Carly and I worked as sommeliers in the French Laundry–where we were fortunate enough to sample the finest wines of the world every night. It is only natural that the first blog post we write on our new blog will focus on drinking non-alcoholic wines. In the past three years, being in a non-alcoholic lifestyle, we’ve tried many of the wines that are de-alcoholized available and have come to a number of key conclusions.
Non-alcoholic wine is still wine. It may not be as delicious as the large Napa wine or the chardonnay that you’re used to. However, it’s more than just grape juice.
There’s plenty of pleasure to be found in wine that isn’t alcoholic. However, it’s some perspective shifts. You cannot cut out 15 percent alcohol and expect to have to have the same effect.
If all else fails If all else fails, some “hacks” can greatly improve your enjoyment, particularly with the red wine (spoiler alert that our non-alcohol bitters are a good example).
You’ve had the pleasure of tasting a handful of NA wines and been disappointed. There’s been that! With just a few tweaks, you, too, can enjoy an earthy and subtle pinot noir with a pinky and chat about the geopolitical implications of cryptocurrency. It’s a great way to orange duck.
HOW IS NON-ALCOHOLIC WINE MADE?
Two types comprise NA wine. Certain wines, such as Jukes and Proxies or Jukes, are a mixture made by mixing the tart juice of a grape, tea vinegar, bitters, and spices, as well as herbs and more. They’re intended to replicate the taste of wine. However, they’re not made out of de-alcoholized wines. Another category is wines such as The Noughties, Leitz, and YOURS, which start as full-proof, real alcoholic wines. The alcohol is then removed by means of technologies like reverse osmosis and rotating cone columns. Both methods are neither right nor wrong, but it’s useful to be aware of the differences as you begin to taste the various beverages and begin to develop your tastes.
IS NON-ALCOHOLIC WINE REALLY ALCOHOL-FREE?
Non-alcoholic wine, often referred to as dealcoholized wine, is non-alcoholic even though it could be less than 0.5 percent ABV (alcohol per volume) according to the definition, in contrast to alcohol-based wines, which contains minimal to zero alcohol content or any trace of alcohol that may remain after dealcoholization is metabolized by our bodies at a faster rate than it is able to be a source of alcohol for us. It is designed to replicate the tastes as well as the varieties and tastes of traditional wines. It provides a pleasant tasting experience without the addition of alcohol.
A CHANGE OF PERSPECTIVE
The removal of up to 15 percent alcohol from wine can be a huge amount. A lot of the taste, nuance, and body of wine are tied to alcohol. And when you take it out, you’ll be left with a totally different beverage. That’s why you’ll typically (but it’s not the only time you’ll) find grape concentrate and natural flavors listed on the ingredient list. The additives serve to give the wine a more balanced taste and to bring the flavor that was lost. Consider it as applying Photoshop to fix a blurry image. It’s still wine. However, it’s been modified to make up for the reality that it has its heart beating away from its body, Indiana Jones style. The quicker you change your perception and see NA wine as it is rather than what you’d like for it to become, the faster you’ll be able to enjoy it.
PAIRING NON-ALC WINE WITH FOOD
The perfect meal can enhance the pleasure factor of AF wine. Consider Luminara’s superb chardonnay with delicious, lemony seafood pasta. Or Leitz pinot noir in combination with salmon and mushrooms. Will it be the same classic match you’ve always enjoyed? It’s unlikely, however, that the ritual can play an important role in the appreciation of this. This is a topic that’s worth mentioning. Non-alcohol wines generally have higher levels of residual sugar than alcohol wines. Despite continually improving in that aspect, they’ll likely always be more sweet. Take advantage of this! Foods that are spicy pair well with sweet wines, but especially with high alcohol content. Two points for wine that is not alcoholic here! Get some super spicy pad thai, then pour yourself a chilled glass of NA white wine and relax.
LET IT BREATHE
Wine that is alcoholic generally improves with air. The same applies to NA wine. We’ve had the opportunity to taste a number of NA wines, which ranged from awful to completely disjointed. A wine word that means unbalanced or off balance. With one hour in the air, these wines can get better. Better yet, crack open one bottle on the day you intend to consume it, pour around one ounce into it, put it in the fridge, and then revisit the next day. Keep in mind the perspective; however, regardless of the length of time you allow it to sit, it’s not going to taste exactly like the Meiomi pinot noir that you’ve been avoiding. However, it is likely to make things better.
START ADDING STUFF
You’ve changed your mind. You’ve relaxed and paired it with a perfect dish, But the wine still doesn’t seem to be a hit. Don’t fret! We have a second option that could make a huge difference. The majority of NA wines that are available contain additives. So, what’s stopping us from taking this a step higher?
It is a fact that wine has a certain bitterness to it. This bitterness provides an enjoyable “bite” that reminds us that we’re drinking a drink for adults and more than just juice. Cocktail bitters can also offer numerous flavor profiles that are able to enhance wine without reducing it. Our alcohol-free aromatic bitters reduce sweetness and impart a more earthy flavor to red wines. In contrast, our New Orleans bitters provide nice tart and fruity undertones, as well as a bright anise spice. In fact, nearly every sparkling or white wine we consume has bitter oranges. The quantity depends on the wine and personal preferences, but anything from 1 to five drops is what we recommend.
The vinegar flavor in wine isn’t a good thing. It is true; however, if you add one drop at a time to the glass or bottle of NA wine, it can provide texture and bite and bring out the sweetness. Balsamic is great with red wines and white wine vinegar, and apple cider vinegar can brighten white wines. Averse to vinegar? A simple squeeze of lemon can work in the same way.