I have some family and friends that don’t like any type of wine, my oldest daughter being one of them.
No matter what I serve her — red, white, dry, sweet, rose, sparkling — she just doesn’t like it. Maybe, it’s the taste of alcohol, or the feelings you get in the morning you don’t like. I don’t know.
But I think I may have a solution … alcohol-free wine.
What?! Wine without alcohol!
I know, it’s sacrilegious. Sounds suspicious to me, too.
No matter how much “real” wine lovers cringe at the very thought of drinking it, well... I think it’s here to stay, because there is no end in sight for this healthy — and one has to admit — tasty alternative.
So let’s take a closer look at how these “wines” are made and if they can live up to wine-trained palates.
Just what is alcohol-free wine? Is it grape juice in disguise? A diet drink or some fancy concoction sold at health stores?
As health gurus renounce alcohol, consumers are starting to pay attention to their alcohol intake and the need for an alternative to regular wine.
Enter alcohol-free wines. They have made their entrance worldwide and are getting more and more popular.
But they have been around for 150 years.
In 1869, American physician and Methodist pastor Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch, no relation, as well as a strong supporter of the temperance movement, produced a non-alcoholic wine that he used for his church services in his hometown of Vineland, NJ. Interesting name.
He used the same method as Louis Pasteur. By gently heating the wine, he was able to remove the alcohol.
If you take the alcohol out of wine, doesn’t it turn it back to grape juice?
Well, actually no. It’s a bit more complicated than that. In fact, making alcohol-free wine starts out the exact same way regular wine is made.
Grapes are harvested, destemmed, crushed, left in contact with their skins in order to acquire more flavor, color and additional tannins. Goes through the same fermentation process. Fermentation is when sugars in the grape juice are converted into alcohol.
Malolactic fermentation occurs. Non-alcoholic wine even goes through the same barrel-aging process just like regular wine.
But before the wine is bottled, that’s when the hard part comes in: removing the alcohol from the wine.
There are two ways winemakers go about removing the alcohol. One method is distilling the alcohol out of the wine through steam and vacuum. In other words, winemakers put the wine into an extremely strong vacuum and heat it.
As the vacuum increases, the temperature of the wine decreases. This allows winemakers to heat the wine temperatures as low as 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which distills the alcohol out of the wine without too much heat and causing it to oxidize.
The second method is through filtration. Again, the winemakers use extremely high vacuum pressure to force the wine against a membrane that is so fine, only water and alcohol can seep through it.
They repeat this process until the alcohol is gone and the wine becomes a thick concentrate. Then, water or juice is added back into the concentrate, and voila! You just made alcohol-free wine.
Sort of like adding water to a can of frozen lemonade, same idea. This keeps the natural flavor of the grapes intact, results in wine that tastes, smells and feels similar to regular wine, but doesn’t contain alcohol.
Once the alcohol has been removed from the wine, it’s ready for bottling and consumption.
To meet the criteria of a non-alcoholic beverage, the wine must contain less than 0.5% alcohol. Anything above is not considered a ‘’non-alcoholic beverage.’’
Since alcohol adds body and texture to the wine, by removing it, alcohol-free wines tend to be much lighter and not as big or robust on the palate. They have a smoother finish and are extremely easy to drink. If you’re accustomed to drinking regular wine, it may take some time before you begin to enjoy the lighter flavor of alcohol-free wines.
Today the industry caters to a completely different clientele, and they are well aware of the fact that it is a niche product that plays a role in the wine industry.
MoneyMarket stated, “The global non-alcoholic wine market is estimated to grow at an impressive 7% during the ten year forecast period (2019-2029) and is projected to reach a value of over $10 Bil. US.’’
So, if you are leading an alcohol-free lifestyle or are thinking about it, alcohol-free wines will still let you enjoy wine. An attentive host would keep a bottle of alcohol-free wine handy for guests who don’t drink alcohol.
Now that you know non-alcoholic wine is made the exact same way as your favorite cabernet, I encourage you to give alcohol-free wines a try and taste it for yourself.
Happy non-alcoholic drinking,