Australian Vintage convinced McGuigan Zero is best in class

Australian Vintage believes it has created the best alcohol-free wines in the business after perfecting its production techniques during an intensive two-year process. 

The result is the five-strong McGuigan Zero range, which features a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, rosé and sparkling wine. 

It produces a 0.5% abv range for the Australian and Canadian markets, where that level of alcohol is considered to be alcohol-free. However, UK guidance states that producers should refer to drinks at 0.5% abv as low-alcohol, causing confusion among consumers. 

The firm decided it needed to produce a 0% abv offering in order to crack the UK market and it is pleased with the results. 

Julian Dyer, general manager UK and Europe, told DRN: “We have finally nailed it. The buying community is looking for alcohol-free wines because their consumers are starting to look for it, and we think we have one of the best ones out there.”

Australian Vintage uses spinning cone technology to dealcoholise the wine. “It’s not just about having great kit,” said Dyer. “We have the spinning cone, but even with that, you can’t just put Chardonnay through and expect it to come out half-decent.

“We want to make the world’s best alcohol-free wine, and it’s about the base wine. We worked to get more flavour, more malo, more lees, strong oak, cool-climate fruit to give it more complexity and length.”

Winemaker Neil McGuigan was in London on his final press event as chief executive before handing the reins to Craig Garvin, former chief executive at the Parmalat Australia dairy business and managing director at Star City Casino for Tabcorp.

McGuigan decided to massively ramp up the flavours in the base wine, leaving it totally out of balance but ensuring that it tastes like wine once it has gone through the dealcoholisation process. There is residual sugar in the wine, but McGuigan said it is necessary as the wine would be too thin without it. “It’s not apologetic,” said McGuigan. “We are proud of this. If 0% alcohol wine is going to work, this will be the one.”

McGuigan has enjoyed strong UK growth over the past few years and it is now the third largest wine brand by value after Hardys and Barefoot.

Its average price point is slightly lower than the other brands in the top five, but Australian Vintage is happy with the way it is progressing. 

James Cheape, brand marketing manager, told DRN: “We are pretty happy as we are at the moment. We have the core SKUs, which have high distribution in the UK, and we can take the consumer on a journey through higher-tier wines. 

“The wine consumer is now becoming more and more educated as well, and anything below £5 is in decline. Millennials are drinking less but better. Black Label retails for £6.50 and Reserve is £7, and the retailers promote. You see buy six, get 25% off promotions, and that shifts a lot of volume. It’s not just McGuigan in them. It gets shoppers into the stores. It’s an important footfall driver for them.”

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