The UK wine industry needs to wake up to new drinking occasions and the growing desire for low-alcohol wines or risk getting left behind according to one key player.
Speaking to the drinks business during the World Bulk Wine Exhibition in Amsterdam this week, David Arthur, business development advisor for ConeTech, said:
“I worked in the tobacco industry in the ‘80s. Sugar is under the cosh right now and it’s coming for wine too. The industry needs to realise that this is coming. We need to be proactive in changing the situation.
“We need to be smarter about corporate social responsibility. The drinks industry can’t carry on with the cosy status quo. It needs to wake up to the fact that we have new drinking occasions that need to be catered to.”
Arthur said his company was talking to the UK government about changing the tax on lower alcohol wines, which will help to cut alcohol consumption.
“People are looking at their wine portfolios and are realising that they have nothing in there under 14% abv and are exposed.
“Our spinning cone technology offers wineries the chance to bring their alcohol levels down without losing any of the character of the wine,” he said.
It means producers in regions like California can allow their grapes to fully ripen then end up with a 12.5% wine in the end.
“We’ve sold the technology to a few wineries in California that I can’t name,” revealed Arthur, who feels consumers are open-minded to low and no alcohol drinks.
“The public perception of alcohol free beers, wines and spirits is a lot more positive now than it used to be. In order to make a good low alcohol wine you have to start with a good base wine or it won’t work,” he said.
“We’re targeting lots of different groups with our zero alcohol wines: drivers, pregnant women, people who don’t drink for religious reasons and those who just want a night off from drinking.
“We also want to target people who want the wine experience with their meal at home, but don’t necessarily want to drink every night.
You have to use very clean wines as any defects are magnified during the de-alcoholisation process. We’re working in Spain with Airén and Verdejo.
“The further you go back up the alcohol scale, the more character of the wine you get back. Zero alcohol wines lack the texture and mouthfeel of regular wines,” he added.
ConeTech is also working with spirits companies on speeding up the flavour development of Bourbon – the kit will be shipped to Kentucky in January.
The process concentrates the natural flavour compounds created by barrel ageing.
“We’ve created a six-month-old Bourbon that is absolutely indistinguishable from a conventional four-year-old whisky,” said Debbie Novograd, ConeTech’s global vice president of business development.
Arthur believes there are also great opportunities to use the same technology with rum and Tequila but doubts that it will be embraced by Scotch producers.
“Regulations are tight as a piano wire there so I don’t think we’ll be venturing into Scotch any time soon,” he told db. He does however, believe the technology will be a hit with millennials.
“They are less bothered about age statements on spirits. There’s a dearth of aged Bourbon in the industry at the moment so we’ve got three distilleries already who are interested in buying the kit, which costs £500,000 on lease.