Processing Low ABV Wine: Things to Consider

Article
March 2013

As shortfalls in the global production of wine continue and the winemaking process becomes more costly, the wine industry is having to find new ways of easing price increases for the consumer. One way of doing this is to produce reduced alcohol wines, which attract lower duty rates. However, lowering the alcohol content can affect the overall taste or quality of the wine and can cause issues once it has been bottled or during transportation, so measures must be put in place to prevent this from happening. Below, I’ve looked at some of the key considerations to take into account when producing low ABV wine.

Production
There are various ways to lower the alcohol content of wine, including dilution or by stopping the fermentation process early, although this should only be done if it matches the style of wine. However, these methods can reduce or remove some of the flavour components present in the original wine and have an adverse effect on the quality. Spinning cone technology is a technique that is often employed when, for example, a dry, five per cent wine is required, as it first removes all of the alcohol, before blending some back in. This is a preferable approach as it is the least likely to have a negative impact on the final product.

In bottle
One of the biggest concerns when bottling low ABV wine is the increased risk of secondary fermentation in-bottle, which is due to elevated sugar levels and lower alcohol levels.
However, as long as proper winemaking protocols, such as good sanitation through the use of caustic soda and 80 degree hot water, sterile filtration and adequate preservative levels are followed, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Transportation
The point of highest risk is when the wine is being transferred to a third party filling and packaging facility, if one is being used, as this is usually the longest period of time that the liquid will not receive any intervention. However, the use of ISO tanks in the transportation process – which can be sanitised – rather than flexibags that are more fragile and not sterile, minimises the risk of secondary fermentation. The fact that the ISO tanks are better insulated helps to reduce the extremes of temperature during transportation and minimise oxygen ingress to the wine, helping to reduce the detrimental effects that these can have on wine quality.

As low ABV wines become an increasingly popular choice for consumers, I expect to see even more producers deciding to expand their range of products and offer lower alcohol wine. By doing so, brands will provide their customers with more choice, something that’s vital for market success in current conditions.

Henry Powles, oenologist at Encirc Wines


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