Wednesday, May 12, 2004

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Brown-Forman has squeezed carbs out of its newest wines. Even the brand names reinforce the carbohydrate-counting craze.

The wine and spirits maker expects to make a splash with its low-carb vintages, which will reach shelves nationally starting around Memorial Day.

The wines are named after the grams of carbohydrates in a 5-ounce glass. One brand is called One.6 Chardonnay; the other is One.9 Merlot.

Normally, a 5-ounce glass of wine has 3 to 6 grams of carbs, the company said. The low-carb brands have the same alcohol content as other wines.

Brown-Forman says it’s the first introduction of low-carb wines in this country, where such products are fast becoming a staple because of the popularity of the Atkins diet and similar eating plans.

The Louisville-based company, the nation’s eighth-leading wine producer, hopes to use its head start on the competition to gain a permanent place as the leader in the low-carb wine market.

“Because of the branding efforts and because of the quality of the wine, we think we have a chance to really own this space,” said Andrew M. Varga, vice president and global brand director of Brown-Forman Wines.

Mr. Varga said the company expects at least 500,000 cases to sell in the first year.

Brown-Forman is picking up on the success of low-carb beer. Anheuser-Busch introduced the first major brand in the low-carb beer niche with its Michelob Ultra. Other beer makers have entered the low-carb market.

Cara Morrison, the Brown-Forman winemaker in California who developed the brands, said most consumers won’t notice any difference in taste.

“They have a wonderful fruitiness to them,” she said.

The low-carb wines, which will sell for around $10 a bottle, required slight production modifications.

Miss Morrison removed as much sugar as possible from the grapes during fermentation. She blended the wine to maximize the full flavor of the grapes while producing the low-carb count. Her goal was to “give the sensation of sweetness without it being there,” she said.

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