Non-alcoholic wine? In this day and age, are you really all that surprised? Thanks to health-conscious millennials, there is a wide selection of non-alcoholic beverages available in corner bodegas, speciality groceries, and on bar menus. So naturally (or not so naturally), the wine industry got on board.
What Is Non-Alcoholic Wine?
Non-alcoholic wine isn't exactly just another name for grape juice--that's different. Non-alcoholic wine, or NA wine, is grape juice that has been fermented and arrives at a normal range of alcohol by volume (ABV) like all other wine and then undergoes one of two processes to remove the alcohol. Vacuum distillation is a process that heats the wine up so the alcohol burns off. In general, heating wine is a big no no as it negatively impacts the aroma and flavor profile. Therefore, if you are looking for an alcohol-free wine of quality, look for one made using reverse osmosis. This method separates the concentrate while removing the ethanol. Once all the ethanol is removed, water is added back to the concentrate. It is the more delicate of the two processes as it preserves the aroma and flavor compounds. With either method, there may be remnants of alcohol, but very little, like the equivalent to kombucha, around 0.5% ABV.
What Does Non-Alcoholic Wine Taste Like?
In theory, one would think that just subtracting the alcohol from a wine wouldn't affect the aromas and flavors, however there are some noticeable differences. First of all, evaporating alcohol actually transports some key aroma compounds up to your nose from the glass. When this vehicle is no-longer present, those compounds are not perceived in the same way. Second, the texture and body of a wine changes when it no longer has the viscosity of alcohol. Natural sugar from the grape must or fruit juice are sometimes added to NA wines in order to mimic textural traits.
Comparing NA wine to wine is less of an apple to apple comparison and more of an apple to orange comparison. While you may find a NA sauvignon blanc or pinot noir, don't expect it to be exactly what you are used to. Expect to mildly recognize the grape and not have any aftereffects from consuming alcohol.
How to Drink Non-Alcoholic Wine
Just as with all regular wines, serving them at the appropriate temperature is relevant with non-alcoholic wines as well. If you are looking to avoid alcohol, but would like to mimic a glass of wine, or feel included while the entire Thanksgiving table is drinking red, give alcohol free wine a try. Just keep in mind that it's its own breed of beverage.
Where to Find It
Your grocery store or Costco are likely to have a label or two of NA wine tucked in the corner of the booze aisle. Non-alcoholic wines are also becoming more common on large beverage sites like Drizly. Better Rhodes is an online retailer who exclusively sells alcohol free beverages and has numerous NA wines available.
If you are interested in branching out into the world of non-alcoholic drinks or avoiding alcohol for health reasons, but you still want to have a glass occasionally, alcohol-free wines may be the drink for you.