Ceretto Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy 2021 (from £18, harrogatefinewinecompany.com; heritagecellars.co.uk; rdwines.shop) Having for the past two weeks been treated to drinks for a dry January, this week I’m looking into wine for people who spend a month drinking less, rather than no alcohol – an event confirmed by various reliable sources (well, by a series of excited PRs) It became known as Damp January. Of course, that could mean drinking fewer glasses than you normally would, but it could also mean finding a wine with a lower alcohol content in the first place. There are plenty of light wines that predate the current non-low fashion: lower-alcohol wines as a function of conditions, grape varieties, and the winemaker’s stylistic ambitions rather than any conscious effort to reduce abv. Wines like this wonderful burst of sweet, musky grape joy that is Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont in northwestern Italy, wonderfully illustrated here in the example of the peppy 5.5% Ceretto.
Tesco’s Best Steep Ramps Riesling QbA, Mosel, Germany 2021 (£7, Tesco) Another classic region that has long specialized in naturally low-alcohol wines is the Mosel Valley in Germany. This is Riesling country, and it’s this kind of naturally steely acidity that makes a wine that’s light and technically not dry like the 2021 Moselland Riesling Kabinett (£10.95, tanners-wines.co.uk) “feels dry in the mouth – the acidity” it hides sugar until you don’t really notice the sweetness, just the succulent stone fruit and a tangy, tangy feel. The wine has enough to feel as though it has more than 8% alcohol too, and that barely perceptible sugar is actually quite good for matching dishes with a hint of chili spiciness. Over the past two decades, the fashion in Mosel and other regions of Germany has been to ferment more natural sugar into alcohol and make drier styles. But even those are rarely heavyweights in the liquor department: Tesco’s great-value steep slopes with its sparkling lemon-and-candy hours at a relatively modest 11.5%.
J Lebreton Domaine des Rochelles Malbec Loire Valley, France 2020 (£10.95, thewinesociety.com) When it comes to looking for low-alcohol reds, Loire’s has always been my first port of call. Although the climate is becoming warmer, making it easier to ripen red grapes consistently, the wine still retains a sense of restraint and harmony, with a crunchy, red bite that can be very appealing. It’s a style not for everyone: If you’re used to the sultry, plush, fishy, chocolatey richness of, say, Argentinian Malbec, you might be baffled if not energetically disappointed by Domaine des Rochelles’ take on the same variety grown in Anjou’s cool climate. It’s a wine more about the pulsation of red currants or the acidity of rosehip and the tingling of just-ripened berries than the rich-mouth smoothness. Most fitting to this week’s theme, it comes with a radically lower alcohol content than the average Argentine strong: just 11% versus the 14.5% you tend to find in most Mendoza bottles.
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