Durbanville Hills Shiraz Light 2021

Lower alcohol and lighter in calories?

If you’re anything like me, these two phrases will have you raising a skeptical eyebrow. Drink less, eat less are the obvious response. Except that we don’t always do that, do we?

After the nearly two years we’ve had, I think we can all admit that responsible alcohol consumption is a very real issue that needs to be addressed. And dammit, I’m really tired of tracking glasses of red wines on My Fitness Pal. So although my raised eyebrow invited a few new wrinkles to settle on my forehead, I was curious.

The Wine:

Surprisingly deep in colour with a barely there nose. We’re going to ignore the nose for a moment because I have a plan.

Bright tart acidity,  fruity raspberries, cherries and pomegranates combined with mildly herbal rosemary and light, barely there tannins that give you a  medium length finish.


Balance (1) + Length (½) + Intensity (½) + Complexity (0)  = An acceptable wine 

Vini + Viti:

20-year-old north-facing vineyard planted on loamy soil and weathered shale, on the western side of the Durbanville Hills valley with cooling influences from the West Coast. Summer pruning to allow sunlight exposure to ripen the fruit and develop anthocyanins. They’re picking these grapes at optimum ripeness (versus the Chenin Light that’s picked two weeks earlier than usual).

Standard fermentation with the exception of an early addition of mannoprotein to boost the mouthfeel.  (Mannoproteins are a natural component of winemaking and present during yeast fermentation and aging on lees. The mannoproteins are naturally extracted from yeast cell walls. They’ve been associated with positive quality and technological traits of wines. But this is science…and I don’t science!)

The wines are racked, protein stable and filtered. A small portion has the alcohol lowered using Vacuum Distillation before being blended back to into the base wine.

What is Vacuum Distillation, and why was this chosen? 

Advantages of Vacuum distillation

  • Entire process operates under vacuum (< -90 kPag)
  • Continuous, single-pass process
  • Can be configured to be fully automated for running unattended
  • Maximum wine/beer temperature exposure 45 –50°C for <2 minutes
  • Low-temperature, indirect heating medium (water vapour at 65°C)
  • Recovers >98% of volatile flavour compounds
  • Capable of reducing base wine/beer alcohol to <0.05%
  • Rectifies the removed alcohol fraction up to 92% spirit
  • Maximises base water recovery by minimising water loss in spirit fraction
  • Negligible water consumption. Only vacuum pump requires small seal water purge make-up.
  • Effluent limited to small purge from vacuum pump seal water
  • Heat integration minimises energy consumption
  • No internal moving parts (except for pumps) –low maintenance
  • No components requiring routine replacement (e.g. membranes)
  • Can be configured for mobile deployment

Compared to the 2 other processes for de alcoholising wine:

Membrane process

  • High-pressure equipment
  • Limited-life membranes, expensive to replace
  • Produces weak-alcohol effluent with high COD burden
  • Requires frequent cleaning resulting in high water usage and effluent generation
  • Unable to reduce alcohol efficiently below 6%

Spinning-cone evaporation

  • Mechanically complex with high-speed rotating internals resulting in high capital and maintenance cost
  • 2-pass process
  • Produces 65% alcohol by-product resulting in loss of valuable base-wine vinous water
  •  Unsuitable for mobile deployment –wine needs to be sent off-site for processing
  •  The quality of the reduced alcohol wine is really bad

There’s a fair amount of science and manipulation involved in this wine, so here are the details:

ALCOHOL 8.90 % RESIDUAL SUGAR 7.01 g/l TOTAL ACIDITY 5.51 g/l PH 3.83

And if you’re like me and wondered about the much higher residual sugar’s effects on the calories, here’s a handy table that Durbanville Hills kindly supplied to this dubious dieter who needed to see the numbers:

Final thoughts: 

Here’s why I say ignore the nose (that came across a little reductively to me) – you’re going to want to pop this straight into the fridge and treat it exactly the same as you would a light red. This wine is made for the summertime, beach bodies, lighter alcohol day-drinking at picnics, and chilled aperitifs before dinner. Sometimes you’re over the rosés and Sauvignon Blancs and want to enjoy a daytime red in the heat – chilling the bottle will kill the nose regardless…so that’s no longer a detraction. And you’ll be left with a budget friendly wine that’s filled with zesty fruity red berried wine…that’s also easy on the calories. I don’t know about you, but I’m absolutely fine with that!

Thank you so much to Durbanville Hills for sending me this wine and a delicious low carb berry cake. And a huge thanks to their Cellarmaster, Martin Moore, for sharing his knowledge of the various methods used to de alcoholise wines.

Find the Wine:



Leave a Reply