Surging demand for low- and no-alcohol wines

Lockdowns have seen consumers grapple with their relationship to alcohol. Many of them are choosing no-alcohol products instead. James Lawrence looks at the rise of alcohol-free sparkling wine.
 

Photo by Sylvie on Unsplash
Photo by Sylvie on Unsplash

The appetite for alcohol-free sparkling wine has risen significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to both importers and leading producers.

La Gioiosa, a major Prosecco brand situated in Treviso, is the latest company to cater to this reported rise in consumer interest. In August, the firm released a 0.00% ‘Prosecco’, which is made by carbonating the chilled juice of the Glera grape. 

“We asked La Gioiosa to launch an alcohol-free version because we’ve seen a growing demand for 0.00% sparkling wine in the UK,” explained a representative from North South Wines Ltd, La Gioiosa’s British importer. “The brand is extremely popular in the UK and we thought there would be some synergies between the La Gioiosa shopper and the 0.00% shopper.”

According to North South Wines Ltd, consumer interest in healthier wine options has grown significantly over the past six months.

Currently, the 0.00% product is only available in the UK market. However, La Gioiosa’s winemaker Stefano Gava added that the firm is now targeting the Austrian and US markets. They are also planning to promote the alcohol-free bubbly to Muslim consumers in the UAE, who may wish to emulate western lifestyles by enjoying a guilt-free sparkling drink.

“La Gioiosa is not a de-alcoholised wine – it was never alcoholised,” said Gava.“The must, after a first racking, is placed into controlled temperature tanks at 0% where it remains until it is used for the production of 0.00% sparkling. CO2 is added gently to ensure a fine perlage.”

Vanessa Lehmann, Head of Brand & Business Development for the Henkell Freixenet group, also reported an uptake in sales of alcohol-free sparkling beverages. The firm produces both de-alcoholised products and brands that have had their alcohol removed after fermentation.

Other Cava producers are also joining the alcohol-free race. In late March, Gonzalez Byass-owned brand Vilarnau launched two alcohol-free products – a white and rosé ‘Cava’. Like La Gioiosa, their market research suggested that there is a great unsatisfied demand for such wines. 

“Creating our alcohol-free sparkling wine isn’t much different from making traditional wine,” said Vilarnau’s winemaker Eva Plazas. “Following the harvest, our winemakers craft each wine using traditional methods, achieving rich flavours, alluring texture and excellent balance. We then use state-of-the-art rotary cones column technology to remove the alcohol.” 

However, Plazas did concede that “despite our efforts to preserve most of the wine’s delicate and original flavours, we have to add some ‘additional aromas’.”

Sparkling winemakers in France’s Crémant appellations, the US, Australia and Germany also market alcohol-free substitutes.

Yet Champagne’s notoriously conservative producers have been reticent to join this growing movement to create alcohol-free imitations. 

But if global demand continues to grow, perhaps a 0.00% version of Krug is not inconceivable. 

James Lawrence

 

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