New Zealand expands into skinny wine

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 30/07/2014

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People want to drink wine, but people also want to be skinny and a little less drunk.

This is the theory and the research behind a new $17 million project involving New Zealand winegrowers, most of whom are from the South Island.

There is a growing overseas and domestic market demanding low-alcohol and low-calorie wines, and New Zealand wants a slice of the pie.

It will be the largest research project the Kiwi wine industry has been involved in , with the goal of seeing our "lifestyle" wines placed among the best in the world.

NZ Winegrowers chief executive Phillip Gregan says the project will see New Zealand capitalising on a growing trend.

"Research indicates that an increasing proportion of consumers are making purchasing decisions around their lifestyle, such as choosing healthier foods and lower-alcohol wines," he says.

According to the NZ Food Composition Tables, a standard glass of wine (150ml) is about 126 calories - depending on the varietal.

The challenge for winegrowers here will be to produce these low-calorie, low-alcohol wines naturally - no-one wants modified wine giving New Zealand a bad name.

Participating wineries include Villa Maria, Mt Difficulty, Giesen Estate and Accolade Wines which distributes brands like Waipara Hills.

The scheme will have $8.13 million of government money with the remaining $9m coming from the industry.

While some countries sell wines with alcohol content as low as 5.5 per cent, the New Zealand industry will be focusing more on producing wines around 9 per cent.

Registered dietitian Alex Howatson says the move to produce more low-calorie and low-alcohol wine choices was a good one.

He says better options will be an improvement, but the volume of wine being drunk was the ultimate issue.

Even if wines dropped to about 9 per cent alcohol they would still be ranking high on the alcohol-content scale.

"People need to be aware that drinking a lower-alcohol wine is not a green light to drink as much of it as they want," he says.

He is concerned new "lifestyle" wine options could lull drinkers into the sense they could drink more than their usual "normal wine" intake.

A 150ml standard glass of wine is equivalent to roughly 1.5 standard drinks.

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- The Press

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