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Kendall-Jackson Targets The Emerging Light Wine Category

April 14, 2021

Jackson Family Wines is extending its 3.2-million-case Kendall-Jackson brand into the light wine segment with a new entrant, Avant Lower Calorie Chardonnay. The 9% abv wine comes in at 85 calories a serving and is launching this month, retailing at around $17 a 750-ml. Kendall-Jackson winemaster Randy Ullom told SND that Avant Lower Calorie Chardonnay is a project three years in the making. He and his team honed their approach before coming to the 2020 vintage ready to create a lower calorie, lower carb wine that could sit alongside Kendall-Jackson’s other Chardonnay offerings.

The wine will roll out across Kendall-Jackson’s key markets with digital and social activations focusing around its quality message as well as its lower-than-average calorie and carb counts. “The ‘Better for You’ category is still relatively new but is gaining momentum, so we foresee this launch as a great opportunity to educate consumers on the added benefits of a lower alcohol wine: fewer calories, less carbs, vegan-friendly,” said Ullom.

To create a lower calorie wine that maintained the brand’s standards, Ullom took a two-pronged approach to harvesting: a portion of the grapes were harvested early to keep sugar levels low. “A secondary harvest later in the season offers more complexity and concentration, which complements the wine, producing a full-bodied blend that’s structurally balanced and delicious, yet lower in alcohol and calories,” he noted. The initial bottling is 47% from Monterey County, 29% from Santa Barbara County, 18% from Mendocino County, and 6% from Sonoma County.

For the launch, Jackson Family will initially target the off-premise and look to educate consumers about what sets Avant Lower Calorie Chardonnay apart in the emerging lighter wine segment. “This is Kendall-Jackson’s first foray into the ‘Better For You’ category, so initially we’re targeting a few select markets where we have a strong presence in grocery and retail,” said Ullom. “As Covid restrictions lessen and more restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity, we’ll aim to bring Avant Lower Calorie Chardonnay to the on-premise world, too.” In addition to entering the market through traditional distribution channels, Lower Calorie Chardonnay will be available DTC through the brand’s website.

Looking ahead, Ullom sees continued development in the “Better for You” and lower calorie wine market, which he compares to the development of rosé and canned wine over the last few years. “Both of those entered the market as new trends, but have brought the quality and longevity to stay,” he said. He believes the category will remain focused on white wines, though he added that he expects to see some experimentation with lower calorie rosés and lighter-bodied reds as producers seek to innovate in this rapidly emerging segment.—Shane English

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