Dichotomy drinking

September 23, 2021

In which PHIL PARKER can’t decide whether to get drunk on the hard stuff or to dip into the low-alcohol alternative.

This month, folks, we are exploring the theme of dichotomy. It’s a very cool word and I don’t often get to use it in casual convo. It also rhymes with lobotomy but that’s not particularly relevant.

Though… years ago I did stand-up comedy and a dear colleague, the late Andrew Kovacevic had a great one-liner – “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.”

The first three wines are full-bodied, multi-faceted Californian chardonnays, clocking in at around 14% alcohol. And the last three are very light and refreshing but are not exactly wine, having had 99.5% of the alcohol removed. All six are grape-related beverages for sure but they react very differently on the palate.

Stags Leap Hands Of Time California Chardonnay 2018 $45.00
Restrained and elegant in the subtly oaked chablis style (unusual for Californian wine), with a deceptive 14.5% alcohol. Shy aromas but opens up on the palate with hazelnut oak, almond biscotti, and dry grapefruit marmalade, with a yeasty pizza crust tang. Match with seafood or creamy pasta.
Available: Pt Chev Organic wines, First Glass

Francis Ford Coppola Diamond Collection California Chardonnay 2018 $32.00
More in the familiar big Californian style than Stags Leap, yet way more subtle than the last Coppola chardonnay that I sampled. This wine has upfront spicy vanilla oak that segues into a full rich palate of peach, almond, mandarin citrus, with a hint of fresh-cut pineapple and a very long finish. Match with Thai chicken curry, halloumi salad or felafel with a creamy garlicky sauce.
Available: blackmarket.co.nz

Bogle California Chardonnay 2019 $22.00
If you’re a fan of buttery, toasty fruit-led chardonnay (as I am), then this one’s for you. It’s our family go-to, medium-priced chardonnay. Aromas of pineapple, toasty vanilla oak and a hint of herbs. In the mouth, it’s a fruit bomb of ripe pineapple, stone fruit plus spice, toast, creamy yeast, and a crisp finish. Nice with creamy pasta and chicken dishes.
Available: Pt Chev Organic wines, Meldrum Philips, Caro’s.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Washington Chardonnay 2018 $23
Creamy, elegant, and light-bodied. With hints of nectarine, clover honey, almond nougat, and cinnamon brioche. Very much in the style of Kumeu River’s mineral taut and structured chardonnay. Great drinking right now as an aperitif but would reward cellaring for 2-3 years.
Available: blackmarket.co.nz

The next three are from Giesen’s new Zero Percent de-alcoholised wines. There is a tiny percentage (about 0.5%) of alcohol still present in the wines, but the majority has been removed via new ‘spinning cone’ dark magic technology. Don’t ask me how, but it removes alcohol like an 18-year-old at an open bar tab. At 10.6 calories per 125ml serve, a glass of Giesen 0% has 85% fewer calories per serve than a traditional 12.5% alcohol sauvignon blanc.

The verdict? Well, the sauvignon blanc is the truest to style with typical distinctive aromas and flavours. The rosé and the pinot gris have elegant and light flavours reminiscent of the typical profile of a normal wine. These wines would all be best served lightly chilled – about 30 minutes in the fridge. As with most low alcohol wines, the normal unctuous mouthfeel of alcohol is lacking. But they are a refreshing, low-calorie alternative to the real deal, nonetheless.

Giesen 0 % Pinot Gris $16.00
Shy bouquet. On the palate, light off-dry flavours of clear apple juice, and pear with soft acids and a clean finish.
Available: giesen.co.nz, some major supermarkets.

Giesen 0 % Pinot Rosé $16.00
Very light aromas of red berry fruits. Light and fresh palate of subtle strawberry and cranberry with a dash of pomegranate.
Available: giesen.co.nz, some major supermarkets.

Giesen 0 % Pinot Sauvignon Blanc $16.00
Typical sav aromas of blackcurrant, with a hint of herbal thyme. Medium acidity and soft flavours of blackcurrant, green capsicum and passionfruit. Dry, crisp finish.
Available: widely, including supermarkets



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Originally a physiotherapist, Phil's fascination with the fermented grape juice led to the launch of his wine tour company Auckland Fine Wine & Food Tours at the turn of the century. A seasoned and well-respected wine writer, Phil's oenophilia led to the publication of his wine region guide to New Zealand, The Mad Keen Wine Buff's Road Trip (Random House).

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