Review: Low alcohol wines

Andrew Misell | October 2018 | 9 minutes

We bring you the best low-alcohol wines, based on our extensive reviews.

A few months ago we published reviews of our favourite alcohol-free and low alcohol beers. The low alcohol wine market isn’t quite as developed – but there are still some great options on offer. We’ve only included here wines that our taste testers gave 4 or 5 out of 5 – but you can read all our reviews here.

Red

Rawson’s Retreat Cabernet Sauvignon

ABV: 0.5%

Calories per 250ml glass: 38 (113 per bottle)

Score: 5 out of 5

Without doubt, this is the best of the alcohol-free reds. And to be honest, we’ve tasted plenty of normal strength red wines that don’t come close to this quality. It actually tastes like a Cabernet Sauvignon, and has a good deep red colour that sets it apart from many other alcohol-free wines.

This wine has been produced to a normal alcoholic strength and then de-alcoholised. That’s normally enough to destroy most flavours, but not in this case. Whatever it is they do to take the alcohol out of a wine without removing the pleasure, Rawson’s Retreat do it well.

Like the other Rawson’s Retreat wines, the bottle design, with an image of the vineyard, gives it the look of a proper wine. It isn’t loaded with sugar, and is resultantly low in calories.

Torres Natureo Syrah

ABV: 0.5%

Calories per 250ml glass: 80 (240 per bottle)

Score: 4 out of 5

Torres’ first alcohol-free white wine was launched in 2008. It wasn’t until 2013 that it was joined by this red and the rosé. Perhaps that’s not surprising – making a decent alcohol-free red is tricky. According to Miguel Torres Maczassek, the secret is the technological wizardry of the Spinning Cone Column, which removes the alcohol without destroying the flavour.

He may be right. It looks like wine, smells like wine, and tastes almost like wine. Overall, it’s got a good colour and nice blackberry taste. We found it went down well with a spaghetti bolognaise. We give it 4 out of 5.

White

Rawson’s Retreat Semillon Chardonnay

ABV: 0.5%

Calories per 250ml glass: 30 (90 per bottle)

Score: 5 out of 5

Amongst the alcohol-free white wines, this Australian number stands out. It’s got the yellow tinge of a well-oaked Semillon Chardonnay. It smells like Chardonnay, and it avoids the main weakness of many low alcohol wines – it’s not sugary at all. That may be why it has only 12 calories per 100ml, which is about as low-calorie as you’ll get without giving up wine for water.

There’s a little bit of a sour aftertaste, but on the whole, if you love white wine and you’re looking to lay off the booze, this is a great option.

Like all the Rawson’s Retreat wines, it’s well-presented in a bottle that makes it look like a decent wine, with a nice little sketch of the original colonial-style farmhouse with its corrugated tin roof, built by the company’s founder in 1845.

Rosé

Delight Rosé

ABV: less than 0.5%

Calories per 250ml glass: 67 (27 per 100ml)

Score: 4 out of 5

Let’s not beat around the bush: this is a good rosé, and better than plenty of rosés with a much heftier alcoholic content. You could do a lot worse than this for a summer evening. It’s got a good rosé colour and the kind of ‘body’ that wines normally get from alcohol. It’s also got a little bit of sparkle on pouring, and a citrus flavour that balances the sweetness.

It’s on sale in Marks & Spencer along with a white. Both hail from the McGuigan family vineyards in New South Wales, which are some of Australia’s oldest. They’re both great-looking wines, and it’s good to see producers making a real effort to make low-alcohol drinks that make you want to drink them. As with the white, the label for this rosé carries an intriguing pattern of leaves, butterflies and flowers that forms into a face if you look long enough.

Torres Natureo Rosado

ABV: 0.5%

Calories per 250ml glass: 60 (180 per bottle)

Score: 4 out of 5

Torres Natureo Rosado was launched in 2013 along with the red. Both of them have lost their alcoholic content to the magic of the Spinning Cone Column, which is said to be a much gentler way of de-alcoholising a wine.

We thought this one smelt of strawberries, which is always a good start! It’s got a good rosé colour too. If anything, it’s actually a bit too dry for a rosé, but that’s no bad thing amongst its overly-sweet competitors.

Sparkling

Sainsbury’s Sparkling Chardonnay

ABV: 0.5%

Calories per 250ml glass: 19 (48 per 100ml)

Score: 4 out of 5

Chardonnay is one of the world’s most widely-grown grapes but it’s had its ups and downs. At one point, wine drinkers couldn’t get enough of the stuff. Then, all of a sudden, it was deeply unfashionable. Some blame Bridget Jones. Some blame an overuse of oak chips for flavouring – leaving the wine tasting more of oak trees than grapevines. Whatever the reason, Chardonnay’s exile was short-lived and now people love it again.

In fact, Chardonnay has always been an important ingredient in many sparkling wines that never went out of fashion, including Champagne. It also shows up on its own as a single-variety sparkling white wine – what the French call blanc de blancs (“white from whites”) – which is exactly what this one is.

Given the Champagne connection, it’s no surprise that this sparkling Chardonnay is a little bit Champenois. It’s got a Champagne smell – slightly yeasty – and a sharp, almost sour, taste. This is really one for the dry wine lovers. It’s a little sweeter than the Rawson’s Retreat Chardonnay Pinot Noir Muscat, but it’s a lot drier than any of the other sparkling wines we’ve reviewed.

Rawson’s Retreat Chardonnay Pinot Noir Muscat

ABV: 0.5%

Calories per 250ml glass: 30 (90 per bottle)

Score: 4 out of 5

Sparkling wines mean celebrations. So, wouldn’t it be great if joining in the celebrations didn’t mean the non-drinkers raising a glass of orange juice while everybody else has champagne?

This wine may be the answer. According to Helen McGinn of the Knackered Mother’s Wine Club, this wine is a “game changer”. It looks good. It’s nicely packaged, with a proper cork, and looks like something you’d buy for a special occasion. Once poured, it’s got a great colour and plenty of bubbles. And unlike many alcohol-free wines, it’s not too sweet.

No, it’s not the best sparkling white in the world, but we’ve had much worse full-strength fizz at weddings and christenings over the years. The days of raising a glass of orange juice to the happy couple may be at an end.

Sainsbury’s Sparkling

ABV: 0.5%

Calories per 250ml glass: 66 (198 per bottle)

Score: 4 out of 5

This one pours well with plenty of bubbles, and it keeps its fizz. The colour’s a little pale, but tastewise it’s nice.

There’s a little bit of sweetness but not too much, with a certain Champagne-like sharpness. Sainsbury’s give it a 4 on their sweetness scale of 1 to 9.

Like the Rawson’s Retreat sparkling wine, this one comes in a nice dark green bottle and has a proper cork, which just makes it feel a bit more special.

Group Of Friends Toasting With Drinks For The Oktoberfest Istock 600410406

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