Have you noticed the buzz around non- and low alcoholic beverages in recent years? We have seen the enormous success of alcohol-free beer, and year-on year sales numbers have shown an amazing increase.
“Over a quarter of shoppers say that they are looking to cut down their alcohol consumption”
A research by Nielsen showed that in the UK “Over a quarter of shoppers say that they are looking to cut down their alcohol consumption”. Most are doing this by drinking less, but there’s a desire to drink lower-alcohol products to aid them in their quest. It’s not only health-conscious shoppers who are seeking to cut down their drinking, this category is gaining appeal across the board.”
Another remarkable finding is that “shoppers are prepared to pay for a great-tasting alcohol free alternative: the average price of a litre of no/low alcohol beer is actually higher than the average price for a mainstream lager”.
Will non-alcoholic wine follow this trend and can these wines become an alternative worth considering?
You may have already come across some non-alcoholic wines at the supermarket. So they are around, but how is non-alcoholic wine actually made?
We found out that there are 3 processes for making non-alcoholic wine: vacuum distillation, spinning cone columns and reverse osmosis. All of these processes start with real, actual, alcoholic wine and end with wine that has little to no alcohol.
Why not just use grape juice and not ferment it, you may think? Well, that is because the fermentation of grape juice not only produces alcohol, but this is also where its aromas, texture and flavours are born.
Vacuum distillation is a process where wine is being boiled at low temperature with the use of a vacuum chamber. Alcohol is evaporated together with the characteristic wine aromas that are then blended back in at a later stage. A common complaint is that despite some of the aromas are being put back in, the wine is lacking floral aromas.
Spinning cone columns is a similar process but uses evaporation and condensation using inverted cones and centrifugal forces. This process efficiently separates constituent elements, which are then blended back together.
Reverse Osmosis is a sophisticated process that filters out the aroma compounds and elements before the alcohol is removed by distillation. It is then added back together after the alcohol has been removed.
To date, it still remains a challenge to produce a non-alcoholic wine with similar characteristics (vinous, ability to pair with food, pleasant aromas) as normal wine. This is partly due to the fact that wine aromas are transmitted by evaporating alcohol. So no alcohol means there is no way to deliver the aromas.
That being said, the developments of late have been very encouraging, and as more research budgets are dedicated in this area it is very likely that we will see some pleasant non-alcoholic wines in the near future.
German winemaker Leitz has been praised in the international press and has successfully produced a non-alcoholic still and sparkling Riesling.
Thomson and Scott offers a sparkling non-alcoholic Chardonnay, claiming to be the best on the market. Moreover, their wines are all organic and vegan.
Spanish wine giant Torres has created a whole range of non- and low alcoholic wines.
Reh Kendermann has dedicated an entire line for their non-alcoholic wines called Ebony Vale.
It is evident that, as progress is made in non-alcoholic wines, the interest of the masses is growing. This is very encouraging, as this may rocket fuel the development of non-alcoholic wine and it is therefore only a matter of time before we will see more quality non-alcoholic wines, which eventually may be interesting enough to become a replacement of alcoholic wine.
Have you ever tried non-alcoholic wines? Please share your experience with us in the comments below!
Albert & Willem