New Zealanders are spending millions of dollars a year on beer and wine that packs less of an alcoholic punch. Winemakers say sales of lower-alcohol wine are increasing at between 140 per cent and 160 per cent every year.
The rest of the wine market is comparatively stagnant, growing at a rate of about 0.5 per cent a year.
Lighter wines are still a fraction of the industry — accounting for just over $10 million in sales every year, or just less than 2 per cent of the total wine market.
But Countdown has seen a 300 per cent year-on-year growth in sales of low-alcohol wine over the past couple of years even though they are not cheapest on offer.
Kim Crawford's First Pick, with 9 per cent alcohol, sells for about $11.99 and Brancott's Flight range, also 9 per cent, about $15.95 in supermarkets. A 12-pack of 2 per cent strength Export Citrus is $19.99.
NZ Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan said the increase in lighter options was a sign that winemakers were responding to consumers' desire for a healthier lifestyle and to baby-boomers getting older.
Low-alcohol wine could be created by producing a wine, then removing alcohol, or, for the more expensive varieties, by using different grapes or harvesting patterns to produce a wine with a naturally lower level of alcohol.
Gregan said it was likely there would be further growth in wines that were about 10 or 11 per cent alcohol, compared to the more standard 13 per cent.