Consumers favour low alcohol

21 September, 2007

Independent wine merchants say they are receiving more requests from customers for lower-alcohol wines as government health guidelines get stricter.

At The Bunch annual press tasting - a collaboration between Adnams, Berry Bros & Rudd, Corney & Barrow, Lay & Wheeler, Tanners and Yapp Brothers - retailers said customers were more conscious of alcohol levels in wine than ever before.

Amanda Skinner, chief operating officer at Lay & Wheeler, said: "There is a concern that alcohol levels are creeping up. There has certainly been a shift in the way people are buying wine. They want to drink better wines less often."

Skinner partly attributed the "phenomenal uptake" of the German 2005 vintage at Lay & Wheeler to a growing interest in lower-alcohol wine, but she stressed that it was also down to the improved quality of European wine. 

"The Europeans have had a kick from the New World and as a result their techniques have got cleaner and purer, which is what people want now," she said.

Jason Yapp of Yapp Brothers agreed that low-alcohol wines were becoming more popular, but said it was harder for retailers to source them.

He said: "These days people are less impressed with high-alcohol wines, but northern regions with typically cool climates are getting warmer.

"A few years ago in Bordeaux 12.5 per cent abv was the average, but it's harder to get something of that percentage now. We recently found a 15 per cent wine from the Loire, which is the highest abv I've seen from there and shows the way things are going."

Robert Boutflower of Tanners said retailers also need to be confident about the quality of lower-alcohol wines in order to stock them.

He said: "We have seen a trend of people asking about alcohol volume, but you have to get the balance right and, above all, we believe in quality.

"You have to ask yourself, do you want to drink reedy thin wine that's a low percentage, or if you want to drink something with some decent flavour?"

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