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Can't quite commit to Dry January but still want to limit your alcohol consumption? We've got you covered with a guide to how alcohol works in wine, so you can make more informed decisions when it comes to buying bottles this month.
It’s the new year, which for many, has become synonymous with giving up the booze for the month of January. If leaving 2020 behind felt like a weight was being lifted, then 2021 hasn’t been exactly upbeat so far. Perhaps there’s little wonder that 2.7 million had already given up on Dry January less than a week into the month. There’s also the argument to be made that, considering how hard hit the drinks industry has been hit by the pandemic, buying from wine shops and other alcohol retailers throughout January is a needed gesture of support.
But, even if you haven’t given up alcohol for this month, you may be looking to reduce either the amount you drink or the percentage. If that’s you, read on for a guide to alcohol in wine, so you can choose lower alcohol wines with confidence. And if it’s not, well, it’s always useful to know how alcohol in wine works.
Alcohol is produced when the sugars in grapes ferment. The ripeness of the grape affects how much sugar there is, which means that climate, and weather all affect potential alcohol level.
If there isn’t enough natural sugar in a wine, winemakers can choose to ‘chaptalise’ the wines meaning they add more sugar into the grape juice before fermentation. As with all winemaker interventions, some winemakers choose to avoid this.
This means that a cool climate wine that’s 'naturally’ made might lean towards being naturally lower in alcohol.
'Low alcohol’ wines are defined as those under 10% ABV. Medium sits between 10 and 15, and then 'high’ is 15 and above.
The trend over the last 30 years or so has broadly been towards higher alcohol wines. Many cite the reason for this as Robert Parker, an American wine critic, whose preference for high alcohol wines combined with his influence have meant winemakers have chased those higher ABVs. Many Californian Bordeaux blends - and indeed many Bordeaux themselves now - fall into this 15+ category of wine.
If you’re looking to reduce your alcohol intake this new year, rather than cut it out completely, explore some fantastic lower alcohol, and cooler climate wines where you can.
As we mentioned above, naturally-made wines from cool climates are often lower in alcohol. Point in case: many of the wines from Sussex-based winemaker, Tillingham, hover around the 10% ABV mark. If you’re unfamiliar with natural wines (a blog post or two in itself), we recommend giving one of Tillingham’s bottles a try.
Qvevri are one of the oldest winemaking vessels in the world and used to be commonplace in Georgia. Tillingham’s Ben Walgate is a big fan of qvevri. This white is a blend of 50% Pinot Blanc and 50% Chardonnay, which makes for a really elegant and interesting wine. Expect stone fruits, lots of citrus, butteriness and minerality.
This wine really sums of the style that Tillingham has become known for in the few years since Ben Walgate started making wine in the south of England. This is a blend of Ortega, Chardonnay, Schönburger and Bacchus grapes. Salty elderflower with a grippy palate from the skins make this a winner, and a low alcohol delight.