In the aftermath of holiday excess, Cape Wine Master Allan Mullins suggests taking a closer look at figure-friendly light wines.
As consumers have become more health conscious, and also want to avoid the health implications of carrying excess weight, there has been a noticeable increase in the sale and production of light wines.
A trend that has gained momentum in recent years, it is particularly relevant at this time of year as many regret Christmas indulgences. Although the quality of the light wines available has undoubtedly improved, there are still many that are watery, thin and acidic.
Even the best of them are sometimes prefaced by the words: “This wine is most enjoyable, considering it's a light wine”. Is this a fair comment? Perhaps it’s time you decide for yourself.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A "LIGHT" WINE?
Legally, a wine may be labelled “light” if it has less than 10 percent alcohol per volume, but – and it can be a big but – there is no legal requirement on the residual sugar level of the wine. Because sweetness masks acidity, there is the danger that winemakers may add sugar to hide the harsh acidity of unripe grapes. It is therefore worth choosing better brands of light wines to ensure better winemaking.
HOW ARE LIGHT WINES MADE?
The easiest way is to pick unripe grapes, i.e. grapes with low sugar levels. The sugar is converted into alcohol when the wine is fermented, so less sugar means less alcohol. These wines can be palatable, particularly if aromatic cultivars such as Muscat are used, but the acid level will always be higher. Another method is to use cellar techniques that remove alcohol from wine. This must be done with great care as removing too much alcohol strips the wine of much of its flavour. A modern trend is for winemakers to blend ripe, full-flavoured wines with wines made from unripe grapes. This has resulted in some good wines that are well balanced and display the cultivar character of the grape.
THE FAT FACTOR
Obviously, residual sugar in a wine is fattening and this can be problematic. A point that is also often overlooked is that alcohol, although not strictly a carbohydrate, adds kilojoules and can therefore be considered fattening. This is where light wines have an advantage – less alcohol means fewer kilojoules. So even light wines will cause weight gain if consumed excessively, but this can be moderated by consuming wines that are lower in alcohol and have less residual sugar. Another solution could be to choose a spritzer, in other words, dilute the wine.
In addition to its health advantages, choosing a light wine over its full-bodied equivalent may help to steer you clear of the “point of no return”. If you drink enough of it, you will still end up slurring your words, but it may prevent you from dancing with a lampshade on your head or making improper advances at the next office party.
THE LIGHTS FANTASTIC
Woolworths Light Merlot 2011 (Spier)
- Colour: Bright ruby.
- Nose: Lightly spicy with blackcurrant and cranberry.
- Palate: Black and red berry fruits, easy drinking with subtle tannins.
- Price: R34.95
- Pair it with: Baked marinated spareribs with noodles
Woolworths Light Chardonnay 2011 (Spier)
- Colour: Straw yellow.
- Nose: Classic lime and citrus, yellow pear and Golden Delicious apple.
- Palate: Very elegant and perfectly balanced crisp acidity. Unwooded.
- Price: R34.95
- Pair it with: Strawberry and cream mille feuille
Woolworths Pinot Noir Rosé Light 2011 (Villiera)
- Colour: Pale salmon pink.
- Nose: Light red strawberry and raspberry with a hint of peach.
- Palate: Unmistakable Pinot Noir flavours with lively acidity.
- Price: R34.95
- Pair it with: Cheesecake with cranberry