There may be a bright future for low alcohol and non-alcoholic wines. Researchers in France found that artificially lowering the alcohol level of a Cabernet Sauvignon (from 12% ABV to 6% ABV) didn’t eliminate the antioxidants beneficial for cardiovascular health. The research concluded by suggesting that red wines of low alcohol and non-alcohol could be used in the treatment of people with heart disease. This is splendid news for people all around the world suffering from heart disease.
Study showed improved health in men with heart disease
A study conducted on a group men with heart disease tested the effects of regular wine, non-alcoholic wine and gin (as a control) for a period of time. Of the three drinks tested, the men showed measurable improvement when they drank non-alcoholic wines.
Whoa. That is a big deal. So now you’re probably wondering:
Does non-alcoholic wine stand up to the taste of the real stuff?
Let’s take a further investigation of the potential of both low alcohol and non-alcoholic red wine and see if the winemaking process and the product are as good as they seem.
A Modern Method of Making a Non Alcoholic Wine
There are 2 main processes for making non-alcoholic wine: vacuum distillation and reverse osmosis. Both of these processes start with real, actual, alcoholic wine and end with wine that has little to no alcohol.
Reverse Osmosis is an ingenious process that filters out the aroma compounds and phenolics before the alcohol is removed by distillation. Afterward, the remaining water is added back into the filtered out wine concentrate. Reverse Osmosis is an expensive process that takes up to 2-4 passes to completely remove alcohol in wine.
This method evaporates the wine, much like boiling but at much lower temperatures, with the use of a vacuum chamber. Unfortunately, the process causes most of the pleasant aroma compounds to fly off (volatilize) with the evaporating alcohol. Most people complain that wines made with this method have a serious lack of floral aromas. Fortunately, we discovered that very few leading non-alcoholic wine brands actually use this process.
Non-Alcoholic Red Wines Don’t Taste the Same
The potential for non-alcoholic wine is overshadowed by the fact that they miss the mark in terms of flavor. And it’s not just because we’re boozers! The problem is by removing the alcohol, we remove a few key traits to what makes wine so tasty.
Removing Alcohol Removes the Aromas
Most of the aromas in wine are transmitted from the surface of the wine by evaporating alcohol. When the alcohol is removed, the aromas no longer have a delivery method. Nonalcoholic wines definitely have aromas, but for now, most are associated with their sour post fermentation flavors.
Perhaps a low alcohol version would solve this problem but they just don’t exist yet on the market.
You can test how important wine aromas are by pinching your nose the next time you taste wine.
Reverse Osmosis Takes Away Good Tannins
Another missing component is the texture that tannins add to wine. Despite the bitter flavors you might associate with tannins in wine, tannin also adds many positive textural elements to wine that give it body.
“Sadly, Non-Alcoholic Wine Brands Still Miss the Mark”
We decided to buy up nearly every non-alcoholic wine brand available in the US and test them. Sadly, non-alcoholic wine brands still miss the mark. This is a bummer because the advances made in the industry today are admirable. Perhaps someone will come along and do it right, and when that happens we’ll definitely let you know.
Great Alternatives to Non-Alcoholic Wine
Part of the reason why non-alcoholic wine is so bad is because it lacks the more nuanced characteristics of wine such as tannins, floral notes and herbaceous aromatics.
Make a Nearly Non-Alcoholic Sangria with Hibiscus Tea
Made from the sepals of the roselle flower, hibiscus is unique among teas for having so many of the characteristics we love about wine. It is tannic, with fruity and spicy aromas, and can contain a variety of rich, tangy or fruity flavors. By the way, hibiscus is also loaded with heart-healthy anthocyanin!
How to Make It:
All you need to do is mix the hibiscus tea with your red wine of choice. The higher the percentage of hibiscus tea, the lower the alcohol level. So, for example, if you have one part 15% ABV Shiraz and blend it with 4 parts hibiscus, you’ll have an extremely low alcohol wine at 3% ABV. The longer the tea steeps, the more tannic the brew will become. The bolder and more tannic the wine you are mixing it with, the longer you want to let the tea steep.
Try Kombucha Made with Wine Grapes
We found out that Reed’s Ginger Brew has a Kombucha made with Cabernet grapes. While it doesn’t taste anything like Cabernet wine, it does have a fascinating flavor that includes the tartness of yeast fermentation that all wine has. Perhaps getting into kombucha is a good non-alcoholic alternative to wine.
By Stephen Curtis, WineFolly