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Oxford Landing brings ‘duty-friendly’ wines to market

Published:  16 November, 2023

Oxford Landing Wines, owned by Australian winery Hill-Smith Family Estates, has launched two low-alcohol wines to the UK market.

The two wines, a Shiraz and a Chardonnay were born out of the 2021 vintage, long before there was any understanding of the August 2023 duty hikes. 

Newly available in Sainsbury’s, the two-wine range under the banner ‘Sunlight’, is intended for consumers looking to moderate their alcohol, a trend that was already gaining traction before the polarising alcohol tax was announced. 

“We knew there was a market for consumers looking to moderate their alcohol, or perhaps looking to consume fewer calories, and we wanted to fulfil that market with wines that show style and substance,” Andrew La Nauze, winemaker, Oxford Landing told Harpers.

The company also made the decision not to produce a zero-alcohol wine, its reason being that no-alcohol wines were not aligned with the vision or the market Oxford Landing was seeking to tap into.

The precursor to creating the range was Oxford Landing’s 10.5% abv Sauvignon Blanc, which, since 2010 has sold over 50 million bottles in the UK. Although not by design, the Sauvignon Blanc, which is naturally 10.5% abv, is what you might call a ‘duty-friendly’ wine – i.e. below the 11.5% abv tax threshold.

“We have absolutely noticed a greater interest in lower alcohol from the UK market – it is our biggest export market, so anything that happens within that market is going to heavily dictate our commercial strategy,” said La Nauze.

As such, Oxford Landing has plans to bring a 10.5% abv Pinot Grigio to market in 2024.

Unlike the wildly successful Sauvignon Blanc, the Sunlight range wines have been de-alcoholised using membrane technology – the Shiraz is 8% abv and the Chardonnay is 7% abv. 

“The ideal variety for low-alcohol wines from a red point of view is probably Shiraz. It’s Australia’s biggest-selling red variety in the low alcohol market and the fruit characters really lend themselves to the production of this style of wine, rather than something that’s based around Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot that is typically more herbaceous,” said La Nauze.

“And, with the Chardonnay, the richness and roundness of the variety carries itself a little bit better than others at this particular alcohol level,” he added.

Perhaps the most common criticism of low-alcohol wines is they lack the same mouthfeel you get with full-alcohol wine. However, the Sunlight range does a good job of maintaining the texture and body more often associated with stronger abv wines, owing to its membrane technology and minimal intervention technique, including the utilisation of natural yeasts for the Chardonnay, which lacks the tannins of its Shiraz counterpart.

“We also add just a little bit of residual sugar just to get that balance right,” added La Nauze.

Beer and spirits have long led the way in the low & no space, however, since the duty hikes, this particular market looks more lucrative than ever in the UK. This has coincided with a gradual inclination towards healthier drinking choices, particularly with younger consumers.

According to Wine Intelligence, 24% of consumers globally are actively reducing their alcohol consumption by switching to lower alcohol options on some occasions. This is combined with a desire to seek out healthier lifestyle choices and support brands which reflect their lifestyle choices, without compromising on taste and quality. 

With its latest range of good quality low-alcohol wine, Oxford Landing may have hit another home run in the UK market.