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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Thursday, October 24, 2013


More low alcohol wines have appeared on the shelves over the last few years, mostly Sauvignon Blanc and other crisp acidic, and light fruity styles, with a few fun CO2 carbonated sparklers in the mix.  And realistically - in summer, a low alcohol option is probably a good idea when you are drinking to quench your thirst in the heat of the day.

But on the other hand, alcohol content is an inextricable part of the mouth feel of a wine.  Alcohol adds viscosity to a wine.  Viscosity is probably too strong a word because it conjures images of treacle and oil … perhaps.  But alcohol does add body to a wine. It’s like comparing a light watery Rosé to a full-on 16.5% alcohol grunty Aussie Shiraz.  They are polar opposites.

The old trick of tipping a glass on its side to see the skinny 'legs' of glycerol sliding down the interior is nothing remotely clever, but merely an index of alcohol content.  “Hey, look – this wine has alcohol in it.”  Big Deal.   You may likewise have noticed the thin viscous legs on a glass of Cognac or whiskey.  

Consequently you're very unlikely to see any legs on a low alcohol version of Chardonnay, Cabernet or Shiraz, because the big flavour mix on the palate needs to be balanced by alcohol.  But light, fruity wines can get away with a lower level of alcohol if there is up front fruit, acidity and a touch of residual sugar.  Interestingly NZ’s most awarded sparkling wine is Northwest Auckland winery, Soljan’s Fusion – a sweet and fruity carbonated  Muscat bubbly, and that clocks in at 8% alcohol.

Anyway, here’s a new range of low alcohol wines –Little Harvest from Constellation NZ.

Little Harvest Rose Hawkes Bay 2013 
An appealing pink shade, this wine clocks in at 9% .  Aromas of strawberries and raspberries, with the same on the palate in an off-dry style.
Chilled down, it will still have enough residual sugar and fruit flavours to cut it as a light aperitif style ideal for summer salads and lighter foods.

Little Harvest Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013.
On the nose this one comes off as a true Savvie - all gooseberry and passion fruit.  It has a medium dry palate with a crisp citrus finish.  Probably a bit light on the palate for most Sauvignon fans, with just 9 % alcohol.

Little Harvest Gisborne Moscato 2013
Not much at all on the nose, but once swished around the palate it does deliver that real grapey Muscatel sweet fruit with just a little spritz of effervescence.  It finishes quite crisp and clean.  At 6% alcohol it is as a colleague described - a good summer wine for cider drinkers.

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine Tours in Auckland.

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