The purpose of this presentation is to provide (a) an understanding of the marketing difficulties associated with low-alcohol wines and (b) a brief overview of the production process options for low alcohol wines.
Generally the market for low alcohol wines in Australia has been characterised by a lack of acceptance product in the market. On several occasions the Australian wine industry has assessed the success of the beer industry in this area, which over the last decade has achieved considerable sales, and attempted to reproduce this success in the wine market. Seemingly inherent problems exist between the products in this area due to limited consumer response.
One of the feature observations is the difficulty in the establishment of an acceptable style of low alcohol wine. As noted later, the alcoholic component is an important ingredient in the overall taste of wine, and its removal is not easy to overcome.
The experience of marketing low alcohol wines in the United States has proved to be similar to that of Australia, with wines lacking in acceptable flavours, tending to be marred by unattractive and/or simple characteristics.
The media has endeavoured to explore the quality of low alcohol wines by running tasting comparisons of these wines against wines of traditional alcoholic strengths. Although results of some of these comparisons were encouraging, it is important to recognise that low alcohol wines (on the basis of experiences to date) will appeal only to a niche market.
There have been a number of attempts over the years to address this market, but the results were disappointing, and indeed have lead to "admissions of failure".
Southcorp Wines' (Australia's largest wine producing group) current view on the low alcohol wine may be summarised as;
If there is a boom in low alcohol wines, it is not going to start in Australia. A small and successful trade in low alcohol products takes place through exports to Scandinavia and Canada.
The company, in light of historical outcomes and current market impressions, is not prepared to invest and concentrate in developing a low alcohol wine interest in the Australian market at this stage.
Despite all of this, Australia currently produces amongst the best low alcohol wines in the world.
The production of low alcohol wine is essentially an exercise of wine manipulation; breaking the wine down and then rebuilding it with some of the available material (i.e. the alcohol) being left out.