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LoCal Wine From Argentina


by Andrew Chalk


Low-calorie alcoholic drinks are hot at the moment. Beer has made it, with brewers like Athletic Brewing selling a product that is indistinguishable from conventional beer expresions.


Wine has not jumped the shark yet. No major conventional wine has been released in a low or no-cal (hereafter low-cal) form to stand alongside its conventional counterpart. Wine is still at the stage where low-cal wines are different brands or sub-brands entirely. The reason, of course, is that the wine is not as organalepically good as conventional wine. One I reviewed, Starla, was a total abortion and, at $28/bottle, a ripoff.

Enter respected Argentine winemaker, Domaine Bousquet. Like other entrants to the low-cal segment they say "tap" before entering the contest. These are specially-delimited low-cal wines, not Bousquet's respected existing wines in low-cal expressions.


Here they are. Try them, and make up your own mind. I think the search for commensurate low alcohol wine goes on.


FROM THE WIRES...

About LO CA Chardonnay and Malbec

Low-Calorie, Low-Alcohol, Low-Sugar, and USDA-Certified Organic Wines

 

Meet LO CA Chardonnay and LO CA Malbec from Argentina, feel-good, taste-good wines with more altitude, attitude, and fewer calories. A play on “low-calorie,” LO CA also means “crazy” in Spanish. Low-calorie, low-alcohol, low-sugar, vegan, gluten-free, USDA-certified organic, Regenerative Organic Certified™, and Ecocert-approved – how crazy is that! LO CA Chardonnay and LO CA Malbec are each available stateside for an SRP of $14.


We can’t confirm that these two wines are the only USDA-certified organic low-cal wines currently sold in the U.S. market, but they may be. We can assert however that the quality is exceptional because the duo is made by Argentina’s leading producer of certified organic wines.


So, what are the vital statistics for LO CA 100% Chardonnay and 100% Malbec?

  • Alcohol: 9% for the Chardonnay, 9.5% for the Malbec

  • Residual sugar: around 1 gram of natural sugar, so the wines taste dry

  • Calories per 5 oz. serving: 75 for the Chardonnay, 79 for the Malbec

  • Fat: 0

  • Carbohydrates per 5 oz. serving: 0.17 grams (Chardonnay) and 0.14 grams (Malbec)


The Crazy LO CA Challenge


The right level of acidity: Winemaker Rodrigo Serrano puts it this way: “It was a challenge to harvest grapes with low sugar content, and therefore low potential alcohol, while harnessing just the right amount of acidity to facilitate balance and enjoyment. Several attempts were made in recent years, and finally, with the 2022 vintage, we were able to nail it down.” But even with the right picking date, the team was not yet out of the woods: “We also knew that at such a low pH, we ran the risk that fermentation would have a hard time starting.”


Making a dry low-sugar wine: Though fermented dry, the wines are refreshing, but not searingly mouth-puckering. Serrano explains: “Sweetness does not always derive from grape sugar alone. In the higher reaches of Argentina’s Tupungato region, we are blessed with sandy soils, leading to polyphenols that provide a sensation of sweetness without being sweet.


The right amount of flavor: The later the harvest, the greater the flavor potential. A decision was to go for a great-tasting, no-compromises wine, rather than chasing after the lowest caloric number. The 9% to 9.5% alcohol proved to be the sweet spot, with grapes ripe enough to provide full flavor, alongside sufficient alcohol for body and structure.


Grapes were harvested in the early fall, between late January and early February, about two months earlier than for standard bottlings. To guarantee optimum quality, different parcels were picked at different times. The grapes were then fermented in stainless steel tanks for 12-17 days. Bottling followed shortly after to ensure peak freshness.


The Finished Wines

Both final wines have around 30% fewer calories than a standard bottling and are dry, light, delicious and refreshing on the palate.

  • The LO CA white, with its citrus and concentrated green apple notes, is a classic cool-climate-style Chardonnay.

  • Deep violet in color, the LO CA Malbec has intense aromas of red and black fruits. Serrano adds a personal comment: “White wines have higher acidity, so by default it is easier to create a tasty low-calorie wine. I am personally surprised by the quality and balance of our LO CA Malbec.” Indeed, the strong acidity gives the fruit good definition.


Crazy Good Terroir

Fruit comes from Tupungato, the premier subregion of Mendoza’s high-altitude Uco Valley in the foothills of the Andes mountains. What makes the area special?

·       Near constant breezes from the Andes to the west mitigate heat-stress in this desert-like climate.

·       The 4,000 feet altitude means huge day/night temperature differentials, ensuring extra flavor, acidity, and color in the grapes.

·       Low-fertility sandy soils stress the vines, guaranteeing low yield and high quality, and yet are also permeable for good drainage.

·       With rainfall averaging a scant 8-inches or less per year, groundwater from Andes snowmelt irrigates the vines drop-by-drop, giving the plants just enough water but not a smidgeon more.


Crazy for Organics

Thanks to the dryness of the area and its phylloxera-resistant sandy soils, farming organically is both possible and smart. All fruit for LO CA Chardonnay and Malbec is 100% organically grown.

·       Roots of organically grown plants penetrate deeper, absorbing trace minerals that give wines their authentic local taste.

·       Organic farming is healthier for the environment and, vitally, for the people who tend the vines


Crazy: No Place to Hide

Fruit for LO CA must be of exceptional quality, with good concentration, and balance of acidity (a natural preservative). Why? Because USDA regulations prohibit the addition of sulfites (SO2) in winemaking. Sulfites are commonly used as a form of preservative or to help conceal natural flaws.

 

In Conclusion

Regardless of whether you’re on a restricted diet or counting the calories, LO CA Chardonnay and LO CA Malbec are ideally suited for all manner of gatherings, large, medium, or small, from receptions and parties to BBQs and picnics, or simply a late weeknight dinner or midday lunch.

 

About Origins Organic Imports: Miami-based Origins Organic Imports is owned and run by husband-and-wife team Labid Ameri and Anne Bousquet, also the owners of Argentina’s leading producer and exporter of certified-organic wines. With Origins Organic, Ameri and Bousquet are dedicated to introducing U.S. consumers to a growing roster of well-priced, high-quality certified- organic offerings from around the world, in addition to those from their own estate.

 

Wine

Vintage

SRP

Distribution

Chain Accounts

LO CA Chardonnay

2023

$14

AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MO, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, MI, MN, OR, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI

Total Wine & More

LO CA Malbec

2023

Natural Grocers



 

Sample.

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