Why brands are observing new tastes for natural wines and low alcohol spirits
Food & Drink
The landscape of drinking is expanding. Younger generations are consuming less alcohol, yet they love the spirit of drinking. They want to have meaningful connections to brands they invest in and get to know the product’s provenance. Enter a new breed of winemakers, brewers and distillers, who are responding to the zeitgeist. These rebels are introducing more sustainable, low-intervention wines; they are creating low and no alcohol spirits with mature and complex notes to maintain the joy and theatre of social drinking.
Over in California’s wine regions, a new breed of makers, mavericks and dreamers are rethinking industries steeped in history. These rebels are not discounting skills and tradition. Rather, they are reimagining an altogether more sustainable and relevant industry with products that chime with the time. These new wines express their terroirs. These are living liquids – lighter in alcohol content and made using sustainable methods to respect and connect with the land, soil and climate. Many artisanal winegrowers are working with methods that favour low intervention with as little interference to the drink’s raw character as possible. They are going against the heavy regional wines favoured by the bigger produces. Wineries like Ashes & Diamonds are referring to history books and Napa Valley’s 1960s vibe when the bottled liquid was less oaky and the winemaking more holistic.
Not so far from Napa and Sonoma, in the university town of Berkeley, a small producer by the name of Broc Cellars is making a low intervention natural wine selection from an urban warehouse. The team, led by Chris Brockway, are consciously creating wines that are not your typical Californian palate by working with wild grape variety from other regions, such as Carignan from vines over a hundred years old, and Sangiovese aged in sandstone. Elsewhere, 36-year old Jaimee Motley has become one of the hottest names in the low-intervention style with her characterful wines such as the signature Mondeuse Argillet. What’s more, her set-up is based at Wind Gap and Pax Wine Cellars in Sonoma County – a winery operating much like a collective and home to at least six different makers who share the space and equipment.
Over in the spirits world, new conversations are also taking place around the subject of lower alcohol or non-alcoholic beverages and cocktails. New brands have been quietly creating interesting alternatives to the traditional high alcohol content spirits, with established drink companies responding positively to this global trend. One of the most popular brands is the distillate line Seedlip – the brainchild of Ben Branson who in 2015 worked with an ancient alchemy and distillation recipe to evolve the ingredients for his original no alcohol spirit which effectively started the ‘no and low’ movement. Now, with the help of its majority stakeholder Diageo, Seedlip is at the forefront of the burgeoning non-alcoholic drinks world, recently unveiling the Æcorn Drinks sister brand offering products inspired by 17th-century English herbal remedies.
Last year another drink’s giant, Pernod Ricard, unveiled the non-alcoholic Celtic Soul – a blend of ‘carefully distilled dark spirits’, as described by the company. The brand already distributes Cedar’s, a spirit created in 2017 by husband and wife team Craig Hutchison and Maria Sehlstrom who explore botanicals new to the spirit world, such as Rooibos and Buchu, for a highly sophisticated non-alcoholic alternative to gin. Other brands are experimenting with beverages containing less potency than a classic spirit. In London, Portobello Road Distillery has made a ‘gin-spired’ lower alcohol spirit which carries a similar flavour profile to the original Portobello Road Gin. Also in the capital, Spirit of Bermondsey has launched Trinity25, a botanically infused lower-alcohol spirit. While Glasgow whisky distiller Whyte & Mackay’s Whyte & Mackay Light is marketed as a ‘spirit drink’.
There is little doubt that consumer taste and demand is evolving, and will most likely continue to do so. Many drinkers crave the complex flavour profiles alcoholic beverages offer but would prefer to consume less alcohol. They want products that are high-end, beautifully crafted, designed and packaged to offer the same excitement as their more alcoholic siblings. They are excited about the theatre of cocktail-making and the rituals of drinking. And there is an undeniable spirit for championing artisanal producers, focusing on provenance and ethical production when it comes to wines and spirits. It will be interesting to see how bigger brands and wineries respond to these trends.
Images: Winegrowers discovering sparkling wine with a very English character, Seedslip products © Rob Lawson for Seedlip. See Spinach Branding’s portfolio with the wine and drinks industries.
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