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We test low alcohol wines

Like wine? Us too. But what about low alcohol wine? Yes, it might save a few calories and make the morning after a little less painful, but are they any good?

 We invited Elderbrook drinkers, Sarah, Emma and Maxime to try a few lower alcohol bottles to find out. Our guineapigs are not wine professionals; they just enjoy it enough to know their Merlots from their Chardonnays. To make things fun we did an alcohol blind test by hiding the percentages on each bottle label to see if they could rank them from bucks fizz to mildly intoxicating.

 Johannisberg Riesling V Kabinett, Johannishof 2014 (Elderbrook scores on the door 7/10)

Available from the Wine Society, £11.95 for a bottle. 

Basics first, Riesling is a white grape from the Rhine region of Germany. Their wines are sweet and Sarah described this one as ‘very sweet, like honey’. It’s transparent, with wafts of citrus fruit. Take that lemonade. There were general comments on this one being dry and rich but it was ‘too sweet’ for Emma, and Sarah said she wouldn’t want to share a whole bottle. Alcohol wise it came in at a reasonable 8% compared to your average bottle of white around 12%.

 Alaia Txakoli 2013 DO Getariako Txakolina (Elderbrook scores on the door 6/10)

Available from M&S, £10 for a bottle. 

It sounds Greek but this wine is from the Basque region of northern Spain. It’s a vivacious young wine traditionally poured at height into tall glasses. Being British we were a little more conservative, filling our glasses with the bullet proof neck on rim technique. Professional wine critic Olly Smith Sharp has described this wine as “scented and piercing as a diamond drilling to the core of your palate.” But, Emma felt it looked very pale and had little aroma with a sniff of ‘apple and freshly cut grass’. It went particularly well with a slice of nutty Epaisse cheese we had on the side. This wine was on the boozier end of what we tried weighing in at 10.5% on our alcohol scales.

 Gamay, Jacques Depagneux 2013 (Elderbrook scores on the door 7/10)

Available from the Wine Society, a very reasonable £5.50 for a bottle

This French red was our only non-white option. (Red grapes need more time to ripen which adds up to more alcohol). Despite having an unattractive name similar to a dodgy leg, Maxime described this wine as having ‘lovely dark colour’. Sarah thought that it reminded her of ‘forest fruit ’and even though being our punchiest bottle at 11.5%, said that it was ‘easy to drink’.

 Moscato D’Asti Elio Perrone 2015 (Elderbrook scores on the door 6/10)

Available from the Wine Society, £7.25 for a bottle.

This Italian white has a history to be proud of. It has been produced by the same family for five generations and the incumbent vintner, Stefano Perrone, spent his youth racing cars before taking over the family business. At only 5% alcohol, it was like drinking a soft drink with the mildest kick. Critic Nikki Welch summed it up perfectly, "this is the perfect glass of bubbly for when people drop by, particularly in that weird afternoon period which could begin a slippery slope of an evening”. Our low-alcohol-winos sniffed and tasted peach and described by Sarah as ‘fun, fruity and sweet’. We served it with some of our homemade baking, find the recipes here. (insert link to our baking article)

 What did we learn?

First, it was hard to compare alcohol strengths. Only Emma guessed the correct order and some of the punchy bottles were thought to be the lowest. Second, less booze doesn’t mean less fun. We polished off all four bottles between six of us. Whilst having a bit of a Friday night buzz, it was clear that we’d drunk less alcohol than we’d have expected to. This was welcomed and everyone went home feeling relaxed but knowing that getting up in the morning would be a piece of cake. However, and the reason our drinkers won’t be swapping their regular red for a bottle of Gamay was lack of flavour. We are all in agreement that our selection of low alcohol wine lacked depth and were a little too watery to buy on a regular basis, despite ticking some of the ‘little bit better for you’ boxes.

And finally.

You may have noticed that three of our four wines came from the Wine Society. We’re not sponsored by them but bought a few bottles because they have a big selection and are reasonably priced. You can find out more about them here.