Low-Alcohol Wines for Summer Sipping

Whether you’re committing to reducing your alcohol intake after two years of pandemic-fueled palate enrichment or looking for a lighter beverage alternative to beat the heat and still feel great in the morning, we’ve got you covered. Low-alcohol wines are great for summer sipping, and the best part is, you don’t have to compromise flavor to enjoy life on the lighter side of wine.

Best Low-Alcohol Wines to Drink and Share this Summer

Here is our curated collection of low-alcohol wines, plus a few ideas to lighten up your wine experience this summer.

Vinho Verde

Vinho Verde is a style of Portuguese white wine produced from grapes that aren’t allowed to ripen fully. The resulting wine is low in alcohol and sugar and usually slightly fizzy because it’s bottled with a bit of CO2 left in the bottle. Vinho Verde translates literally to “green wine” due to the nature of the winemaking process. It’s crisp, balanced, light, and delicious, which is why it’s our favorite summer sipper. Best of all, it’s usually about 9% ABV so it won’t weigh you down. Enjoy it on the patio with good friends or poolside with slices of fresh melon or white stilton to munch on. It’s equally as good with a crisp salad and all kinds of summer fare.

Moscato D’Asti

This lightly fizzy wine is also quite sweet, but you’ll love the aromatics. The nose bursts with honeysuckle and wildflowers, making for a delightful confection that clocks in at about 5% ABV. If you’re avoiding sugar as well as alcohol, try mixing your Asti with your favorite sparkling mineral water or club soda and a slice of lemon. Moscato is delightful with fresh berries, so be sure to have a bowlful close at hand.

Riesling

Riesling isn’t always sweet, but those that are lower in alcohol generally are a bit sweeter. Choose a Kabinett selection from Germany’s Mosel region. If you can find a single vineyard bottle, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by aromas of fresh strawberries, rose petals, and lemon drop. Riesling ABV typically falls between 9-11%, and though they can be sweet on the lower end of that scale, riesling’s high natural acidity balances out the sugar nicely. Enjoy with anything from charcuterie to cheeses, Caprese salad, tabouleh, falafel, or anything you fancy.

Gamay

Gamay is a light-bodied red wine that does remarkably well with a little chill on it in the summer. Choose one from Beaujolais or the Loire Valley regions of France, or try one made by carbonic maceration. Gamay is low in tannin, easy-drinking, fruity, fresh, and highly quaffable. Put your gamay in the fridge for about 30 minutes before enjoying for maximum summertime enjoyment. As for pairing summer fare with gamay, you can’t go wrong with grilled veggies, chicken, or even spicy sausages.

Low-alcohol wine comes in many flavors and colors—and you can sip it all summer long without missing a beat. Explore our wine club subscriptions today and discover your next crush!

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What You Need to Know About Sulfites in Wine

Sulfites in wine

You hear a lot of talk about sulfur (sulfites) in wine. Sulfur is used in food and beverage production as a preservative, and wine is no exception. But what’s sulfur all about? And should you be concerned?

The answer is maybe a little less cut-and-dried than you’d like to think.

Sulfur and Wine FAQ

Here are some of the most frequently answered questions about sulfur and wine.

 
What are sulfites?

Sulfites are sulfur compounds, also called sulfur dioxide, or SO2.

 
Does all wine have sulfur?

The short answer is yes. All wine has a little sulfur. This is because sulfur is a by-product of the fermentation process; therefore, all wine contains some naturally occurring sulfur. However, sulfur is also added to the wine. If you purchase a wine that says “no sulfur added,” it will still have some sulfites present.

 
Why is sulfur added to wine?

Sulfur is added to fresh grapes to protect the fruit from oxidation and added to wine during fermentation to preserve color, reduce microbial activity, and stabilize high pH levels, which could cause a wine to go wrong very quickly. It is added in higher doses to stop fermentation or prevent refermentation in sweet wines.

 
How much sulfur is in wine?

The amount of sulfur in wine depends mainly on the type of wine being made. Because sulfur has a powerful smell and causes severe reactions in people who are allergic to it, there are legal limits as to how much sulfur can be added. These limits vary by country, but wine importers must adhere to the destination country’s policies.

 

Does some wine have more sulfur than others?

Some wine needs more sulfur than others to stay stable. For example, sweet wines need more sulfur than dry wines, so they don’t start to referment in the bottle. Sweet wines may have up to 250 mg per liter of SO2. White wines are second in line. Dry whites generally have up to 100 mg per liter of SO2, which helps to prevent them from turning brown. Red wines have a natural preservative (anthocyanin) in their skin and need less sulfur, usually about 75 mg per liter. The maximum SO2 allowed in any wine in the United States is 350 mg per liter.

 

Can you smell or taste sulfur in wine?

The legal amount of sulfur in wine is well below the taste threshold. Excessive sulfur is usually corrected in the winery before bottling the wine for sale. But sometimes, when a wine is judiciously sulfured and is warmed slightly, you’ll notice a distinct sulfur or matchstick-like smell. This smell usually blows off quickly by decanting the wine or with a swirl of the glass.

 

Is sulfur in wine harmful?

Many people are highly allergic to sulfites, which is why there are legal limits as to how much can be added to the wine. Most sensitive people will generally only experience headaches when exposed to sulfur in wine. However, asthmatics should avoid sulfur as it can cause potentially life-threatening reactions.

 
Do organic wines have sulfur?

Most (but not all) organic wines are made with minimal sulfur added. However, just because a wine is organic, there’s no guarantee it doesn’t have some sulfur. An organic designation only applies to vineyard practices, not winemaking.

Do you have any questions about sulfur in wine we did not address here? Drop us a line and let us know!

 

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How Climate Change is Impacting the Wine You Love

Dry Vineyard

We hear a lot about climate change and climate impact, but how will it impact the wine you love?

In the short term, we’re seeing severe weather events and catastrophic disasters like wildfires in wine country, all of which have short-term implications on supply and quality. But many experts predict that we’re in for more of the same—and worse.

Hotter summers, warmer winters, droughts, freak storms, hail, flooding, fire, and invasive insects are keeping farmers on edge, but not all is lost just yet.

As with any crop, conditions need to be just right to ensure optimum ripeness and fruit maturity. This requires constant attention throughout the season, with vineyard workers dropping fruit so the vine can focus its energy on ripening the right number of bunches, stripping leaves to ensure good airflow and sunlight through the canopy, and testing fruit regularly until it’s time to pick.

Here’s how climate change is impacting the wines you love.

 

Wildfires

While wildfires can’t always be attributed to climate change, it certainly doesn’t help when the ambient temperature is over 100˚ F and the winds are whipping it about. And while grapevines don’t burn as easily as other fuel, they are not impervious. Even if the vineyards escape the fire, smoke taint can ruin the vintage. More than just “smoky notes,” think about what it would taste like to drink from an ashtray. Fortunately, the taint only lasts for the vintage. Most vines will recover and return to normal production levels; however, you might find that there is less wine to be had in wildfire years. If this trend continues, we will see prices rise for sure.

 

Drought

Grapevines like to be stressed; that’s common knowledge. But they do require some water and nutrients to survive and will produce less fruit in their absence. Early drought prohibits shoot growth, bud development, and vine capacity. Without enough nutrients to feed the roots, vine size will also be impacted, resulting in less wine.

 

Hotter Summers

Heat drives sugars higher and reduces acids in the fruit, resulting in higher alcohol, less structure, and greater potential for volatility. Higher sugars don’t necessarily mean more flavorful fruit, either. When sugars develop faster than the fruit matures, the berries lack flavor, and the resulting wine is flabby, boozy, and loses varietal character.

To combat the heat, growers are picking earlier, planting at higher altitudes, choosing shadier slopes, and even looking at alternative varieties, like hybrids. For now, we’ll see riper vintages coming out of cooler regions and surprising regions, like Great Britain, stepping onto the world stage as their climate becomes more amenable to quality grape production.

 

Extreme Weather

Massive hail, flooding, and storms in winegrowing regions are forcing growers to take action. For example, in Burgundy and Bordeaux (France), the recent phenomenon of unusually large hailstones prompted a technique of firing silver oxide particles into hail clouds at high velocity to prevent hailstone formation. Without these hail shields, growers stand to lose 90% of their crop if such a storm should hit the vineyard. This is just one example, of course, but it’s innovations like these that will keep the wines we love on our tables for many years to come.

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Pairing Wines with Vegetarian and Vegan Cuisine

Pairing Wines with Vegetarian and Vegan Cuisine

Whether you’re a lifelong vegetarian or you’ve just started on your plant-based journey, you might be wondering how or if these choices will affect the wines you choose at dinner. And while the answer is a bit more involved than a simple yes or no, suffice to say you should not have to change your wine preferences just because you no longer eat meat.

That being said, we should mention that there is now a vegan wine designation you might not be aware of. Of course, not all wines, vegan or not, use animal products in the winemaking process. However, there are some yeasts and fining products derived from eggs and fish that would not pass muster for vegans. Though it’s a relatively recent trend, vegan certification is catching on and many wine brands have adopted it.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the (non) meaty stuff.

 

How to Pair Wines with Vegetarian/Vegan Cuisine

Probably one of the most challenging things about pairing wine with vegetarian and vegan cuisine is the vegetables themselves. Green leafy vegetables, for example, are high in iron, which can make red wine taste a bit rusty. Not exactly pleasant!

Other veggies that are known wine-killers include asparagus and artichoke. Anything with vinegar will clash with wine—and if you’re wondering how much, let’s just say the food won’t taste quite right, and neither will the wine. The good news is, we have some easy fixes that doesn’t involve changing your habits.

First, substitute fresh lemon juice for vinegar in your salad dressings.

Second, if you’re having asparagus, artichoke, or any green leafy veg, keep a ramekin of fresh lemon juice and sea salt on the side for dipping. You’ll find that this neutralizes the reaction between the wine and food, and you’ll be able to taste everything as you remember it!

These tips hold for both red and white wines. However, the reaction will be most pronounced with red wines, so don’t skimp on the lemon and sea salt. You can also use it in the cooking if this makes more sense for you, but the effect won’t be as profound.

 
Match Texture with Texture

The best sommeliers pair wines based on flavors and textures. Look for flavors that correspond to nuances in the wine and try to create a match that way. For example, spicy Indian dishes do very well with wines that are also spicy, exotic, and complex, which is why gewürztraminer is a go-to for Asian and South Asian cuisine. Riesling does well too, as does sauvignon blanc, and a little sweetness enhances the freshness of a crisp spring salad.

If you’re more of a red wine fan, you can’t go wrong with pinot noir or gamay. Both are remarkably versatile with all kinds of cuisines and stand up to the most intensely spiced dishes. If you prefer big, bold reds, go for an Aussie shiraz. For those who crave a cabernet sauvignon, be sure to decant it well before enjoying. Decanting softens the tannins and acidity and will increase your enjoyment of the wine with just about any vegetarian dish.

Bon appetite!

 

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What is a Coravin? And Other Ways to Preserve Leftover Wine

Leftover wine, you say? What is that, anyway? It’s easy to polish off a bottle of wine with a friend—after all, it’s only a couple of glasses each. But what if it’s a school night? What if you’re flying solo and just want one glass? Wine tends to spoil when exposed to oxygen, and it’s always a sad moment when you realize that a bottle’s gone off because you’ve been too busy adulting.

Luckily, there are ways to preserve wine that ensure not a drop is wasted! Here are a few top tips on how to extend the life of leftover wine.

1. Coravin: A Must-Have for Any Serious Wine Collector

Do you ever look at your wine collection, pull out a prized bottle, and wish you had an occasion to open it and enjoy? Coravin makes it possible!

Coravin is an incredible invention. It’s a hand-held contraption that allows you to access the wine in the bottle without pulling the cork. You attach the device to the top of your bottle, drive a needle through the cork, and as you pour, you’ll displace the oxygen in the bottle with argon, an inert gas that will preserve the leftover wine for six months or more. Coravin is an essential item for any wine collector as it makes it possible for you to enjoy a glass of your favorites without having to finish the bottle.

Coravin also offers screwcap adapters for non-cork closures and makes preservation systems for sparkling wine too. It’s not cheap, but it will pay for itself in enjoyment and indulgence many times over.

2. Vacu Vin: The Budget Alternative

Vacu Vin and other devices like it use a special stopper and pump. When you’re done with your bottle, you’ll use the special stopper instead of a cork, place the pump over the stopper and pump the oxygen out of the bottle. When used properly, a Vacu Vin device will extend the life of your wine by a week or two. Best of all, you can pick up a set for under $30, and they’re widely available at most wine stores or culinary shops.

3. Private Preserve Wine Preserver: Cheap, Cheerful, Easy-Peasy

Private Preserve is an aerosol can of inert gas that you spray onto the surface of the wine in the bottle. It’s cheap, easy to use, and there are no extra parts or accessories to lose. A few sprays before you seal up your bottle will preserve the wine for a week or more, depending on your storage conditions. One caveat with Private Preserve is that you must stand your bottle upright to work properly. Agitating the bottle will cause the blanket of gas to disperse.

A few bonus tips for preserving wine:

  • Storing open wine in the fridge will slow down spoilage in the short term.
  • The less wine in the bottle, the faster it will spoil, even with a Coravin.
  • Some wines do better than others with the above methods. Zinfandel, pinot noir, and aromatic whites tend to lose their freshness quickly.

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Beyond Glass: Different Containers for Wine

While glass bottles still dominate the market as the most popular way to package wine, use of alternative vessels is on the rise, much like the use of alternatives to the wine cork. Learn what other vessels may be storing your wine:

Canned wine:

Taking a cue from beer culture, winemakers are increasingly putting their wine in cans. Great vessels for the beach or other locations where glass is prohibited, cans are typically half-bottle serving sizes of 375ml or single servings of 187ml. They’re also an airtight, lightweight alternative to bottles that work well for wines consumed within their first year. Obviously, once the top is open it’s best to consume the entire container.

Wine in a bag:

Plastic bladders featuring spigots, either Bag-in-Box (BiB) or standalone, are another short-term solution for wine storage. Offering a similar airtight, lightweight quality as cans, wine bags are typically reserved for larger quantities, often holding 1.5 liters, two regular bottles’ worth of wine. Unlike cans, however, which can’t be reclosed once opened, bagged wine’s spigots may help prevent oxidation a day or two longer than a bottle recorked by hand would. The bag, being the lightest way to transport wine, is a great vessel for backpackers who enjoy a glass of vino around the campfire.

Wine cartons:

An aseptic container similar to a milk carton, there’s an argument to be made that a wine carton is environmentally friendly as its main compound is paper, a renewable resource unlike glass. Lightweight and easy to stack and transport, cartons are getting attention from supermarket bulk buyers. Like other alternatives to glass, though, cartons are not suitable for wine that’s meant to be aged.

Wine in Plastic Bottles:

Lightweight and recyclable, PET allows more oxygen ingress than glass, giving the wine within a shorter life span. The cheap appearance of plastic bottles has kept many winemakers away, but the low cost means interest is rising.

Wine kegs:

Wine on tap is a great solution for bars, offering quick serving time and eliminating the risk of oxidation. For the average home drinker, however, the commitment of a kegerator and limitations of finding kegged-wine producers make this less optimal for most households.

While glass bottle alternatives offer an impressive range of solutions for wine meant to be consumed within a year of packaging, glass wine bottles stopped with natural or well-made synthetic corks remain the best way to age wine properly for years to come.

Memorial Day Wine Parings

Memorial Day is just around the corner ,and that signifies one thing, summer is almost here. For most, it’s time to whip up barbecue dishes and indulge in a delicious glass of wine.

Wine with Grilled Burgers

Burgers are a grilling staple. It may sound easy to pair wine with burgers however if you start adding on cheese, mustard, and ketchup then the game changes. Thankfully, there is Cru Beaujolais. This type of wine is derived from the Gamay wine grape. This gives the wine an earthy flavor which goes well with burgers and all of its condiments. Try Nicole Chanrion Cote-de-Brouilly 2012, France.

Wines with Grilled Fruits and Veggies

When grilling fresh fruits and vegetables, try a bottle of Thiery Weber Animo Gruner Veltliner wine or the Forstreiter ‘Grooner’ Gruner Veltliner. Chardonnay, in its chilled form, is another great wine selection to compliment grilling greens and fruits.

Wines with Grilled Seafood and Fish

White wine has always been the wine of choice for seafood and fish. The best wines are those that subtly compliment and elevate the flavor of seafood and fish. Grillo from Italy will certainly do well in this aspect. It is a white wine with some flavor of mango through it. Some delicious Grillo wines include Stemmari Grillo/Vionier ‘Dalila’ Sicily and Stemmari Grillo ‘Baci Vivaci,’ Sicily. Also, the citrus-filled flavor of Pinot Gris works well with fish like tuna and salmon. For Pinot Gris, embrace Montinore Pinot Gris 2012, Oregon or Elk Cove Vineyards 2013, Oregon.

Wines with Grilled Chicken

When it comes to grape wines, there are two that do chicken justice. These are Verdelho and Vinho Verde from Portugal. With its peach undertones, Verdelho compliments the somewhat subtle flavor of chicken. On the other hand, Vino Verde does its trick by offering its floral flavors to compliment the flavor of chicken. A great Verdelho choice is the Herdade Esporao Verdelho 2013, Portugal and for Vinho Verde it would be Casa de Vilacethino Brazao Vinho Verde 2013, Portugal.

Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs

It has been said by countless winemakers that great wine starts in the vineyard. Congruently, it has also been said a great recipe starts with the ingredients. So when you are making your Braised Short Ribs and are ready to add your wine, I suggest adding a good bottle. Yes, if you use a cheap red wine most people won’t be able to taste a difference. However, if you use a nice bottle – something you are proud to pour for your guests  in a recipe – you will taste the difference. Along with the taste, you will know that you didn’t skimp on one of only two ingredients mentioned in the recipe’s title. If you look at it that way, the “Red Wine” you use should be very important!

Ingredients:
  • 6-pounds bone-in beef short ribs, cut into 2″ pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped 1-inch pieces
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, chopped 1-inch pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped 1-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bottle dry red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon but for slightly sweeter taste try Syrah
  • 10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 3-4 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 5 cups low-salt beef stock

 

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 275°F. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, brown short ribs on all sides, about 7 minutes per batch. Transfer short ribs to a plate. Pour off all but 3- 4 tablespoons drippings from pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are browned – about 5 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until well combined and deep red – 2-3 minutes.

Stir in that nice bottle of wine, then add short ribs with any accumulated juices. Bring to a boil; lower heat to medium and simmer until wine is reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Add all herbs to pot along with garlic. Stir in stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven.

Cook until short ribs are tender, about 3 hours. Transfer short ribs to a platter. Strain sauce from pot into a measuring cup. Spoon fat from surface of sauce and discard; season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Serve in shallow bowls over mashed potatoes or baby red potatoes with sauce.

Chef’s note:

When the meat is done it should slide right off the bone.

Spring Wine Pairings

With fresh seasonal produce beginning to entice our palates, here’s a quick guide to wine pairing with springtime favorites.

Asparagus & Chardonnay
Look for a white wine like pinot blanc with good minerality and notes of citrus to pair with grilled asparagus and lemon dressing. Try a nuttier white, like a chardonnay with bright acidity, to compliment white asparagus in a rich cream- or egg-driven sauce.

Lamb & Lambrusco 
When serving a rack of lamb with fresh spring vegetables, rosé and lambrusco are great choices. If your preparation for chops is a bit richer, featuring rosemary and garlic, try a fruit-driven Bordeaux — and make sure to deglaze the pan with it too!

Peas & Pinot
Alongside peas with fresh mint, go for a crisp white that offers a balance of acid and herbal notes like a sémillon. If you want to match the sweet umami quality of a simple yet elegant dish of peas gently cooked in butter, try a light red like pinot noir.

Is Champagne Actually Healthier

From champagne to whiskey, alcoholic beverages have been compared to one another ever since they were first created. Some people refuse to drink anything with a sparkle, while others will only touch the drink when if there’s a fruity aftertaste. There’s no right or wrong beverage to drink—though some often considered healthier than others. One of the questions that most people ask is whether champagne is healthier than wine. We know that both drinks have health benefits, but which one does the most for your health while still allowing you to enjoy a delicious flavor?

Calorie Count of Champagne Compared to Wine 

The most often talked about argument for champagne is the calorie count. For a 4-ounce glass of champagne, you will be consuming 90 calories. For the same amount of wine, the glass will have 100 calories. A 10 calorie difference might not seem like much until you consider how you drink the beverages. All alcoholic beverages have a type and style of glass that you should be drinking it from. For champagne, the flute is between 4 and 6 ounces which is the ideal portion. However, wine glasses are usually 9 ounces. So, although the calorie count for champagne and wine are the same, you will almost always get twice the calories of wine for every one serving of champagne. When it comes down to it, champagne has better portion control than wine. 

Considering the Carbonation in Champagne 

Champagne is a carbonated sparkling wine. To be considered champagne, it must be from northeastern France. If the “champagne” is from anywhere other than there, it’s considered sparkling wine—even though it has the same health benefits associated with it. The carbonation in the beverage promotes slower imbibing which means that you will consume less alcohol and absorb the alcohol into your bloodstream at a slower rate. This helps your body to better regulate the alcohol in the drink and helps your body to stay sober for a longer period of time. This, overall, is better for your health since too much alcohol can cause immediate blood poisoning and heart problems later in life. 

Antioxidants in Both Champagne and Wine 

Red wine has come to be known for its high polyphenol-count. It has antioxidants that help your body to fight off inflammation and disease. Studies have shown that a small amount of red wine can help prevent heart disease, among many other important health benefits. This has made red wine appear healthier than champagne until 2009 when the University of Reading UK’s, School of Chemistry, cited that champagne also has high amounts of polyphenols and other antioxidants. This study leveled the playing field to show that red wine and champagne are equal in their levels of antioxidants. 

The Drawback of Champagne 

Although champagne may be healthier in some aspects, like any drink, it has its drawbacks. After drinking champagne, you’re more likely to develop a headache because the carbonation pushes the alcohol into your blood and expands. Champagne also has a slightly higher level of sugar than wine (which is what helps to give it a sweeter taste compared to red wine). Coupled with sugar levels, champagne has a higher level of acidity. The acidity isn’t necessarily bad unless you drink it frequent enough to damage the enamel of your teeth. 

When to Drink Champagne 

Champagne isn’t something that you should drink every day that you go out with your friends. Because of its natural ability to help you to portion the number of drinks that you have, it’s best to drink during an occasion where you want to stay sober for as long as possible. If you’re on a Carribean cruise vacation, you probably won’t have to worry about whether you should have champagne or wine. In that scenario, drink whatever you’d like. However, if you’re at a work party or celebration and want to appear sophisticated without getting tipsy, you should drink champagne to start off the night.