CAN dieting and wine-drinking be friends? And do all light wines taste like watery vinegar?
The "diet wine" appeal lies in both the lower alcohol content (less than 10% to be called "light") and lower kilojoules. These wines have usually been made from unripe grapes to keep sugar and alcohol low, resulting in a watery, acidic excuse for wine. Increasing demand and focus on quality have prompted wine-makers to find cleverer ways of achieving lower alcohol.
A "road-test" of this new light brigade was called for, and so seven women – we are the target market, after all – sampled nine light white and pink wines.
While alcohol content must by law be stated on the label, most of these wines also claimed "lower kilojoules" but gave no figures. The exceptions were Four Cousins Extra Light, endorsed by Weigh-Less and stating a 120ml glass equals one fat serving on the diet, and the Two Oceans Quay 5 Light which claims 63 calories per 120ml glass.
If these wines are serious about targeting dieters, they'll need to give more information on the labels. While dieters can swop a carb or fat serving for a small glass of wine, they lose out on food value. So "grape diet" doesn't mean swopping food for wine!
The Two Oceans offering (R29.99) at 5.5%, doesn't qualify to be wine, and is labelled "grape beverage". It certainly tasted more like grape juice than wine, and didn't impress at all.
Robertson's Extra Light Sauvignon Blanc (8.5% alc, R29.99) at least tasted like wine, but was rated "indifferent". Flat Roof Manor's Light Sauvignon Blanc (9% alc) introduced some class, with some body and sauvignon characteristics. Rated best drinkable buy of the day at R19.95, this would be a happy sundowner or food wine.
Woolies have a range of branded light wines – from a sweet Moscato to Shiraz and Merlot, all priced around R29 to R34. Both sourced from Spier, the Chenin Blanc and the Chardonnay (9% alc) were "more like wine", rated highly though not all liked the slightly sweet finish of the Chenin. The Chardonnay made a pleasant light wine.
Perennial diet favourite, Drostdy-Hof Extra Light (R25.99) comes in at 9% alcohol and claims to be "guaranteed … lower in kilojoules than the average natural wine". Again, no figures though. This one produced opinions from crisp and drinkable, to vinegary and inconsequential.
The pinks turned out to be the highlight – the Woolies Pinot Noir Rosé from Villiera (9.5% alcohol) producing fruity berry aromas and delicious colour, rated fresh and drinkable. The real surprise, Robertson's Light Pinotage Rosé (9.5% alcohol), labelled semi-sweet but far from it. "Not shabby at all" and not sweet at all, this had a dry finish and didn't come across as "light wine".
Definite buys would be the Flat Roof, the Woolies Chenin, and the light pinks.