alcohol limited to 10%), also from the Languedoc and produced by the Vignerons de Calvisson. They didn't have much structure and flavors and were both rated 9.5/20.

Now I am curious to try some of these Plume wines. Unfortunately, I don't think they are imported in the US yet. So maybe next time I go to France, I'll let you know...

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