Hey, who turned on the lights? If our lives are to be made brighter by the introduction of low-cal wine, then I'd rather be in the dark. Thanks, anyway.
It's the same masterly marketing principle as light beer: A third less calories and you'll be able to have your wine and designer jeans, too. The only trouble is that light wine has the same drawback as light beer--it's tasteless.
Here's a quiz. Be honest. You have only your weight to lose. If you're on a diet, or just counting calories to improve your math, would you rather have a small portion of a food or drink, and enjoy it, or would you rather have a large portion of something that tastes like nothing?
If you opted for the second, turn the page.
Personally, I'd rather have one good strong cup of coffee than three watery-weak cups. The same goes for my wine. If I'm looking for low-alcohol wines, I'll drink Germans, at about 10 percent alcohol. And, if I'm looking for bone-dry ones, well, the market is fashionably full of them, ranging from 11 to 13 percent alcohol.
However, we may have to take the subject of lights seriously. Some of the largest California wine companies have spent an awful lot of money developing their lights. And they're going to spend a lot more on advertising and promotion to ensure that calorie-conscious America buys them. It's forecast that lights will account for up to 15 percent of the wine market by the end of the decade. This won't be at the expense of regular wine--just an expansion of the whole game.
The thinking is that the slim and trim, who in the past have been afraid to sip wine because they'll get fat, will desert Tab and switch to light wine. From there, the new wine drinker will be weaned onto the real thing. As far as I'm concerned, nothing is more calculated to encourage them to return to Tab.
Reading the front and back labels of the entrants into this Brave Thin World is like reading the label of a product endorsed by Weight Watchers: the number of calories per 100-milliliter serving, carbohydrates, proteins, fats--they're all there. Take your pick from the following, all sold in 1.5 liters.
Taylor California Cellars Light Chablis, 25 percent fewer calories, it reads. (Fewer than what?) It has 53 calories per 100 milliliters and 8.2 percent alcohol. Taylor's Light Rhine, $5, has 55 calories and 7.9 percent alcohol.
1980 Sebastiani Light Country White, $5; 57 calories per 100 milliliters and 9 percent alcohol.
Los Hermanos Light Chablis, $4, has no cal-count on the label, but is reported to be 57 calories per 100 milliliters, and 8.7 percent alcohol.
Paul Masson Light Chablis, $5.50, claims one-third fewer calories, having 49 per 100 milliliters and 7.1 percent alcohol.
Almaden Light Chablis, $5, scores the lowest with 48 calories per 100 milliliters and is 7 percent alcohol.
If, for some unimaginable reason, you are coerced into drinking a light wine, you could try the Paul Masson Light Chablis. It's acceptable. The lack of nose is a virtue in this case, and the taste is not quite as watery as some of the other chablis styles.
However, I'd be inclined to live dangerously. Blow six extra calories and choose the Taylor California Cellars Light Rhine. It, at least, has some signs of fruit.