There is plenty of discussion, particularly in the detox months, about how high alcohol should be in wine. Of course this really comes down to personal tolerances, preferences, or drinking requirements. It is perfectly reasonable to suggest a world class port, clocking in at 20% can be just as balanced as a sparkling English wine with an abv of 12%.
Strictly speaking low alcohol wines are referred to as reduced alcohol wines, and are 5.5% or below. This isn’t far off fruit juice, which is a completely different drinking experience to enjoying wine. If we are to judge wines by alcohol, which is a mistake, we tend to forget is that there are plenty of wines out there which are regarded as quality wines, complex wines, between 8.5% and 12%, which seems to be the current purchasing sweet spot.
Germany has always made sensational wines from the Riesling grape, the slightly sweeter lower alcohol wines from the Mosel, or a drier Rhein wine. Most sparkling wines around the world are 12%. And let’s not forget Bordeaux, which historically struggled to reach 11.5% even with a helping hand from a sugar pot. The modern day Bordeaux is now much weightier, due to generally better wine making practices.
Here are some wines which we think are delicious, elegant, and are not too hefty.
Sugrue Pierre The Trouble With Dreams 2013 12% £39.99
A blend of 60% Chardonnay & 40% Pinot Noir. 50% fermented in old 500l puncheons and old oak barriques, fruit from Storrington Priory Vineyard and Mount Harry Vineyard, Lewes. 6g/l Dosage.
The fourth vintage of Sugrue Pierre 'The Trouble With Dreams' comes from the 2013 harvest, again sourcing fruit from Storrington Priory Vineyard, but importantly this is the first vintage where the majority of grapes came from the exceptional Mount Harry Vineyard, near Lewes in East Sussex.
Coteaux du Giennois Les Beaux Jours 2016 12.5% £13.99
A delicious Sauvignon Blanc from Giennois, an area in the Loire near to Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. Perhaps not as well know, but in the hands of a talented winemaker the wines can be just as good at two thirds of the price. Fresh, with bracing acidity, balanced with ripe fruit, an uplifting drink.
Soave Classico Pigno, Gianni Tessari 2015 12% £16.99
Gianni Tessari is one of the most respected wine makers in Soave, he and his brother brought these wines to the market in the 1980s, winning many awards. Pigno comes from a volcanic hill, the wine has lovely salinity, almond notes and a clean, fresh finish.
St Romain, Chantereves 2014 12.5% £30.00
What a delicious wine! I drank one of these the other night. St Romain is one of the lesser villages in Burgundy, but winemakers Tomoko Kuriyama and Guillaume Bott have coaxed out a very fine wine. This shows how elegant Chardonnay can be when handled with soft hands, definitely a wine to watch.
Saumur Champigny Rouge 2015 13% £14.49
This is one of my favourite drinkers on the list, especially from the fruit forward 2015 vintage. This is a Loire red made from the Cabernet Franc grape, it’s not stalky or peppery, it’s light, pretty and delicious. It is just as comfortable at room temperature as it is with a light chill. I must remember to buy more.
Valpolicella, Ca Fiui, Corte Sant Alda 2016 12.5%
This is a fantastic wine, lovely pure fruit, elegant, long and complex. This is a top quality Valpolicella, made biodynamically.
Written by Henry Butler