We feature low alcohol wines with Barry Herbst of Bottle Barn and Steve Jaxon, Harry Duke and Dan Berger on California Wine Country today. Barry has brought some interesting wines that are not like the usual ones we discuss on this show, as these are low-alcohol and non-alcoholic wines.
The first is a Tyler Chardonnay from Lompoc in Santa Barbara County. It reminds Dan Berger of a Chablis, but with interesting aromatics. Low alcohol wines can be made by picking the grapes early, before too much sugar develops. Barry Herbst describes the process of pruning the canopy to allow plenty of light onto the grapes, which also help keep the sugars from getting too high but allow for phenolic ripeness. This wine retails for $27 at Bottle Barn.
They have also tasted a non-alcoholic wine, the best-selling one in the store. It comes from Leitz, a German producer who also produces regular wines as well as a de-alcohol-ed sparkling Rose, Riesling and Pinot Noir. It’s an odd wine in that it doesn’t smell like the usual sparkling wine, but the texture and flavors are very good. It is amazingly dry for a non-alcoholic beverage. Usually, in order to give these body and sweetness, they add sugar, but not in this case. For anyone who does not want to drink alcohol or who cannot, for any reason, this is a very nice choice. This retails for $18.50.
The problem with some non-alcoholic wines, is they make the wine then remove the alcohol, which removes the flavor. This is done in a way that simply reduces the alcohol as it is made.
Bottle Barn has a new app, which makes it even easier to place orders from their vast stock. They have an enormous task, due to their huge inventory, but their goal is to have their whole stock available online. Bottle Barn also does 3 emails per week, with special offers.
After that, they taste an Aligoté, which is only 11.2 percent alcohol. Read about Aligoté here. It is a Burgundian white variety that is known for adding acidity and structure in blended whites and sparkling wines. Dan Berger would call it soft, instead of sweet. It is very uncommon. This Earnest Aligoté wine sells for $25.99.
Next up is a Pinot Noir with a ripe cherry and black cherry component, but also has a little trace of the herb component that you see in Burgundy. The alcohol is so low that it gives you a finish that is perfect to accompany a meal. The wine is Anthill Farms 2020 Mendocino County Pinot Noir, 13.2% alcohol. That’s low for today but Dan points out that years ago, wines used to average about that. It sells for $47.99 but would sell for about $60 anywhere else, says Dan. The winemakers used to work for Williams-Selyem so they know their Pinot Noir.
Next there is Porter Creek 2018 Carignane, 12.3% alcohol. Even with a hamburger or a pizza, this would go very well. It sells for $30.99 at Bottle Barn. Carignane is a “workhorse variety” that gives plushness and rich fruit when the vines are old, such as this wine. Again, the lower alcohol makes it perfect for combining with food.
Barry Herbst reports that there is rising demand for lower-alcohol wines and wines produced with some kind of organic and/or biodynamic technique.