With today’s emphasis on not drinking and driving, why do we not see more low-alcohol wines on the shelves? Surely there’s a ready market for these?
It’s all a matter of whether you want to enjoy your wine or not. In a simplified explanation, wine is created by a natural process in which the sugar in the grapes is converted to alcohol by fermentation. Obviously the more sugar there is in the grapes the more alcohol will result. South African wines usually have an alcohol content of at least 13,5 per cent by volume. Because our warm climate produces sweet, juicy grapes, many table wines can end up with an alcohol content of 15 per cent or more. To be classified as “light”, a wine should not have more than 10 per cent alcohol. To end up with less alcohol, the winemaker must pick his grapes when they have a low sugar content—in other words, not fully ripe. So the result is a thin, rather acid wine.
You can’t really have it both ways.
The winemaker could, of course, stop the fermentation when the alcohol reaches 10 per cent by volume, but then there’d be a large amount of unfermented sugar and a sticky sweet—probably unbalanced—wine.
There are several officially light wines out there, but most drinkers don’t enjoy them. By law the alcohol content of every wine must be stated on the label. If you’re worried about high alcohol, study the labels in your local wine shop.