Light, fresh and fruity are big buzzwords in the world of red wine at the moment. Lucy Britner looks at why, and what this means for retailers

Whether you back the chicken or the egg, there’s no doubt that consumer trends towards lighter styles of red wine will be helped along by the changes to wine duty. Some retailers will inevitably look to lower alcohol levels to meet both price points and changing tastes. However, before we do our duty on duty, it’s worth noting there’s more than one way to define “light, fresh and fruity”. 

“We’re seeing a trend for people wanting lighter or chillable reds,” says Co-op wine buyer Sarah Benson. “That was certainly the idea behind the País.” The Chilean Co-op Irresistible Pais 2022 is 14% abv, and it’s a blend of 85% País and 15% Pinot Noir. “I’ve heard people use the expression ‘sessionable’ wines – they want something lighter and fresher and this certainly fits that bracket.” 

The País variety also gets a mention from José Ignacio Bascuñan, export director for Europe at Chile’s Morandé Wine Group. “There’s ongoing demand for lighter and fresher styles of red wine all year round now, which is partly evidenced by the steadily growing appeal of Chilean País and Cinsault,” he says. 

“Morandé was one of the first to bet on reviving ancestral varieties in the 1990s, such as País, which was first brought to Chile in the 16th century and once the most planted variety. We’re now seeing both País and Cinsault being recognised for producing high-quality lighter and fresher fruit styles of red wine.” 

According to Bascuñan, Chilean wines have been moving towards greater freshness more broadly for some years, with an emphasis on “respecting the pureness of the fruit”. 

Staying in the southern hemisphere, Morrisons wine sourcing manager Charles Cutteridge said at a recent tasting that the supermarket is paying close attention to South Africa and in particular Pinotage. “A big thing that we’ve seen in red wine, and specifically South Africa, is a shift towards lighter, more drinkable wines,” he says. 

“The revival of Pinotage is really interesting. When I started in the industry, there were a lot of very smoky styles out there, whereas the way people are making it now, it’s a lot fresher and more fruit forward. And I think that’s great because that’s what people are drinking more of at the moment,” he explains. 

On the producer side, Accolade is bringing what it claims is a New World approach to Old World wines with its new Remastered brand. The first red, a 13% abv Sangiovese from Romagna, is described as being “medium bodied with delicate tannins” and having a “bright fruit flavour”. 

Tom Smith, Accolade Wines’ marketing director for Europe, says: “Across Europe, wine has been an established part of life for centuries, and our aim with Remastered is to bring a bold twist to tradition. Championing some of Europe’s most beloved varieties and regions, we are crafting beautifully contemporary expressions that bring the vibrancy of Europe to life, to complement any occasion. 

“We’re taking a New World approach to brands in the Old World category and bringing consumers a premium, high-quality offering at a fair price point.” The wines, priced £10, are exclusive to Tesco until March. 

LOWER ABVS 

Of course, ‘light’ can also mean a lower abv and looking ahead, Morrisons’ Cutteridge says the supermarket will continue to expand its range of lighter, lower-alcohol wines. “We don’t quite know how the market is going to react to duty changes yet, so we’re going to keep experimenting with lower-alcohol options, which means that we can continue to hold those lower price points while catering to consumers who are looking for fresher, lighter styles,” he says. 

Unsurprisingly, producers are rolling out lower-abv solutions. In October, Accolade added two fruit wine flavours to its Jam Shed brand, in a six-month exclusive deal with Asda. Rhubarb & Strawberry Smash, and Black Forest Mess are said to appeal to fans of “sweeter, more fruity” drinks. 

The 10% abv products also cross into realms beyond wine, says Accolade’s Smith. “New products like Jam Shed Fruits help us to stand out in a traditional category and recruit new consumers through fruit wines that are not only easy to understand, but easy to enjoy, rivalling categories such as spirits, cocktails and sweet ciders,” he says. Following its run in Asda, Jam Shed Fruits will be available market-wide from spring 2024. 

Moving further down the abv scale, South Australia’s Oxford Landing has rolled out an 8% abv Shiraz 2021 under a new Sunlight brand. The wine, handled by Fells in the UK, has launched in Sainsbury’s and winemaker Andrew La Nauze spent 18 months developing the brand to ensure the “lower alcohol did not compromise on quality or taste”. 

“There appeared to be a gap where consumers had to sacrifice one or more elements of enjoying wine, be it look, feel, or taste,” says La Nauze, who believes Sunlight fills this gap. 

Whether “light, fresh and fruity” is a style, an abv or a grape variety, there’s no shortage of ways to innovate in the wine world.