I’m on a quest to find a good non-alcoholic wine, emphasis on the “good”.
I know, why bother, right?
In fact, while researching the topic, I went to the wine lover’s page (wineloverspage.com) where I was told the search for an authentic, non-alcoholic wine was probably futile. The suggestion? Forget about it and look for “Quality fruit juices, sparkling water, good coffee or tea.”
But people drink decaf coffee and diet pop. And that awful non-alcoholic beer. So why not non-alcoholic wine? Seems like a good argument for at least trying.
I started investigating the non-alcoholic wine option because even one glass makes me feel hung over the next day. But I still enjoy the taste and ritual of wine. And non-alcoholic wine lets you blend into social or business situations where you don’t have to explain why you’re not drinking. So I thought I’d give it a try.
I went to Albertson’s on Brooks and although they have an extensive wine collection, no non-alcoholic options.
CVS pharmacy has a terrific wine selection but only had Fre’, a product made by Sutter wines. CVS stocks it next to the Reunite (on ice, that’s nice) and the other wines in the giant glass jugs with twist tops which should make anyone suspicious. It was $4.99 with a twist top and wasn’t that good. I tried it years before but thought maybe technology had moved this brand ahead. If you’re the kind of person who likes to mindlessly sip wine while reading a book, this would work. Although mindlessly drinking alcohol might point to a deeper issue but I’m not your mom….so.
Then I called Liquid Planet. They had to ask the wine manager if they even carried non-alcoholic wine. They found one bottle and put it on hold for me. This brand seems to be the brand of choice, according to my internet search. This was a 2006 Ariel cabernet with a cork and a rich color. The label says it’s a ‘premium dealcoholized” wine that contains less than one half of once percent of alcohol by volume. And it cost almost ten dollars. I figured that was a good sign. It was ok. It takes getting used to. And I believe nonalcoholic wine has a value of zero points on the Weight Watchers plan instead of 4 for the real stuff. So there’s that.
The process, according to the Ariel website reads as follows:
“Some of ARIEL’s varietal wines are aged in small oak barrels, and all are fined and filtered according to traditional winemaking methods. Finally, more than 99.5% of the alcohol is removed through our gentle cold filtration process. This process, which uses reverse osmosis, allows alcohol to be removed from ARIEL while retaining many of the qualities found in traditional wine!”
Here’s a picture of how they do it.
Reverse osmosis! Cool.
The wine was moderately satisfying, much better than Fre’ but still not quite right. Ariel’s website brags of winning tasting contests head to head with real wine. Hmmm.
I found the Carl Jung website which helped me legitimize my search. It says “alcohol-free wine makes sense in today’s health conscious environment. They are more than just a fad, they are a new habit” even though I’m starting to get looks from the store employees when I ask if they have non-alcoholic wines. I have yet to order any Carl Jung. There is a website called nonalcoholicwinesonline.com where I can order it. It’s understandably the shipping that makes it an investment.
This company has German roots but you order from Canada. The company has been de-alcoholizing wine since 1909. This one sound promising. I also e-mailed Vandalia, a brand where I could buy a case of cabernet for $200. I also emailed them, hoping for a sample and a tip on where to find it around Missoula. They don’t sell it in the region and I don’t want to drop $200 bucks on a non-wine without tasting it first. I have not heard back.
I found this notation on the Yale-New Haven hospital website where they address the medical benefits of red wine:
“In 1997, researchers at the University of Wisconsin concluded that purple grape juice also reduced blood clotting. Another study by researchers at University of California at Davis, confirmed the findings that non-alcoholic red wine contains the same antioxidant profile as red wine. However in a 1998 study, Japanese researchers found that while grape juice still had antioxidative benefits, it did not significantly lower LDL cholesterol levels compared to red wine.”
My next call was to the Pattee Creek Market, often noted for its good wine selection.
The manager told me about a product they just got in, called PureBlue UnWine and unlike its de- dealcoholized brethren, its 100-percent juice. And at about $9.00 a bottle, I expected it to be really good. It was mostly blueberry juice with some cabernet and other varieties of grapes all squeezed into the bottle. Tasty stuff and very good for you. My daughter liked it. Kind of pricy for a regular drinking juice, though.
I didn’t see what I was looking for at WalMart. The Wild Vines “wine”….really just wine coolers in a bottle… have about half the alcohol content than many of the wines I checked out at the store. They’re just so darn sugary sweet.
While at IKEA in Seattle last month, I found a can of sparking pear juice that is delicious and would make a great option for a fun virgin cocktail.
This is a revealing passage from the webpage Wine Lovers Page, written by Robin Garr.
The two U.S. brands I have tried are Fré and Ariel. These brands are widely available in wine stores, but I've found the whites to be bland and the reds actively unpleasant. It's my opinion that three issues are at work here: First, the de-alcoholizing process is intrusive and seems to damage the wine, even though the makers claim otherwise. Second, alcohol is a key component of the customary flavor (and texture) profile of wine, and wines without it seem to be missing something; they seem lightweight and thin. Finally, to be blunt, these are inexpensive wines made from marginal grapes.
So let’s throw out the idea that we can get a good non- alcoholic wine and embrace the inner juice of the grapes! Sweet Water Cellars offers dozens of different juices from all the common wine making grapes and you can even select the region where the grapes are grown.
Here’s a sample of their offerings:
This exceptional grape juice is 100% Merlot and made the same way as great Bordeaux wines. All the grapes are from old vines, low grape productions per vineyard, in organic culture. This product is totally natural, the grapes freshly pressed immediately after the harvest. The Merlot grapes are chosen from artisanal vintners.
The husband and wife team of Niels and Bimmer Udsen established Castoro Cellars in Templeton, California, in the early 1980s. It is one of the oldest wineries in the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA). In addition to the grapes grown in their own vineyards, Castoro Cellars buys fruit from more than 20 other local growers, seeking out those willing to invest the extra effort necessary to produce high quality fruit. Their 2009 bottling, a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot juices with just a touch of sparkle, is a perfect example of that commitment to excellence.
Bottles range in price from ten to twenty dollars.
A wine is considered alcohol free if it has less than one percent
While it is physically impossible to remove all of the alcohol in non-alcoholic wines, these drinks meet the alcohol-free legal standard. The tiny amount of alcohol in alcohol-free wines is not enough to make you feel drunk and is actually less than you might find in a glass of fresh orange juice.
Alcohol-free wine can be enjoyed in any situation where you would have a glass of wine. It is great with dinner or at restaurants, parties and corporate events. Non-alcoholic wine is a great choice when you need to stay focused and alert, if you are going to be driving or if you are expecting a baby. If you are on medication that doesn’t allow you to drink, you can still enjoy a glass of this wine.
Sadly, it’s probably true that the world of wines has no patience for those of us who enjoy the social aspects and tradition of a fine wine but not the aftermath of alcohol consumption no matter how hard they try.
The alcohol has a lot to do with flavor that clearly can’t be replicated once it’s removed.
So, I toast you with a juice box and wish you luck. Bottoms up!
AccordinSadley,g to the Carl Jung wineAlcohol-free wines make sense in today's health conscious environment. They are more than just a fad - they are a new habit.