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Australian government invests A$3m to improve no/low wines

The Australian federal government has awarded a grant of almost A$3m (£1.6m) designed to boost quality and innovation within the burgeoning low-alcohol and alcohol-free wine market.

Australian Vintage, whose portfolio includes McGuigan and Tempus Two, will serve as the project lead for the research.

Chief winemaker Jamie Saint said: ‘The grant allows us to conduct research with a key objective of optimising the flavour and mouthfeel of no and low products, as well as drilling down into consumer and market insights of the category.’

The company will team up with 10 industry partners to conduct the research: Treasury Wine Estates, whose brands include Penfolds and Wolf Blass, along with the University of Adelaide, the Australian Wine Research Institute, Flavourtech, DrinkWise, Tarac Technologies, S. Smith and Son, Danstar Ferment, Mauri Yeast and CHR Hansen.

‘The opportunity to work with a group of leading industry partners to take the growing no/low category to the next level is something we are enormously excited by, improving the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of the Australian wine industry,’ added Saint.

‘We want to position the Australian wine sector as the largest global producer of no/low wines.’

In 2022, the market value for no/low-alcohol drinks surpassed $11bn among 10 focus markets across the world, according to IWSR analyst data.

IWSR expects consumption to grow by 33% to $14.67bn by 2026, spearheaded by health-conscious adults in Germany, Spain, the USA, Japan and the UK.

However, IWSR data shows that beer currently accounts for around 75% of the global no/low-alcohol market.

Alcohol-free beers such as Heineken 0.0, Free Damm, Lucky Saint, Peroni 0.0, Beck’s Blue, BrewDog Punk AF and San Miguel 0.0 have done a pretty good job of replicating the taste and mouthfeel of regular beers.

Meanwhile, there are lots of high-quality beers with an abv of around 2%. As such, beer is expected to account for 70% of the total no/low category’s growth by 2026.

Wine producers have naturally found it challenging to offer drinkers a similar experience after removing the alcohol, as it changes the weight and mouthfeel considerably.

Some have added sugar in a bid to compensate, but health-conscious drinkers do not find that particularly appealing either.

Australian Vintage is determined to overcome these challenges. The company invested in innovative spinning cone technology before releasing its popular McGuigan Zero range a few years ago.

This technology gently removes the alcohol at low temperatures to protect and preserve the wine’s delicate and distinctive varietal characteristics before it is bottled.

McGuigan Zero is now the bestselling alcohol-free still wine brand in both the UK and Australia.

The company recently invested in a second spinning cone column to increase production capacity. Additional releases include Tempus Two Zero, a 6.8% abv Lighten Up range and the 9.8% abv McGuigan Black Label Mid. It also unveiled a new brand called Not Guilty, which comprises three wines: Pinot Grigio, a red blend and a rosé.

The A$2,997,599 grant from the Australian government’s Cooperative Research Centres Projects funding scheme will be used to drive further innovation and improve standards within the no/low category. The project is called ‘Advancement of Australian Lifestyle Wines’.

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