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McGuigans sharpen focus on lower alcohol wines

Australian producer Neil McGuigan has confirmed his company's commitment to developing low-alcohol wines.

‘Going for No1’: Brian McGuigan, Australian ambassador Bruce Davis, Neil McGuigan

Speaking at the opening of their ‘City Vineyard’ in Dublin this week, the head winemaker of McGuigan Wines told Decanter.com the wine industry must prepare for increasing global interest in low-alcohol styles.

‘We need to look forward to where the wine industry is going. With duty going up, and the anti-alcohol lobby, we need to be prepared for a push back on alcoholic beverages.

‘As a result we need to work our way technically to deliver lower alcohol wines with flavour.’

To this end, McGuigan said, they were exploring the possibilies of spinning-cone columns, normally used for reducing alcohol in wine, as a way of preserving aromatics, which are notoriously difficult to keep when alcohol goes down.

‘If you can find a way to strip the aromatics before you take the alcohol out, then put them back in, then you have a better lower alcohol wine.

‘So this is a project for us. We already sell a lot of wine at less than 0.5% alcohol to Scandinavia so [low alcohol] might be a bigger market than we think.’

The McGuigan Dublin City Vineyard – a temporary vineyard of 100 Hunter Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vines up to 80 years old, laid out in Meeting House Square in the centre of Dublin – was formally opened by Bruce Davis, Australian Ambassador to Ireland, on Tuesday night.

While director and founder Brian McGuigan paid glowing compliments to the special relationship between Ireland and Australia, and in particular the ‘special place’ the republic has in his family as his ancestors were from County Monaghan, his brother Neil stressed the importance of the Irish market to McGuigan.

‘We are currently number two global wine brand in this market. This is our stake in the ground to demonstrate that we are going for the Number One spot.’

The opening of the vineyard was timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the McGuigan Black Label range, which encompasses more than a dozen different entry-level varieties and styles, and which is key to the company’s success in Ireland.

‘To maintain Australia’s relevance we must evolve our established wine styles,’ McGuigan went on, namechecking the recently-launched Black Label Rosé and the ‘S’ Semillon Blanc, which is aimed at ‘the consumer wishing to graduate form New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’.

McGuigan Wines – which as Australian Vintage Limited (AVL) owns labels including the high-end Nepenthe and Tempus Two – is one of the top ten global wine brands in the UK, and is currently the eighth largest global wine brand by value and the ninth largest by volume.

Nepenthe’s Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011 won a Regional Trophy at the Decanter World Wine Awards this year, Tempus Two – founded by Brian’s daughter Lisa McGuigan – won Gold for the Zenith Semillon 2007; the McGuigan Shortlist Riesling 2007 also won Gold.

In total AVL wines won some 40 medals at the DWWA, including more than 10 silver medals.

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