When might you buy wine - without buying wine?

Most of us will buy wine if we're expecting guests, and if we're feeling particularly generous, we might go so far as to stock up on something suitable for the designated drivers.

That could be a particularly low-alcohol wine, or an alcohol-free Buck's Fizz, for instance - but wait, when you buy wine that's low in alcohol, are you really buying wine at all?

Industry analyst Wine Intelligence notes the complication created by EU law, which mandates a minimum percentage of alcohol content, in order for a beverage to be sold as 'wine'.

For those drinks that come in below that percentage - regardless of how much they might look and taste like wine - the official name that should be given to them is unclear.

Confusingly, the exact minimum ABV percentage varies from place to place - for wine produced in Germany it may be around 5%, whereas in much of France it is set at 6%.

It is, as Wine Intelligence notes, "enough to drive you to drink".

Perhaps in practice, it doesn't really matter - and when you buy wine with a low alcohol content, although it may not be called 'wine' on the bottle, it is likely to be sold alongside its higher-alcohol siblings.

The important thing is that independent wine merchants continue to do their best to serve you the drinks you want and need - whatever their unique characteristics may be.

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