Think alcohol-free wines are a new thing? Think again.
From the media headlines in recent years, anyone would think alcohol-free wines were something new.
In fact, alcohol-free wines have been around for more than 100 years - and their development resulted from the belief back then that booze is bad for the health.
The technique to remove alcohol from standard wine was first devised by a German wine producer in the Rhine valley in 1907.
This family business had been cultivating vines and selling wine for generations when they realised that they were losing customers who had quit alcohol on doctors’ orders.
They knew that wine had health benefits and set about creating a substitute that maintained the positive elements without the unwanted side effects of ethanol.
They developed a system using low temperatures in a vacuum to gently evaporate the alcohol while retaining the taste, bouquet and medicinal qualities of the original wine.
This patented technique is still widely used to create non-alcoholic wine and other de-alcoholised drinks, as well as to lower the alcohol content of drinks that are deemed too strong (ie 15% down to 12% etc).
How alcohol-free wines are produced
All de-alcoholised wines start life as alcoholic wine and the follow exactly the same fermentation process as ordinary wine.
The grapes are harvested, pressed and then have yeast added to turn the sugar in the grapes into alcohol during fermentation.
Research has continued to perfect the de-alcoholisation technique and in the last three decades new processes have been developed which are considered more gentle than heating.
These procedures include the spinning cone system. The fermented wine cascades down a spinning cone. Centrifugal force throws off the lighter liquid molecules allowing the alcohol to be discarded. The flavour and aromatic compounds are retained. These compounds are then reintroduced to the liquid to create the de-alcoholised wine.
An alternative method uses osmosis to separate the alcohol, aroma and flavour molecules by passing the fermented wine through a sheer mesh under high pressure.
The various elements are then collected and used to recreate the qualities of the original wine minus the alcohol.
As you can imagine, this takes time and investment in sophisticated equipment as well as teams of technicians and wine experts who oversee the whole process.
Now you can appreciate why it isn’t just grape juice and the alcohol-free wine price isn’t cheap despite attracting no duty on alcohol.
So nothing of the original wine is lost in the process although the resulting mouth feel is generally lighter as it’s the alcohol that gives wine its body.
As an added bonus, booze-free wine has around 75% less calories than a standard bottle of wine.
Do alcohol-free wines taste the same as alcoholic wines?
When wine connoisseurs talk of a full-bodied red, what they are feeling in the mouth is the high booze content that coats the tongue and clings to the glass giving it ‘legs’.
But one of the reasons it takes a connoisseur to identify the subtle flavours and aromas of regular wine is that the smell and taste of alcohol overwhelms the other elements.
When we glug down a glass of wine, what most of us taste and smell is the alcohol. It’s an acquired skill to detect the nuances of alcoholic wine.
When we drink wine without alcohol, the full flavours of the fruit come to the fore.
It’s not going to be exactly the same experience as drinking a 15% Chilean merlot. As most wine lovers will admit, it takes time to acquire a taste for alcoholic wine. There will be few adults who sipped their first Cabernet Sauvignon and immediately loved the taste.
It does take time to become accustomed to the new experience of drinking alcohol-free wine but we believe that – if it was worth learning to love the alcohol – it’s worth taking the time to appreciate the qualities and benefits of an authentic alternative.
Whatever type you prefer, there is a growing range of non-alcoholic wines to replace your favourite drink including whites, reds, rosés and sparklings, that maintain the key qualities of their boozy counterparts without the negative side effects.
Even if you choose not to abandon the booze shelf completely, alcohol-free versions are a great choice for those who just want to take a break from wine.
The recommended maximum alcohol consumption is just 14 units of alcohol a week.
That’s less than two bottles. So, it’s definitely worth trying our range of alcohol-free alternatives!