Where are we to find such bottles? It’s harder than you might think, particularly if you want to drink something at 12% or below. White wines from the cooler parts of viticultural Europe, such as the Loire Valley, northern Italy, the Mosel and even Bordeaux are good places to start looking. Sparkling wines, also produced in more marginal climates, tend to be naturally low in alcohol, as does Aussie Semillon. But that’s about it. If you like red wines, you can pretty much forget it.
I am excluding, by the way, any wines that use technology (reverse osmosis or spinning cones) to remove alcohol, because they are invariably disgusting. Far better to drink a sweet Moscato d’Asti (5.5%) or a medium sweet German Riesling (as low as 7%), both made by arresting fermentation, or a wine that is picked early, than one of these confections. It’s possible that yeast companies will come up with something that produces lower levels of alcohol in future, but for now I’d advise you to choose wines that are naturally light footed.
Six wines that I would happily drink under the magic 12% barrier are the tangy, crisp, gooseberryish 2008 J&F Lurton Sauvignon Blanc, Les Fumés Blanches, Vin de Pays du Comté Tolosan (£5.99 each for two, 12%, Majestic), the zippy, mealy, seafood-friendly 2008 Taste the Difference Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie (£5.99, 12%, Sainsbury’s), the mature, buttery, unoaked 2005 Peter Lehmann Semillon, Barossa Valley (£5.99, 11.5%, Tesco), the poised, appley, medium sweet, 2006 Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Kabinett, Fritz Haag, Mosel (£15.50, 8%, www.layandwheeler.com, 0845 330 1855) and fizzes such as Waitrose’s spicy Cava Brut NV (£6.49, 11.5%) and the malty Bluff Hill Brut, East Coast (£8.99, 12%, Marks & Spencer from New Zealand. Not quite 1961 claret, but very quaffable nonetheless.
Originally published In The Observer