Wine without the headache
As we've higlighted in our Under the Influence series, on pages 12-17, wine should always be drunk responsibly. One area that wine drinkers may want to investigate are low alcohol and de-alcoholised wines.
These drinks are often marketed as 'lifestyle' and with fewer calories. Usually fragrant and fruity, a target audience is the female market. Aromatic white varieties tend to perform best followed by rosé wines with a little sweetness.
Reds are much less forgiving of their alcohol loss because the various processes can give bitterness. In the vineyard there are two types of ripeness that occur, sugar ripeness and flavor (phenolic) development. Hotter climates ripen grapes more fully, producing wines with higher alcohol levels around 14.5pc. If excessive, daytime heat will accelerate sugar production but retard flavour maturity. Resulting wines are high in alcohol but without the balancing depth of flavour.
With global warming, wineries in warmer climates are increasingly challenged to produce wines with moderate levels of alcohol - around 12pc-13.5pc. Some succeed in losing alcohol through evaporation by using open-top fermenting containers, applying warmer fermentation temperatures and using the less efficient, indigenous "wild" yeasts.
Others prefer technology. Two recent technologies popular in reducing alcohol are Reverse Osmosis (RO) and Spinning Cones. RO uses the same process as the human kidney to filter out alcohol by passing through tubes whose walls are a filtration membrane.
Meanwhile, the Spinning Cones expel the wine's alcohol particles when spun in a vacuum, not unlike the action of drying laundry on a spin cycle. More traditional methods involve a short fermentation where only a small amount of the grape's sugar is converted to alcohol, leaving a residue of natural sweetness. Alternatively, the wine is gently heated to allow the alcohol vaporise at a low temperature to minimise any negative affect on the flavours.
However, dilution is the simplest method of reducing alcohol in wine. Add sparkling water to whites and rosés for a Spritzer and fruit juice and mineral water to reds for a Sangria-like Cooler. DIY.
1) De-alcoholised wine: Muscat, Natureo Free, Torres, Spain 0.5pc
Classic Muscat character of white blossom and fresh grape fragrance. Off-dry and fruity with refreshing acidity.
€6.99 nationwide at O'Brien's Fine Wines, SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and Tesco. In Dublin at Mitchell & Sons, CHQ at IFSC and Glasthule; Redmond's, Ranelagh; Sweeney's, Glasnevin and The Corkscrew, Chatham Street.
2) Reduced Alcohol wine: Italian Pinot Grigio, Light Lips, Germany 5.5pc
True to PG character, refreshing crunchy green apple fruit and skins. Simple and easy to enjoy.
€5-€5.99 Dunnes Stores nationwide
3) De-alcoholised wine: White Zinfandel 2011, Fre, Sutter Home, California 0.5pc
Pretty in pink with feminine raspberry cordial aromas. Off-dry and fruity red cherry flavours.
€7.99 nationwide at Dunnes Stores.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, La Baume, Pay's d'Oc, France 14pc
Concentrated tarry blackcurrant fruity aromas. Warming and full-bodied cassis fruitiness with an added bite of acidity and grip of tannin. Match with a hot madras beef.
€10.50 from €12.85 nationwide in Dunnes Stores until April 27
O'Brien's Spring Wine Fair at The Print Works, Dublin Castle on Friday and Saturday 24th and 25th April. Over 45 wineries represented. Tickets at all 32 O'Brien's' stores nationwide and online: obrienswine.ie @ €15 per person.