New Zealand’s first wine-based seltzer

The Villa Maria Leftfield Selzer. Villa Maria

Villa Maria claims to have launched New Zealand’s first wine-based seltzer under the Leftfield (LF) brand.

What is a seltzer, how does it differ from a spritzer and are they both RTDs?

These seltzers are designed for health-conscious Millennials reducing their sugar intake and embracing moderation.

A seltzer is generally a fizzy, flavoured RTD (ready-to-drink) beverage with low-ish alcohol content. Seltzers can be based on beer, cider, wine or spirits (hard seltzers.).

Spritzers are cocktails that you can mix yourself. They are simply three parts white wine and one part sparkling water or soda. Spritzers can also be RTDs such as the extremely popular Mike’s Hard Lemonade (not available in Australasia as far as I know).

Seltzers are booming internationally and might soon become “the next big thing” in this country. According to local Nielsen data, RTDs currently hold the second-highest share of liquor after beer and is growing at more than double the rate. RTDs now make up 27% of all alcohol sales.

Who remembers wine coolers? These wine-based, fruit-flavoured drinks became immensely popular in this country for a short period before disappearing just as quickly. What is the difference between a wine cooler and a wine seltzer? I’m not sure there is much difference.

LF Seltzers come in three different flavours.

My favourite is the Yuzu, Mint & Cucumber based on sauvignon blanc and sparkling water. The flavour of cucumber makes a strong statement in this refreshing drink, although I struggled to detect sauvignon blanc character. Subtle sweetness is nicely balanced by tangy acidity. It has an alcohol of 4.8%; 68 calories, 2.0g carbs and 0.45g sugar per 250ml can (the others are fairly similar). Retail price is NZD $15.99 for 4 x 250ml cans, which seems fair to me.

The second choice is LF Pear and Ginger based on pinot gris and sparkling water. I liked the hint of ginger but found this seltzer a little lacking in intensity and character. A sort of peachy taste made it seem a little confected and I found the sweetness slightly cloying. It is pleasant enough and certainly refreshing.

My least favourite seltzer is LF Strawberry and Hibiscus in rosé and sparkling water. Quite intense strawberry flavours overpower the Hibiscus. Lacks subtlety. Would I drink it? Yes, well-chilled on a hot and humid Auckland day.

These seltzers are designed for health-conscious Millennials reducing their sugar intake and embracing moderation. I’m not sure that I fit that profile.

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