We wine scribes do not always stand around at tastings nodding in agreement about every sip that passes our lips. Wine is a matter of personal preference, and even those with well-trained palates disagree about a particular wine.
Sometimes, however, there is universal accord. Last spring at Tesco’s semi-annual tasting, there was a lot of good wine on offer. They also showed a new range of low-alcohol wines, and these were the ones that elicited a near-unanimous thumbs-down.
Tesco had its autumn tasting a couple of weeks ago, and there were no low-alcohol wines in sight. When I asked Dan Jago, Tesco’s straight-talking director for beers, wines and spirits, why they weren’t there, he replied: “Because you lot were so rude about them last time”. But he also said that he expects the wines to gain in popularity, especially as their low alcohol means low prices. When I say low alcohol, I really mean low – as little as five per cent. If they don’t always compare with their full-alcohol counterparts, remember, as Dan Jago points out, that you can’t judge these wines against those that go into the bottle at their natural level.
Tesco are not alone in pushing in this direction. Marks &Spencer has recently beefed up its range, sometimes with great success, and at its recent tasting one of the very-low-alcohol stars was Flambant Bulles Rouge Vin de Table Pétillant. This is a light, pleasantly off-dry red with a hint of spritz and a touch of syrah spice. Price is £8.99, alcohol just eight per cent.
On the whole, I seek out wines that have a lower alcohol content. Pujalet 2010 Vin de Pays du Gers (Waitrose, £4.99) is a light, crisp blend of colombard and ugni blanc with delicate citrus notes and a versatility that makes it one of the house whites chez Ehrlich. And Viña Esmeralda 2011 (Tesco, Booths, Majestic and Waitrose, around £7-8), is a wonderfully aromatic blend of moscatel and gewürztraminer, full of floral, grapey flavour.
Both 11 per cent, both wonderful. Your doctor would be very happy.