Low-alcohol wines aren't everyone's cup of ethanol, but light doesn't have to mean slight, says Janine Walker
Who remembers South Africa's first low-alcohol wine? It was none other than TJ Light - the TJ didn't stand for the old Jozi number plate, but for Twee Jonge Gezellen. Launched in the early 1980s, it was awarded the SA Heart Foundation seal of approval. Because it was lower in alcohol, it was also lower in kilojoules and good for the waistline.
Today, there is a wider range of low-alcohol wines in the marketplace - including a premium, alcohol-free drink that is an excellent alternative to wine. Some of these even have real flavour and style. Look out for the following:
Robertson Winery's light range - this features a sauvignon blanc extra light, chenin blanc light and pinotage rosé light and is the first light-wine range produced from straight cultivars. Good news for those who actually like wine is that they may be light but they don't taste as if they have been watered down.
The sauvignon extra light is 30% lighter in both alcohol and kilojoules. The chenin blanc light has only 8.75% alcohol and has pleasant tropical fruit and floral notes. The semi-sweet pinotage rosé light is especially made for the "sweet tooth" drinker. All sell for around R40.
Uitkyk's Flat Roof Manor sauvignon blanc light 2011 has an alcohol volume of just 9% and 32% fewer kilojoules than the regular Flat Roof Manor sauvignon blanc offering of the same vintage.
"Light but by no means slight," is how winemaker Estelle Lourens describes it. It has lively fruity flavours and certainly does not compromise on flavour. Price R40.
Ega is an option for those who don't want to drink alcohol but want to feel part of summer festivities. It is the brainchild of winemaker Erlank Erasmus, who wanted to create a drink rich in antioxidants to fight the free radicals responsible for premature ageing (ega is age in reverse).
He did so by creating a blend of grapes, natural pomegranate and rooibos tea extracts. It should be served well chilled on its own or over ice. Ega is certified halaal and sells at around R55.
Bonnievale's Dusk to Dawn range doesn't mean you can drink for 12 hours on the trot, but the wines are lower in alcohol and easy drinking. Dusk is a lightly sparkling rosé perlé (alcohol: 8.5%) and ideal for those who prefer a sweet wine. Also, no one will look at you funny if you toss in a handful of ice. Dawn (alcohol: 9.3%) is the white option which is drier and crisper. Price is under R25.