I may have lifted a sceptical eyebrow when I first heard that a group of producers in the land of the long white cloud were making wine with low alcohol content. But the wine world has a way of continuously surprising. This isn’t a gimmick; it’s a serious undertaking. It’s called NZ Lighter and it’s the biggest research initiative by the wine industry there to date. Nothing is being taken from the wines and neither is anything artificial added to lower the alcohol content. To regard these wines as replacements for full-blooded bottles would be an injustice; they serve to complement the larger wine drinking experience rather than command it. Those I have looked at sacrifice little, if anything, in flavour and varietal expression.
Moderation is one of the key trends in Australia and lower alcohol offerings are growing in popularity with our customers across all categories.
We’ve been responding to the shifting drinking habits for some time and we continue to adjust our range to accommodate more products aligned with this trend. Pleasingly the quality of lower alcohol wines we’re seeing has improved significantly in the last few years and, as a result, are increasingly becoming an appealing option for consumers. Dan Murphy’s welcomes the NZ Lighter wine initiative.
Sunday Times Magazine
Wines with a light touch can punch above their weight.
You can make lower-alcohol examples without compromising on taste. I urge you to give them a try
In New Zealand grapes are grown in a gorgeously cool, maritime climate and slow-ripened to produce full-flavoured wine with up to 30% less alcohol compared to an equivalent full strength wine. This means you can still enjoy a glass without giving up what New Zealand wine is famous for – premium quality, varietally expressive, and delicious wines. You can even say that ’Lighter Wines’ from New Zealand are perfectly matched with those aiming for balance when it comes to incorporating wellness in their life.
Bob Campbell MW
The Real Review
Low alcohol wines have improved dramatically in the five years since 18 producers collaborated in a partly government-funded program to position New Zealand as the world’s number one producer of lighter-in-alcohol wines. Five years ago I regarded low alcohol wines as a curiosity. Now I see them as a welcome and viable extension to the New Zealand wine list.
We might like the idea of lower alcohol wines, but few, if any, have really cracked the challenge of naturally lowering abv levels whilst maintaining the quality of the wine. New Zealand winemaker, Dr John Forrest, believes he has found a way. Over the last 10 years and more he has been carefully developing techniques in the vineyard that allows him to control the alcohol levels in the grapes ensuring they are picked at just the right time to make his range of Doctor’s wines that only have an alcohol level of 9.5% – and crucially still taste like wine.
The Doctors’ Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2018.
This is a textbook Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc. Rich in those gorgeous thiols giving it classic gooseberry, passionfruit, boxwood flavours, racy acidity, but less than eight alcohol units in the whole bottle. The low level of alcohol is the result of winemaker Dr John Forrest’s own canopy management experiments. Dr Forrest trims large amounts of leaves off the vine mid-season; as a result the plant achieves reduced sugar concentration, which in turn translates in less alcohol in the wine without affecting the intensity of its aromas.
Master of Wine, JancisRobinson.com
“Two highly recommended and surprising whites from New Zealand. The Doctors’ 2018 Sauvignon Blanc is prototypical of the Marlborough style: high-definition gooseberry, nettle and citrus on the palate with huge concentration and persistence. The acid is sabre-toothed, but that fits with the style, and is softened on the finish by a few entirely reasonable grams of residual sugar (5.9 g/l according to the tech sheet). This is crowd-pleasing, flavoursome Savvy-B made in a style that appeals to millions, and which has earned a mean score of 15.7 in our tasting notes database. Residual sugar is something that wine experts often find heinous in Sauvignon Blanc, yet entirely laudable in Riesling. The 44 g/l of RS in The Doctor’s 2017 Riesling are tailor-made to appeal to the sorts of people who love Kabinett and Spätlese Rieslings from the Mosel. It has a similar lime marmalade, floral and honey character but also a stony, oily note that evoked the Clare Valley style for me. I scored it 16.5, which it has also scored on three separate occasions in the past. But there is one more reason to recommend these wines, which I have deliberately left until last: they are both naturally low in alcohol, at 9 and 9.5% respectively…But lower alcohol needn’t be the reason for choosing these wines because they stand alone for their excellent concentration and purity of flavour, and their admirable varietal and regional typicality. I tasted them several times at home, and never once felt that anything was missing. They prove that quality can be achieved without compromise at alcohol levels that are conventionally considered too weak – a particularly impressive feat for the dry Sauvignon Blanc – so they should appeal to all wine drinkers, whether populist or specialist. But, of course, they provide a great lower-alcohol option for anyone specifically seeking it”.
October 19, 2018
CEO, New Zealand Winegrowers
“We are providing the holy grail that many retailers and their customers are looking for – top-quality wines at lower abvs without compromising on traditional winemaking techniques.”
Syndicated columnist, Press Association
2017 M&S 9.5% Sauvignon Blanc
“Displaying all the expressive tropical and citrusy aromas and flavour we love in a New Zealand Sauvignon blanc – but with a lighter palate and naturally lower abv.”
Matthew Jukes’ Wine List
Mail on Sunday
2017 M&S 9.5% Marlborough Rosé
“Dr John Forrest expertly prunes his vines to achieve full ripeness al of his grapes at lower sugar levels. This results in a superb, juicy, aromatic rosé that has a delightful wild strawberry flavour – and a very low alcohol level. Taste this clever creation and marvel at the vineyard’s skill.”
The Sunday Telegraph
2017 M&S 9.5% Sauvignon Blanc
“An exuberant white made by Dr John Forrest that fair fizzes with elderflower, passion fruit and sherbetty lemon and lime flavours. If 9.5% doesn’t sound that low, bear in mind that a white at, say, 13.5% has 42% more alcohol in every glass.”
May 13 2018
Master of Wine
“Former Senior Product Development Manager for Tesco and Master of Wine, Philip Reedman assessed several wines from the NZ Lighter Wines programme, including The Doctors’ range. The Doctors’ Sauvignon Blanc, he argued, was of a high enough quality to have won gold in the standard category against conventional wines. “It would have been hard to tell they were lighter in alcohol wines if you had them in a line-up. They had the same flavour intensity and varietal characteristics you would expect from wines with standard alcohol levels.”
Winemaker, Marks and Spencer
“I was blown away by the quality of Forrest’s naturally produced lighter wines earlier this year. When I took a bottle of Forrest’s Sauvignon Blanc home to taste, my husband didn’t realise it was lower in alcohol. He just thought it was a very nice and fresh New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc!”