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Wine News

New trick to lower alcohol wines from New Zealand

Kiwi winemaker John Forrest revealed this week that he has made a breakthrough in making lower alcohol wines. Forrest has been making wine in New Zealand's Marlborough region for 27 years and has been determined to make high-quality, full-flavoured, well-balanced wines with less alcohol than normal.

Forrest is a molecular biologist and his wife Brigid is a GP. Both of them have long been convinced that low-alcohol wines would catch on – if only they could deliver the classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc flavour at 9 per cent alcohol, instead of the more typical 12 to 13.

John Forrest reckons he now has the formula. The wine in question is being marketed under Forrest Wines' second label, The Doctors. The 2014 The Doctors' Sauvignon Blanc has ripe-spectrum fruit flavours, a full palate and balanced acidity, with a reasonable 6 grams per litre of sugar (lower than the norm for full-strength Marlborough SB).

Forrest discovered that if they plucked the new leaves from the vines late in the ripening period, and left the old leaves to do all the work of ripening the grapes, the sugar accumulation was slower, while the flavour accumulation continued as normal.

The harvest time is the same as for the grapes for the normal Forrest Sauvignon Blanc, and the acidity is similar. But the grapes that result from this leaf-plucking regime simply have less sugar which means the fermented wine has about one-third less alcohol.

Forrest says that perhaps the most exciting thing about the new technique is that it can also be used on other wines, such as Chardonnay and even for reds. Forrest is already using it on some of his Pinot Noir.

The Doctors' wines all retail for $20 to $22 and the range includes Arneis, Gruner Veltliner, Riesling and St Laurent (an Austrian grape which makes a light red wine).