How low is ‘low’ alcohol? – Cheers column, Herald on Sunday, 26 July 2015

How low is ‘low alcohol’?


This column was first published in Living magazine in The Herald on Sunday, Auckland, New Zealand, 19 July 2015.

A letter from a reader of my website sparked a new chat about an old hot potato: how much alcohol equates to ‘low alcohol’?
The Food Safety Authority has a definition, which applies to New Zealand and Australia. Not that you’d know it with supermarket shelves overflowing with ‘low alcohol’ labeled wines, beers and ciders. But while the words ‘low alcohol’ are used with gay abandon (pun intended), this grey area is soon to be more tightly legislated because ‘low alcohol’ legally means drinks that contain 1.15% alcohol or less. As Philip Gregan, the man in charge of New Zealand Winegrowers, says, drinks containing alcohol higher than 1.15% ABV are ‘lower in alcohol’. By the time any drink has been reduced to 1.15%, I’m not sure it’s that enticing anyway, but that’s just me. Just saying.

Wine of the week

What: A new lower than standard alcohol white from Wanaka; it’s called 2014 Black Peak Wanaka Riesling and contains 9.2% alcohol.

Tastes like: citrusy deliciousness on speed; think mandarins, limes, a hint of peach; it’s off dry, rich and concentrated.

Why: because winemaker James McElrea is a dab hand at making great whites at Central Otago winery, Mount Maude; this is his first release of Black Peak Riesling, made in the style of a great German riesling. Try it.

Where from: Cork Wine & Whisky, Mackelvie Street, Ponsonby.