Expert toasts 'a wine which isn't going to knock them flat'
Low-alcohol wines are moving away from the flavourless, thin drops of the past to a new hi-tech era of varieties that hold their body and weight, a leading wine judge says.
Jim Harre, a former air steward and veteran wine expert, is the chairman of judges at the Westpac Stadium-hosted New World Wine Awards, and said he noticed low-alcohol wines really coming of age at last year's awards.
Sophisticated new high-speed spinning and vacuum pressure techniques allow winemakers to produce low-alcohol wines in the 6 per cent to 8 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV) range that retain their flavour, weight and body.
The trend to quality low and reduced alcohol wines was largely consumer-led. "People want to have a glass of wine in the afternoon which isn't going to knock them flat on their face afterwards," Harre said.
The awards are the only ones to feature a low-alcohol category and there have been nearly double the number of entries in this division compared to last year.
However, Harre said it was not yet clear whether the low-alcohol trend would become established in the sauvignon blanc and pinot noir-dominated New Zealand wine industry.
Low-ABV wine also faced stiff competition from natural and organic wines, which were beginning to gain a good chunk of the market, he said.
Wines entered in the awards must sell for $25 or less, and there must be at least 6000 bottles available for sale.
It was an exciting time for pinot noir, Harre said. "Five years ago a good quality pinot noir under $30 was as rare as hen's teeth - now we're seeing really good quality pinot noir coming in under the $25 mark."
Dropping prices while retaining quality was a sign the industry was maturing and becoming more efficient.
This year the awards attracted a record 186 new vintage 2014 wines, compared to 128 last year. Judging ends today and winners will be announced in late September.
The Dominion Post