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Moderate Alcohol, Persuasive Flavour

If you know where to look, there are plenty of wines with modest alcohol but bags of character and flavour

Prompted by the UK government's new alcohol guidelines, I've looked through my recent tasting notes for wines that have low to moderate levels of alcohol, but which certainly don't fall short in the flavour and character stakes. The dry whites I'm recommending are all 12% abv, or lower, and the reds are 12.5% abv or lower, but bear in mind that EU labelling laws allow a leeway of 0.5% abv (plus or minus), while US laws allow for 1.5% abv at wines below 14% and 1% for wines over 14%. Those are big differences. I've recommended more reds than whites, because reds are more difficult to find.

In addition to the specific recommendations, these are areas and grape varieties to look out for:


Hunter Valley Semillon


Côtes de Gascogne

Riesling (especially from Germany and Austria)

Vinho Verde

Champagne and other sparkling wines





Pinot Noir (especially Burgundy and Romania)

Syrah (especially northern Rhône)



The wines below are listed in ascending order of alcohol and then in ascending order of price. Use to find other stockists in the UK and other countries.


Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2013, Hunter Valley, Australia, 11% abv

Deliciously zingy and lemony, but with honey and toast to come if you want to age it.


Tyrrell's Lost Block Semillon 2013, Hunter Valley, Australia, 11.5% abv

Zesty and refreshing with a creamy, honeyed, lemon-custard roundness. Hunter Semillon made for early consumption, rather than long cellaring.


Clos Rocailleux Gaillac Mauzac Blanc Sec 2013, Gaillac, France, 12% abv

Youthful, lively white with an almondy, floral perfume and green apple, grapefruit, almonds and minerals on the palate. Unusual, appetising white made from the Mauzac grape. Good with seared scallops and prawns.

£8.99 on offer (down from £9.99), Red Squirrel Wine

Franck Peillot Roussette du Bugey-Montagnieu Altesse, Savoie, France, 12% abv

Light, but insistent, blossomy, appley and mountain-fresh. Made from the Altesse grape. A shoe-in for cheese fondue.

£12.95, The Wine Society


Domaine Henri Prudhon & Fils Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013, Burgundy France, 12% abv

Elegant and pure with spicy, earthy red berry fruit framed by the lightest of tannins.

£10.49, Booths supermarkets, £13.49, Hay Wines,

Stéphane Tissot Arbois Trousseau Singulier, Jura, France, 12% abv

Light bodied, but penetrating flavour with a silky texture and lovely balance of cherry, pepper, mineral and gamey notes. A wine to linger over. Made from the Trousseau grape (known as Bastardo in Portugal). Worth trying with duck or pigeon breasts.

£27.50, Berry Bros & Rudd

Mastri Vernacoli Teroldego, Trentino, Italy, 12.5% abv

Inky dark colour, briary, black cherry fruit with a spicy edge and light tannic grip. Made from the Teroldego grape.Spaghetti and meatballs, anyone?

£7.39, Booths supermarkets, £7.99, Valvona & Crolla

Incanta Pinot Noir 2014, Banat, Romania, 12.5% abv

Soft, light bodied and sweet-perfumed with cherryish fruit. Drink cool and young.

£8.99, or £5.99, in any 6-bottle mix, Majestic

Henry Fessy Brouilly 2013, Beaujolais, France, 12.5%

Fresh, bright, floral aromas and spiced strawberry flavour. Gamay all over.

£11.99, Waitrose

Louis Jadot Mâcon Les Roches Rouge, Burgundy, France, 12.5% abv

Light, juicy red made mainly from Gamay (the grape of Beaujolais) but with one-fifth Pinot Noir. Serve cool with, charcuterie or chicken. Drink young.

£13.49, or £8.99 in any 6-bottle mix, Majestic

Domaine Georges Vernay Syrah de Mirbaudie 2014, IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, Rhône, France, 12.5% abv

Supple, young Syrah made by one of Condrieu's most famous names from mature vines growing just outside the Côte Rôtie border. Crunchy, fresh berry fruit and savoury, meaty, spicy notes .

£15.50, Yapp Brothers

Tinpot Hut Hawkes Bay Syrah 2011, New Zealand, 12.5% abv

Northern Rhône style Syrah with fragrant, white pepper, plum and red berry flavours, a silky texture and delicate tannins.

£15.50, D&D Wines, £16.49, Booths supermarkets, £18.95, Eton Vintners


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