Sip, savour, and say cheers without the morning-after regrets! Our resident grape guru, Townhouse Sommelier Lizzie Mellish, uncorks the secrets behind low and no-alcohol wines. From grape to glass, she spills the juice on sober sips that prove you can have your wine and drink it too—sans the headache!
Why do you think low and no alcohol drinks, particularly alcohol-free wine, has experienced a surge in popularity?
I believe the increasing demand can be attributed to the growing interest in health and wellness, particularly the shift in drinking culture between generations. Many individuals are now seeking ways to limit their alcohol consumption and lead a more balanced lifestyle, without having to give up the social aspect of drinking. Moreover, the taste and quality of low and no alcohol drinks have improved considerably in recent years, making them a more appealing option for those who want to enjoy a drink without experiencing some of the negative side effects associated with alcohol.
Aside from the exclusion of alcohol, what is the difference between how traditional wine and alcohol-free wine is made?
Non-alcoholic wine is made from fermented grapes just like traditional wine; however, the key difference is that the alcohol is removed from the finished product. There are different methods used to remove the alcohol like distillation, reverse osmosis, and vacuum distillation but, since alcohol is a significant component in the fermentation process that gives traditional wine its aroma and flavour, non-alcoholic wine may contain added sugars, acids, or flavours to replace the loss of alcohol.
In some cases, non-alcoholic wine is made using a different fermentation process altogether, such as using grape juice instead of whole grapes, which can affect the final product’s taste and texture.
In terms of grape variety and wine type, is there as much choice as what we see with traditional wine?
Because there are so many varietals of wine, there are also plenty of alcohol-free varietals, each with their own unique flavour profiles. There are also plenty of wines that have an alcohol content of under 10% abv for those looking for something with lower alcohol rather than completely alcohol-free. Some of these lower-alcohol wines include Moscato, Lambrusco, Brachetto d’Acqui, and some styles of German Riesling.
What should we be considering when looking to select a good alcohol-free wine?
There are certainly a few factors to consider. Firstly, consider the grape variety used, as this will largely determine the flavour profile of the wine. Secondly, consider the winemaker’s reputation and experience, as this can be a good indicator of the wine’s quality. Thirdly, consider the production method used to remove the alcohol, as this can affect the flavour and body of the wine. And finally, keep in mind that the taste of alcohol-free wine can differ significantly from traditional wine, so it may be worth trying a few different brands or varieties to find one that you enjoy.
And for those who are health conscious, is alcohol free wine actually better for you?
Alcohol-free wine offers numerous health benefits, including lower calorie content, reduced risk of liver damage, and the absence of hangovers. Most alcohol-free wines also have a more detailed nutritional label, meaning you can have an exact overview of ingredients and calorie information.
But, alcohol isn’t all bad – there are some proven health benefits in traditional wine that you will not receive from alcohol-free wine, such as the high levels of antioxidants found in red wine, but any alcoholic drink should be consumed in moderation.