French market low alcohol lir

Paris: It looks, smells and, crucially, tastes like wine, but it has half the alcohol and half the calories, and it may be just what is needed to revive the flagging fortunes of France’s most emblematic industry. A small company near Bordeaux has spent four years and Euros500,000 perfecting a revolutionary process that will turn any wine into a drink with only 6 per cent alcohol rather than the standard 13 per cent, while, it claims, preserving the aroma, flavour and individuality of the original. Launched five months ago, the jealously guarded and complex 10-step process, dubbed “lirisation,” works by molecular separation and involves no chemicals. Tastings by professional testers at a handful of wine fairs have produced approval ratings of up to 97 per cent, and early reactions from the 20 daring French winemakers who have taken the plunge are encouraging.

“We started a fortnight ago, and it’s going very well indeed,” said Paul Bunan, from La Cadiere d’Azur, in southern France. “For most people, there’s simply no difference. I fooled a big wine professional, a major taster, with it last week. He was staggered to learn what it was.” Earlier this year, Mr Bunan had 2,500 bottles of his AOC Bandol rose transformed into lir, the generic name for the new tipple (French law forbids any fermented grape-based drink containing less than 8 per cent alcohol from calling itself wine). He believes that in an increasingly health-conscious France, it has a rosy future. “You can comfortably drink two or three good glasses of this with no problem whatsoever,” he said. “It appeals to women, to people worried about their weight, and of course, to anyone who’s driving. It’s early days yet, but I can certainly see it being important to the industry.” France’s ailing wine industry, which employs 5,00,000 people and is worth Euros5.7 billion, saw exports of all but the most prestigious appellation controlee (AOC) wines fall nearly 10 per cent last year, due mainly to fierce competition from New World wines.

Pursuing a long-term trend, domestic wine consumption tumbled by a similar amount.

Reflecting a change in lifestyles, growing health concerns and, more recently, an effective government and police campaign against drink-driving, the French now consume just over half as much wine as they did 30 or 40 years ago. Catherine Linares, of Lir, the company that invented the process, said, “The great thing about this process is that it can be applied to every kind of wine, red and white, light and heavy, Bordeaux, Cote du Rhone, Burgundy, Languedoc, and that it respects the winemakers’ work. Each wine’s characteristics, its identity,

remains intact.” — The Guardian