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McGuigan: low alcohol is the future

Australian kingpin Brian McGuigan has seen the future of wine – and it’s floral, and low in alcohol.

McGuigan is so convinced that low-alcohol, light floral flavours are going to be so popular both stylistically and politically that he has embarked on a major planting programme.

As winemaker Neil McGuigan, brother of Brian, said, ‘We’re going to take “Sunshine in a bottle” into the floral phase.’

This includes over 1000ha of mixed varieties – Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay – in Swan Hill, Victoria, and 120ha in the Adelaide Hills.

In what McGuigan recognises as a ‘big gamble’ he is planting other aromatics such as Moscato, Viognier and Albarinho and he admits he is ‘fascinated’ by the possibilities of Verdejo.

Politically, McGuigan says the world, especially Western Europe, is moving towards low alcohol as governments like France and the UK clamp down on alcohol abuse.

‘This is of paramout importance. We have to put something in their path. Suddenly they will realise that low alcohol is just what they are looking for and they will say, “this is what we need!”’

While achieving lower-alcohol whites is comparatively easy, doing the same with reds is a major challenge – but McGuigan reckons with site selection and vineyard management they might achieve levels of 12.5%.

‘It’s all in the vineyard. If we can bring it back half a percent that is a big-selling wine.’

Predicting changes in style is nothing new, McGuigan claimed. ‘Back in 2002 we saw there would be a movement away from the fruit driven, oaky wines of the 90s.’

The UK Wine and Spirit Trade Association said it was in favour of exploring low-alcohol options.

A spokesman told decanter.com, ‘Research indicates that consumers are interested in having the option to choose lower alcohol wines. The UK Government and the Scottish Executive are both seeking to encourage the Alcohol Drinks Industry to provide a wider range of lower alcohol products.’

Written by Adam Lechmere

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