Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Low-alcohol wine making strong gains

Invivo Wines New Zealand Ltd founders Tim Lightbourne (left) and Rob Cameron. Photo / Dean Purcell
Invivo Wines New Zealand Ltd founders Tim Lightbourne (left) and Rob Cameron. Photo / Dean Purcell

A local wine label is gaining strong sales growth from its low-alcohol sauvignon blanc, with output expected to hit the 60,000 bottle mark this year.

Auckland-based Invivo Wines launched Bella by Invivo in 2010, and the first vintage - made up of 6000 bottles - quickly sold out, says co-founder Tim Lightbourne.

He said the second, 24,000-bottle vintage of the low-alcohol sauvignon, released late last year, was snapped up by retailers in New Zealand and around the world.

And this year's vintage of Bella - which is 9 per cent alcohol, compared with the 12.5 to 13 per cent of most wines - was expected to reach 60,000 bottles, Lightbourne said.

He said consumers looking for lighter drink options for afternoon social events were helping drive demand.

Bella also has a lower carbohydrate content than regular wine and features a nutritional panel on the bottle.

Rob Cameron, the label's winemaker and other founder, said a lot of work went into producing the low-alcohol sauvignon.

A block of vines is set aside and specially pruned during summer for the leaves to provide the grapes shade from the sun, which kept their sugar content - and the alcohol content - lower.

The grapes were harvested at night, two to three weeks earlier than they would be for regular sauvignon, which also kept the sugar content down.

Cameron said the location where the grapes for Bella were grown - in the Dashwood area of Marlborough, between the Awatere and Wairau valleys - had a microclimate that suited the production of a full-flavoured, low-alcohol wine.

"Our [growing] site is quite unique in that at lower sugar levels we do get good, ripe flavours."

Bella was proving popular with drinkers in Australia, Britain, Japan and Bulgaria, Lightbourne said.

Invivo is promoting Bella in British restaurant and bar chain Drake & Morgan. "The promotion aims to target consumers making healthy lifestyle choices in their New Year's resolutions," Lightbourne said.

He said Bella was also sold across the UK by high-end retailer Harvey Nichols.

Invivo does not own vineyards, but works with growers in Marlborough and Central Otago to source its grapes.

Cameron produces the white wines on contract facilities in Blenheim, while the reds are made at Mangawhai, north of Auckland.

- NZ Herald

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