Dry January – alcohol-free wine

HoHoHo! It’s that time of the year again. Huh wait WHAT?… Christmas is just over! No, we are talking about: DRY JANUARY. We went out to discover some great alcohol-free wine!

After popping some gorgeous wines and celebrating life with loved ones and family we all want to push the reset button and start over… NEW YEAR, NEW ME. But today I learned a better reset button, and a more realistic one. I’ve followed a masterclass on non alcoholic wine and tasted 9 alcohol free wines selected by Esmee Langereis. She started her story by sharing one of her New Year’s resolutions, which is to drink MINDFUL, not mindless.

Copyright Kolonne Null

Trend of alcohol-free drinks

Consuming less alcohol and being more mindful perfectly fits into a conscious, healthy and responsible lifestyle. That resonated with me. Some background, since 1975 we have started to consume less alcohol world wide, and in the last years the consumption of alcohol-free beer has increased enormously! Alcohol-free beer covers 63% of all non-alcoholic beverages. Wine takes up only five percent. The market is still small but alcohol-free wine is the next big thing, the segment keeps increasing, let’s make it 50/50! 

The innovation of alcohol-free beer is very advanced, it tastes almost the same as a real beer, remember how five years ago it was not cool to serve 0.0% beer at a party, nowadays it’s everywhere. You cannot even tell the difference. Why is that not always the case with wine? Make no mistake, producing alcohol-free beer is much easier than wine! Why? Because wine has a much higher alcohol percentage than beer! If you are going to dealcoholize beer it is only 5% of alcohol to get rid of. Wine starts at 12% and sometimes even has 15% of alcohol.

How is alcohol-free wine produced?

How is alcohol-free wine produced? The most commonly used technique is to first make normal wine with alcohol and then remove the alcohol. You would think it is less work, but it is an extra step! So, it will make the process more expensive. That’s why it’s not so common to use a high quality base wine. With the extra step of de-alcoholizing it becomes too expensive to sell it for a normal price, for example, in the supermarket. But thank god! Some wineries also pushed the reset button and are making fantastic alcohol-free wines. One of those producers is Kolonne Null in Germany. Because their base product is good (high quality wine) you immediately taste the difference! 

The step of removing alcohol is not a consistent technique. There are completely different techniques all over the world and they continue to develop and evolve rapidly. The most used technique is distillation (heating) causing the alcohol to separate from the other substances, after which the components are combined again – without the alcohol of course.

Another way is by vacuum distillation, this lowers the boiling point. Because of the heating the wine will have a different taste, jammy flavors in red wine and not much taste in white wines. Alcohol is a flavor conductor. By adding alcohol to something, the aromas are enhanced, so you can taste them much better. Removing alcohol will give you less aroma. Also by removing the alcohol the acidity and tannins will become stronger. A wine that is already high in acidity will therefore often be perceived as very sour.
Another technique is the spinning cone technic, used by the Chilean wine maker of SinZero. Volatile aromas are collected separately and added again after the process. They even created a sparking rose!

What components do we miss most when not drinking real wine? Most alternative for wine are often sweet. Alcoholic wines will give more complexity and body. A different mouthfeel and a longer after taste. There is more dept in flavors, most alternatives are quite flat and boring. 

Alcohol-free wines to taste

The alternatives I tasted today come really close to this complex experience we love with wine. The Kolonne Null Brut tasted “dry”. The SinZero Cabernet Sauvignon gives a hint of stable! The Riesling from Kolonne Null still has that petroleum smell. Even in the blind tasting I was able to guess the grape. 

Don’t worry about the look and feel of the bottle, these alcohol-free wines have got beautiful labels. Kolonne Null is more modern, SinZero is a bit more classic. You can bring them as a gift or put them on a dinner table without the 0.0% look-and-feel.

If you still not convinced…it’s not only a January hype. The market for alcohol is still going down, we drink less alcohol per person per year, but we spend more money per bottle of wine choosing higher quality wines! More and more people are drinking MINDFUL, making a conscious choice to consume or not consume alcohol. We become more and more aware of the benefits of not consuming alcohol. Call it “sober curious”. 

The prediction goes that non-alcoholic wine sales will grow by 7% and alcoholic wine only by 2%. So if you haven’t tasted non-alcoholic wine recently because your last experience hasn’t been all that good, try again. The techniques have progressed very fast, and the base wines are much better! One of the main ingredients to make a good wine is paying attention, both Kolonne Null and Sin Zero do this, you can taste that. Get over the fact that there is no alcohol in your glass, dare to taste blind and discover, be an early adopter in mindful and alcohol-free drinking, not only in January, but all year round.

For more alternative tips you can follow www.whattodrink.nl
Thanks for the invite pitch pr, SinZero, Kolonne Zero

Written by Karin van de Water

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