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Non-Alcoholic Wine

In recent times, I have found myself looking to lower the amount of alcohol I consume – for no other reason than I can feel myself getting older and believe the time to be concerned about longevity has arrived. In doing so, I work to increase the number of alcohol-free days each month by sipping non-alcoholic beers, wines, and spirits or enjoying low-alcoholic beverages. One might ask why drink at all? The answer is simple: On nights that choose not to drink, I still want to be part of the party. That means finding products that are satisfying and refreshing.


BEER
Non-alcoholic beers

Finding non-alcoholic beer is a snap. There are lots of good options in the market today, including Beck’s Bitburger, Buckler, Clausthaler, Coors, St. Pauli Girl, Einbecker, Erdinger, Kaliber, and O’Douls. I have tried them all and find them very satisfying. Curious? Amazon.com offers a variety pack delivered to your front door for $79.99. No alcohol means you can drink these beers anywhere or any time of day. Check out this “interesting” marketing video for Heineken Zero.The product sells for under $10 a six-pack.

SPIRITS

The beauty of non-alcoholic cocktails is they allow drinkers to be part of the party without the unwanted effects of alcohol. I do like Aperol (11% abv) on the rocks with a splash of soda or ginger ale as a low-alcohol drink, but the options are increasing for 100% non-alcoholic spirits and many are very tasty. Take Seedlip for example. Bartenders tell me that they include Seedlip, a non-alcoholic spirit, behind the bar to add flavor (rather than heat) to a drink. The product comes in three styles woodsy Spice, citrusy Grove, and floral Garden. While Seedlip does enhance a cocktail, the product is also lovely sipped on the rocks with a splash of ginger ale, soda or tonic making it a perfect cocktail alternative for around $38 a bottle. Curious Elixirs is another sipper that has caught my eye. Advertising heavily on Facebook, this product’s selling point is purity and transparency.

WINE

For me, finding a good non-alcohol wine is much more difficult than locating quality-driven, alcohol-free beer or a cocktail alternative. I’d like to think the reason for this is about balance. Alcohol makes up a big portion of a wine’s structural balance and removing it robs the wine of its backbone. Perhaps beer aficionados feel the same about their hoppy alternative. That said, I do believe that somewhere out there a quality example is in the works and shall hit the market in the coming year.

One wine that seems to be making waves in the category is Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon. Crafted in Paso Robles, California this red wine is fermented in a stainless steel vat and then barrel aged. The alcohol in the wine helps to pull out some of the tannin and flavor characteristics of a barrel creating a complex flavor profile in the wine. The alcohol is removed just before bottling. Doing so keeps the wine from tasting like grape juice, which is part of my distaste for alcohol-free wine. At about $27 a bottle, I must say, they are on to something and demand breeds invention so we just may be seeing more alcohol-free wines on the market. One of my WSET Diploma students recently recounted a story about a customer toting a bottle of the same into his high-end restaurant asking him to poured it when the other guests at his table ordered wine with dinner. Like me, this gentleman wanted to be part of the party without the effects of alcohol.

WATER INTO WINE

Recently, ABC News announced that O.Vine, a non-alcoholic “wine water” is now available in the USA. Crafted from the skin of the grape (it’s sold varietally) this wine-inspired water debuted at NYC’s Fancy Food Show in 2018. I find it interesting that they are packaging the beverage like water (plastic bottle and plastic screw cap) while touting the benefits of wine such as flavor and tannin. I am going to make a point of finding this product and give it a try one hot day this summer. “It’s very refreshing, it’s light, it’s fruity, it’s delicious.” OK. I am in.

Sober Curious Movement

Each year more and more people are shepherding in the new year by celebrating Dry January. Just the fact that Dry January is a “thing” is worth taking note. According to Food & Wine Magazine, almost 30% of U.S. adult consumers (for various reasons) choose not to drink alcohol. Further, industry watchers have noticed that Millenials are not buying alcoholic beverages at the rate formally predicted. Instead, the current trend for Millenials focuses on healthy, low-calorie alternatives with most advocating a healthy lifestyle is a sought-after luxury. This is something restaurants across the country have noted, too. While most cocktail menus have a non-alcoholic section, Listen Bar in NYC takes the trend one step further by advertising that they are an alcohol-free bar. I love that…and the fact that all the bartenders are musicians! I am certainly going to give them a Listen during my next trip to the Big Apple.

Whether U.S. consumers are looking to reduced alcohol consumption for health, well being. or religious reasons, new mocktails and the like are enjoying a market lift in an effort to quench the global thirst for sobriety. Something the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) has not left unchecked as non-alcoholic wines and spirits were the topics of the most recent WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits Unit 1 Case Study exam. Here’s to my students and their noble alcohol-free efforts this past month. Cheers!



Categories: Wine Blog

About Marianne Frantz

A Certified Wine Educator, Marianne holds a Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) of London, and has also earned the Advanced Sommelier qualification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. After successfully participating in an educational competition sponsored by the Wines of Australia in the spring of 2008, Marianne became an educational Ambassador for Wine Australia USA. She is also a Certified Spanish Wine Educator.