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High alcohol wines on the way out: Marks & Spencer

Major UK supermarket Marks & Spencer is predicting a drop in consumer interest in higher-alcohol wines – and will source more wines ‘at 12% rather than 14% alcohol'.

Predicting changes in future wine consumption patterns, M&S says it fears that in recent years the balance has tipped too far towards wines that are dominated by high alcohol.

The supermarket’s wine technologist Sue Daniels told decanter.com, ‘High alcohol wines have had their day. We will be trying to source more wines at 12% alcohol, rather than 14% in the future.’

The company is also looking at offering wines that are sulphite-free and without unnecessary additives, for allergy sufferers.

Alcohol levels in wine have risen markedly in recent years. The increases are due to a number of factors, including improved techniques in viticulture, rising average temperatures and consumer preferences for riper, easy-drinking styles.

According to lobby group Alcohol in Moderation (AIM), the average level of alcohol in Australian red wine rose from 12.4% in 1984 to 14% in 2004.

In California reds, average alcohol reached a record 14.8% in 2001, compared to 12.5% in the late 1970s.

Finding ways to limit excessive alcohol in wines while retaining flavour

is becoming a major challenge to many wine producers.

David Gregory, head of technology at M&S, said, ‘We are trying to anticipate tomorrow’s problems. People want to drink responsibly.’

The move come as M&S undertakes a wholesale reorganisation of its business via ‘Plan A’, announced by CEO Stuart Rose last month. This is a 100-point plan to reduce the retailer’s ‘carbon footprint’ and to become ‘a leading retailer in ethical trading’.

Written by Beverley Blanning

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