Pleasure without remorse: The best non-alcoholic wines

Non-alcoholic beverages are in vogue. Wine without alcohol is becoming increasingly important in this growth segment. More and more de-alcoholised wines are coming onto the market. The quality of the products is steadily increasing. Germany's renowned wine trade magazine WEINWIRTSCHAFT has tested more than 160 non-alcoholic wines in the largest tasting to date. 

The sparklings among the de-alcoholised products have it easier: the carbonic acid provides freshness and mouthfeel / Credit: @Syda Productions - Stockadobe.com
The sparklings among the de-alcoholised products have it easier: the carbonic acid provides freshness and mouthfeel / Credit: @Syda Productions - Stockadobe.com

 

Growing market

Non-alcoholic beer is an integral part of the beer range on the German market. But recently, other beverage categories have been following suit. First and foremost: non-alcoholic wine. Its presence in the market is growing steadily. About 35 million bottles of non-alcoholic wine and sparkling wine are currently sold in Germany every year, according to estimates. That corresponds to a market share of 1.5 percent. And the potential is great. "Alcohol-free wine could reach 80 to 100 million bottles per year, which would mean a share of five percent of the total wine market," predicts Dr. Hermann Pilz, editor-in-chief of WEINWIRTSCHAFT. By comparison, non-alcoholic beer achieves a market share of about eight percent.

 

The best producers, the most popular varieties

Not only the quantity is growing. The quality of de-alcoholised wines is also steadily increasing. This is the conclusion reached by the editors of the leading German wine trade magazine WEINWIRTSCHAFT. In a large tasting of 166 wines without alcohol, the best producers and products were determined.
 
Alcohol-free wines in red, white and rosé, both still and sparkling  versions, were put under the microscope. They come from Germany, Spain, France, and Italy, but also from Australia and Argentina. Particularly popular, especially among German producers, is the grape variety Riesling, followed by Chardonnay and the aromatic Sauvignon Blanc for the white non-alcoholic wines. Red non-alcohol wines are often made from Merlot and Pinot Noir, but Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are also popular.
 
The current issue (13/2021) presents the best products. Included are large, well-known wine companies such as Rotkäppchen-Mumm and Henkell & Co. from Germany, Les Grands Chais de France from France, and Torres from Spain. Sparkling wine experts include the French house Gratien & Meyer and German family businesses Bähr Pfalztraube and Holz-Weisbrodt, both based in the Palatinate.

 

Criteria for quality

The technology for producing non-alcoholic wine is constantly evolving. The principle is always the same: the alcohol is removed from a finished wine by means of gentle processes. This is done, for example, by vacuum distillation, in which the alcohol is slowly evaporated, or with the help of a kind of centrifuge, the so-called "spinning cone column", which breaks the wine down into its components, allowing the alcohol to be separated.

The important thing here is that the initial product must be of impeccable quality. Only from a good wine can a good alcohol-free wine be made. This is also confirmed by all producers interviewed by the editors of WEINWIRTSCHAFT. Dr. Pilz explains what is important in non-alcoholic wines: "The quality of the base wine used for de-alcoholisation is decisive. Once the alcohol is out, other aroma and structure components in the wine come into play. In red wines, the tannins help provide structure; in sparkling wines, the carbonic acid adds freshness and sugar in the form of grape must and also provides structure and flavour. The greatest  achievements are therefore dry white wines with less sugar. It is precisely in this area that the non-alcoholic wines are getting better and better". Every weakness and every fault in the base wine increases through the concentration in the process of de-alcoholisation". 
 
The extensive article (in German) as well as the test with the 50 best non-alcoholic wines (in German) are available at: https://www.meininger.de/sites/meininger.de/files/2021-06/WW_Alkoholfreie_Weine.pdf
    
 

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