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Brancott Estate’s New Low Calorie Wines

Low alcohol Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio via New Zealand

By Wes Marshall, 11:00AM, Fri. Feb. 7

When I got a call from the PR firm that manages the Brancott Estate’s portfolio of wine, I have to admit a little trepidation. They wondered if I would like to have lunch with their Chief Winemaker, Patrick Materman. It sounded like a good idea, given the fantastic single vineyard Sauvignon Blancs he makes.


Chief Winemaker, Patrick Materman at the Grove in Lakeway
photo by Emily Marshall

But then they dropped the bomb. “He’s here in the U.S. to introduce Brancott Estate Flight Song, their new low calorie wine!” Yuchhh. Low calorie wines usually mean the winemaker runs the wine through a reverse osmosis filter, stripping it of alcohol, but also most of its aromas and structure. Then, because it tastes so dreadful, they add sugar back in. So you end up with a sweet insipid wine. But, I respected Brancott’s wines, so I decided to go ahead and give them a try.

Materman admitted up front that these two low calorie wines, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Grigio (both $15), are not for everyone. “Many countries around the world have instituted quite stiff laws against driving after alcohol consumption,” he explains. “But people still like to have a glass of wine with a meal. This allows that. In the U.S., we also found there is a huge market amongst young women watching their calorie intake. They would still like to have a really good wine. These two wines are 20%-25% lower in calories, perfect for the young, casual drinker.”


Brancott Estate's Flight Song and Letter Series Sauvignon Blancs
photo by Emily Marshall
I was hoping I wouldn’t have my positive regard for Brancott’s wines dashed to pieces when I tasted them, but, in all honesty, they were good wines. They had the pungent aromas that New Zealand’s wines are famous for, along with the bracing acidity that makes them go well with food. We tried them with The Grove’s crab cakes and fried oysters, both of which went perfectly with the wines.

Their method is interesting. To keep the alcohol low, they pick the grapes early before the sugar has fully developed. Since they are tremendously acidic at this point, they add a tiny bit of sugar back into the wine. Casual wine drinkers might actually prefer these wines to their full-calorie cousins. Wine geeks might find a slight discontinuity between the acidity and sweetness with a touch of hollowness in the mid-palate. But, to their benefit, they avoid all of the reverse osmosis and other stripping methods that ruin wines. And of course, for anyone wanting the full Monty, Brancott offers a good number of delicious Sauvignon Blancs. Materman brought the Letter Series Sauvignon Blanc ($18), a delightful wine, well balanced with lovely mown grass aromas on top of the expected grapefruit smells. The real eye-opener was their Chosen Rows Sauvignon Blanc ($75, but only 3,500 bottles made for the whole world).


Brancott Estate's Chosen Rows Sauvignon Blanc
photo by Emily Marshall
This wine has all of the incredible flavors you get from gold standard wines made in Northeastern Italy and France’s Bordeaux and Loire Valley with just a hint of the over-the-top grapefruit aromas that New Zealand is so well known for. All of these wines, excepting the Chosen Rows, are available from any fine wine shop in town. The Flight Song wines just hit the market this week, so it might take a week or two to hit the stores.

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