Every year, like clockwork, January brings about our renewed interest in health and wellness. We recommit to fitness routines, seek out fresh ideas for recipes and jot down intentions for the New Year. It’s about finding balance. In keeping with this theme, we’ve decided to explore a growing trend in natural wine that fits with our lifestyle of being an e-commerce wine website: low alcohol wines, piquettes, verjus, and ciders.
What is low-ABV wine?
We start our exploration by understanding the term alcohol by volume (often written as ABV), which is the global standard measurement of ethanol in a given volume of liquid, expressed as a volume percent. While WSET defines low alcohol wines as those under 11%, most low-ABV natural wines fall within 9% - 11% and are considered light in body and easy to drink (glou-glou). Wine without alcohol would be grape juice (known as “must” or freshly crushed fruit juice).
Where are you most likely to find low-ABV wine?
Low-ABV wines can come from anywhere, but it's typically easiest to make them in cooler climates because less natural sugar develops in the grapes in cooler regions. Alcohol is made from sugar, thus, the less initial sugar in the wine, the lower the ABV will be!
If you are part of the MYSA Wine Club, then you recently received a few bottles from our partnership with Wines of Germany, and learned in our webinar that some of the best natural low-ABV natural wines come from the country’s 13 regions. France’s Loire Valley and Jura are also popular locations to discover highly drinkable natural wines with lower alcohol content coming from cooler climates.
Beyond the cool climate regions, any winemaker can make a lower-ABV wine by harvesting the grapes early before the full sugar levels are reached. This is how many of the lovely glou-glou wines we get from California are made as well as those from Southern Spain and other traditionally warm regions.
How to find good low-ABV natural wine?
As interest in low-ABV natural wines continues to rise, it has encouraged winemakers to step away from rich, bold reds and experiment with acidity to develop lighter, crisp wines. A trade-off of these low-ABV wines is that they are typically also lower in tannin and less structured thanks to the same process of winemaking, so it's important that you find ones that are well made, otherwise they can be quite unbalanced!
Like with any wine, it's not easy to know if you'll like it just by looking at the bottle. Our recommendation is to always ask questions about flavor profiles, how extracted the wine is, and any techniques used on it (like carbonic maceration or lees contact). Beyond that, having a list of places you trust to purchase from is always the easiest method! We hope you trust us and can find what you're looking for on our site (some recommendations below) but we also have a big list of trusted local shops for most major cities in our guide here.
Talk to me about piquette, verjus and cider?
Beyond the low-ABV glou-glou natural wines, their are a lot of natural wine-adjacent beverages that we love to carry and are perfect for times when you're looking to reduce your alcohol consumption!
Not technically wine, piquette is an alcoholic beverage made from adding water to leftover pomace (that cakey looking thing) after grapes have been pressed for winemaking. This liquid then starts the fermentation process, and ultimately creates a wine-like beverage that’s just a little thinner than a typical wine.
Coming from the French words for vert - green, jus - juice, verjus is is the pressed juice of unripened grapes. It is a traditional field workers drink and often times the grapes are the one that fall off of the vines early and are a mix of red and white grapes, or a field blend. True verjus would not have any alcohol, but our friends like Martha Stoumen make a great low-ABV version called Jus Jus that we LOVE in this category.
Also not wine, but can have many of the same characteristics, cider comes from apples or other fruits and is typically lower in alcohol than wine because the sugar concentrations in grapes are higher on average than in apples.
Low-ABV Natural Wine Recommendations
We are sharing a few of the bottles that we plan on drinking this January to find some balance after the holidays.
1. Cadiz Amorro Blanco - Bodega Vinificate - low-ABV white natural wine from Spain.
2. Cider Revolution - FruktStereo - a cider that definitely blurrs the line between cider and wine.
3. Public Service - Limited Addition - perfect piquette.
4. Pomagrana - Lectores Vini - low-ABV red wine, super crisp from Spain.
As a quick recap, low-ABV wines are a trend you DO want to try, so look for bottles from cooler climate regions with an 11% ABV. Then, sit back and enjoy a glass with your grilled salmon dinner after your at-home yoga session!
Holly Berrigan is the Founder of MYSA Natural Wine. She has a WSET Level 3 certification with Distinction, is a member and writer for the Porto Protocol and Slow Food USA, and is a student in Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge.