Like Brexit, Trump and Marmite, some things in life seem destined to be controversial. Two of them came together recently when the UK’s Football Association decreed that winners of the 2019 FA Cup, in a break with tradition, would not be awarded Champagne but ‘a non-alcoholic Champagne’ alternative. Needless to say, the announcement provoked much coverage and debate.
Low- and no-alcohol wine is something of an enigma. Legally, it doesn’t exist – officially, ‘wine’ should contain a minimum of 8% alcohol by volume (abv) unless specifically exempted. It tends to generate heated opinion. Traditionalists decry it as a needless abomination; others see it as an exciting part of wine’s future. Many rightly criticise lacklustre quality from examples to date.
There’s also a lack of clarity about what ‘low and no alcohol’ actually means, not helped by a confusing set of official UK designations, with four different terms used to describe wines of 1.2% abv or less. Much has been written about ‘lower-alcohol’ wines (between 6%-11% abv). But this piece will focus on wines of 0.5% abv or less (officially ‘de-alcoholised wine’, though I’ll refer to it as ‘low and no’ as per general parlance). Evidence indicates this category is increasingly the focus for producers, retailers and wine drinkers.
In the UK, alcohol consumption is in long-term decline. The growing numbers taking part in Dry January (some 4.2 million in 2019) are one manifestation of a broader shift as people drink less. This trend is particularly notable among the young – surveys indicate that 29% of 16-24 year-olds are teetotal (up from 18% in 2005). But it’s a wider phenomenon too – a quarter of UK adults are looking to reduce their alcohol intake (YouGov/Portman Group poll, January 2019) and the proportion of adults who drink alcohol is at its lowest level on record: 57% in 2018, compared to 64% in 2005 (UK Office for National Statistics). It’s increasingly a case of ‘No booze please, we’re British’.
Various reasons are cited for the move away from alcohol. These range from the practical (driving) to the nutritional (fewer calories), procreational (pregnancy) or spiritual (religion). Among the young, dynamics include risk aversion in the age of social media, a lack of economic security (people tend to drink more when financially secure) and a desire to differentiate themselves from their heavier-drinking parental generation. For older demographics, health concerns increasingly come into play.
Drinks producers see an opportunity. Brewing giant AB InBev predicts 20% of its profits will come from low- or no-alcohol beer by 2025. Fellow drinks titans Diageo and Pernod Ricard have both tipped low and no drinks as key strategic aims. The proliferation of low- and no-alcohol beers has been matched by a rise in clean-living bars, from the Redemption chain in London to The Virgin Mary in Dublin (Sainsbury’s The Clean Vic pop-up wins best name). From a trial run of 1,000 bottles in 2015, ‘the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirit’ Seedlip has enjoyed stratospheric success despite a premium price point, revolutionising the no-alcohol category and spawning a host of imitators.
See also: France’s first ‘dry January’ causes a stir
While low- and no-alcohol wines have not kept pace with beers or distillates, neither have they stood still. Market figures, scarce as they are, indicate 0%-0.5% wine to be a small but growing category worth about £27m in the UK – research by German producer Reh Kendermann with Kantar Worldpanel also shows 0%-0.5% abv wine as the fastest- growing sector, up 26%, with consumers identified mainly as over-45, regular wine drinkers looking to cut back during the week without sacrificing on ceremony or taste.
There is a general consensus that low- and no-alcohol wine is a trend for the future. ‘It’s set to become huge and we can’t ignore it,’ comments…
Source : https://www.decanter.com/learn/low-and-alcohol-free-wine-429969/