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Wednesday, 09 December 2020 15:55

Light on their feet

Written by  Sophie Preece
In the past six months, Constellation Brands has released seven new lower or zero alcohol wines. In the past six months, Constellation Brands has released seven new lower or zero alcohol wines.

“Betterment is here to stay,” says Constellation’s Asia-Pacific Vice President of Commercial Development Rowan Dean.

In the past six months, Constellation’s New Zealand arm has released seven new lower or ‘zero’ alcohol wines, adding to the 15 lighter wines they already had on the market. It’s about “doubling down on betterment”, says Rowan. “People are more conscious about health, and ultimately what we do by offering multilayers is offer more people more choices.”

That burst of growth is largely down to Constellation finding a “sweet spot” in the 7 percent alcohol space, where Rowan sees the most market excitement. “If you go back three or four years the only options you had for wines that were lower alcohol and tasted good was by doing it naturally in the vineyard,” he says. By picking early and the right treatment you could get down to 9 percent, and Constellation was one of the companies working to refine those techniques, he adds. “Now we are making fantastic tasting naturally lighter wines at the 9 percent mark.”

However, he sees a lot more enthusiasm and potential for lower alcohol wines, between 5 and 7 percent, with big gains in wellness while retaining the sense of wine-ness. New spinning cone column technology - introduced to New Zealand late last year - is allowing Constellation to play well in that space. The winemakers use the cone to remove the alcohol and then blend the zero alcohol wine back with the removed aromas and volatile flavours, before balancing it out with a portion of the original wine, says Rowan. They toyed with lower levels, but the 7 percent retains the flavour and mouthfeel carried on the alcohol, he says. “That’s where we see optimal taste versus benefit balance.”

Seeing the potential, the company has hit the category with a “portfolio approach”, including 22 offerings of lighter, lower and no alcohol wines via existing and new brands, including two tiers of Selaks, Kim Crawford’s Illuminate, and the company’s new State of Light.

Pre Covid there was already a big consumer trend towards wellness, and the pandemic has heightened that, says Rowan. “We talk about Covid not creating new trends, but accelerating existing trends,” he says. “And post-Covid, people will be looking for healthier and sustainable choices more than ever.”

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