We're disrupting the wine industry, and refuse to apologise

By Amanda Thomson

We're disrupting the wine industry, and refuse to apologise

Some people were surprised to see Thomson & Scott Skinny Sparkling Wines receiving a Hero award from Women’s Health magazine. Are our Champagne and Prosecco made of kale? Do we offer an alcohol-free sparkling wine experience? Thankfully, the answer to both questions is ‘No.’ And nor do we promote fasting, 9.30pm bedtimes and weekly triathlons. To clarify a little further: it’s not about what we take out of our drinks, but about what we don’t add. And when it comes to having a good time, Thomson & Scott is the ultimate party animal!

When we launched Thomson & Scott five years ago I’m proud to say we were ahead of the curve. So-called healthy eating was all about Atkins and avoiding carbohydrates, and very few experts were talking about processed sugar. Now that soft drinks will be subject to a sugar tax, and movies including That Sugar Film (thatsugarfilm.com) have revealed the havoc hidden sugar in everyday so-called healthy foods wreaks on general wellbeing, dieticians are talking about nothing else. And I’m so glad that I stuck to my guns. Most people are surprised, and frankly pretty terrified, when they discover mainstream sparkling wines can contain up to 18 grams of processed sugar per bottle – that’s more than four teaspoons.

Our message is not about dieting, or giving up fun, but the opposite. The second most common question I’m asked, after, “What do you use instead of sugar?” is, “How many calories does a glass of Thomson & Scott contain?” While our Champagne and Prosecco do contain fewer calories, I’m passionate about increasing awareness that not all calories are created equal. If you can enjoy a glass or three of quality sparkling wine that tastes great and isn’t packed with chemicals or processed sugar, then why wouldn’t you? Reducing your intake of sugar has well documented benefits, helping reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease as well as improving concentration levels and the appearance of your skin. It’s absolutely not about giving up something you love.

Unsurprisingly, given that the UK alcohol industry is worth £39 billion in annual sales, and 300 million bottles of Champagne are produced every year, our sugar message isn’t always welcomed by traditional producers. Creating Champagne’s characteristic sweet taste using a dosage of processed sugar is cheaper than ensuring the right type of grapes are picked at the peak of perfection, then carefully blended. Also, in the case of Champagne, the maturing process is incredibly significant. Our Champagne is kept on the lees for a minimum of 18 months, while the industry standard is 12 months – another cost-save that isn’t widely talked about.

So if you enjoy a little of what you fancy, believing it does no harm, then our message probably won’t appeal to you. Because hidden sugar in everyday foods is so prevalent that those little bites and sips really add up. The food and soft drinks industry is waking up to consumers’ increased awareness and starting to act, albeit slowly. However, the sparkling wine industry is proving slower on the uptake. We believe that fabulous drink should be celebrated in the same way we applaud ethically and thoughtfully produced food. If doing so makes the establishment sit up and watch what we’re doing, so much the better. When we win awards from publications like Women’s Health, people want to know why. And when the reason is chucking out unnecessary ingredients, then we’re all winners. No one likes a party pooper, so when what’s in your drink is as transparent as the finest crystal Champagne flute, then you really can eat, drink and be merry.

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