Researchers make low-alcohol wine

HARVEST SPECIAL: PhD student Rocco Longo of Wagga undertakes ground breaking research into low-alcohol wine. Picture: Nikki Reynolds

HARVEST SPECIAL: PhD student Rocco Longo of Wagga undertakes ground breaking research into low-alcohol wine. Picture: Nikki Reynolds

MAKING the perfect wine comes down to science and craft.

But some of the intricacies of wine making, such as determining the alcohol content, are even more tricky.

And with market demand for low-alcohol wine researchers at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Wagga are investigating techniques to achieve this.

National Wine and Grape Industry Centre PhD student Rocco Longo is using early-harvested grapes to produce wine with a lower alcohol conent.

By combining varying quantities of grapes harvested weeks apart he aims to make a quality wine with less than nine per cent alcohol.

“There is a demand for lower alcohol wine but people want quality,” he said.

Mr Longo said indications so far, from the three-year project, showed that grapes harvested earlier in the season could be used to make low alcohol wine.

“Traditionally low alcohol wine varieties have a reputation for bad taste and lack the full bodied characteristics of higher alcohol wine,” he said.

"We are hoping to change this by using the 'double harvest' approach which was first used in Spain a couple of years ago,” he said.

The double harvest technique is a new method where two crops are harvested from the same vineyard but at different times.

Mr Rocco said demand for low alcohol varieties was driven by a number of factors including climate, culture and, in some countries, taxes.

"The changing climate means the amount of sugar in wines is increasing and more sugar means more ethanol," Mr Longo said.

"Winemakers are harvesting two weeks earlier than they were 20 years ago. It is becoming difficult to find the optimum level of sugar, and acidity and aroma compounds,” he said.

"This will be the future so if we can provide consumers with a wine that has less alcohol but a great aromatic and flavour profile then we are going to succeed,” he said.

Mr Longo has worked with Lowe Wines in Mudgee, assisting in low alcohol wine production.

A white and red variety of the low alcohol wine will be available by June.

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