If you are looking for a break from alcohol and are super curious about alcohol free wine, this is the episode for you! As we enter into 2023, many people will be interested in resetting their relationship with alcohol and participating in Dry January, but still want to be able to have a glass of their favorite drink. The question is - are any of those zero alcohol wines any good? We’ll help answer that question for you. We discuss how wines are dealcoholized, and we taste and review three different zero alcohol wines - a sparkling wine, a Sauvignon Blanc, and a Cabernet Sauvignon - from three different regions of the world that use different methods to remove alcohol to see if they are worth checking out. We also talk about why having alcohol free alternatives is a fun and thoughtful way to support friends and family who are not drinking alcohol any time of the year and for any type of occasion! Alcohol free wines reviewed in this episode: Freixenet Premium Sparkling Alcohol-Removed Wine, Giesen 0% New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and 2021 Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon Premium Dealcoholized Wine.
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Episode 59: Zero-Alcohol Wines for Dry January 2023! (WTF is Dealcoholized Wine? Wines for Drynuary, Alcohol-free sparkling wine, zero alcohol Sauvignon Blanc, Dealcoholized Cabernet Sauvignon) 00:00
Hello! And welcome to The Wine Pair Podcast. I’m Joe, your sommelier of reasonably priced wine, and this is my wife and my wine pairing partner in crime, Carmela. And we are The Wine Pair!
Ok, a quick orientation for those of you who may be new to the podcast - in each episode we learn about, taste and review three wines that are reasonably priced - meaning under $20 - and should be easy for you to find. Our goal is to have some fun, learn about some new wines, and talk about wines in a way that regular people like us can understand. And we are proud to say we are officially recommended by the editors of Decanter Magazine, who call us fun, irreverent, chatty, and entertaining.
I just have to say, too, that we are back in our garage again for this episode, relegated to the dungeon, so we may be a little echoey, and you may hear some random sounds.
Ok, Carmela, this is definitely a first for us, and we will see if it is a last, but for the first time, we are going to taste and review alcohol free or dealcoholized wine. Are you nervous?
First, let’s talk about why we are doing this. You go first.
That’s right. There is this thing called Dry January, and we thought that we would take a shot at least supporting some of you out there in listening land who may need a little break from the festivities of the Holidays after weeks and weeks of imbibing. I know, just speaking for myself, that while I did not go hog wild, it is never a bad idea to take a break from drinking!
Rather than taking our word for it, though, we asked our new best friend ChatGPT about it, and our new friend may or may not be lying to us, but here is what it said when I asked it to explain Dry January.
Dry January, also known as "Drynuary," is an annual event in which people pledge to abstain from drinking alcohol for the entire month of January. The goal of Dry January is to give people a chance to take a break from alcohol and reset their relationship with it. Some people participate in Dry January as a way to improve their health, reduce their alcohol intake, or break a pattern of heavy drinking. Others participate as a way to challenge themselves or to support a cause related to alcohol abuse or addiction. Many people who participate in Dry January report feeling healthier, more energetic, and more in control of their drinking habits after completing the challenge. Some people also report that they sleep better, have better mental health, and save money on alcohol during the month.
What about that? I think it is at least as good of an explanation as I would have written for my show notes! Now, if those of you out there in listening land are wondering what ChatGPT is, we have some links to some articles in our show notes so you can just find this episode on our website and find the notes, but just suffice it to say that it is a natural language Artificial Intelligence chat bot that will take over the world in a few years and lead us to some sort of dystopian future like the one in Terminator 2 or The Matrix where the machines are in charge and we might have to time travel to fix it. But, I digress.
Another reason for doing this episode on Dry January? We are a wine podcast, right?!? So we thought we would put our taste buds to the test and rate and review some alcohol-removed wines for this Dry January, and learn a little bit more about how they make a wine dealcoholized, which I am really curious about. Aren’t you? I mean, how would you do that? And, for good measure, we have three different types of wines to try, from three different regions of the world - a sparkling from Spain, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and a Cabernet Sauvignon from California. So, this will be a good cross section of wines to try. So, I think we should get to it, don’t you, I mean, aren’t you curious? . . .
But first . . . we have to do our shameless plug, right Carmela? If you are enjoying our podcast so far, we think it would be wonderful if you would subscribe to our podcast! And we would also be very appreciative if you wouldn’t mind leaving us a nice a rating and review on our website or on your podcast service so that others will take a listen, too!
You can also follow us or reach out to us on Instagram at thewinepairpodcast or on CounterSocial - our Twitter alternative of choice - or contact us on our website thewinepairpodcast.com.
And, as we do every week, we’ll tell you someone we think you should tell about The Wine Pair Podcast, and this week we want you tell anyone who is curious about alcohol free wines, or who might be expressing an interest in Dry January!
ARTICLES and LINKS
Topic: WTF is Dealcoholized Wine AKA Alcohol-Removed AKA Alcohol Free wine? 08:05
So, let’s talk about just what the F dealcoholized wine is. Do you have any guesses?
The simplest explanation is that it is generally wine made the same way any wine would be made, and then the alcohol is removed from it, so that it is no more than .5% alcohol, which one of the winemaker sites says is the same amount of alcohol that can naturally occur in juice. So, that’s it. We’re done!
No, we’re not done. A few other tidbits about making wine alcohol free that I think are worth talking about.
For one, alcohol is an important component of wine. So, it’s not that alcohol is just a byproduct of the process of making wine, it actually impacts the experience of wine, beyond just giving the drinker a buzz. Why do you think that is? Any ideas why alcohol is important?
I did a little research on the interwebs, and there is a great article from the Hemispheres Wine Club in Canada that I have a link to in our show notes, but they explain how the fermentation process creates esters. Do you know what esters are? Me neither! Esters are basically alcohol and acid, and they are very influential in the aromas of wine - in fact, they are commonly used in flavorings and perfumes - like a vanilla extract. So, a lot of the things you may use in baking are based on esters. And, as we know, how something smells has a huge impact on its taste.
In addition, alcohol is a solvent, meaning that it has the ability to dissolve or disperse other compounds, so other flavor attributes like bitterness are impacted by the amount of alcohol in the wine. As a solvent, alcohol is capable of dissolving or extracting a variety of substances, including flavors and aromas from the grapes, as well as from the oak barrels in which wine is often aged.
Alcohol is also an anti-bacterial agent, and so alcohol also keeps wine from spoiling for a while. It can also impact the perception of body in a wine, as well as how “warm” a wine feeling.
Alcohol is also, of course, what makes wine harmful.
All of this is to say that alcohol is part of what makes wine, well, wine. And removing alcohol, especially the manner in which it is done, can impact the taste and experience of the wine.
So, when alcohol is removed, it needs to be done in a careful fashion. There are actually three common ways in which alcohol is usually removed from wine. I won’t go into all of them in a ton of detail, but each of the different wines we are trying today use one of the three different methods which is super interesting.
Any ideas of what a winemaker might use to get rid of alcohol in wine?
One of the wines uses a method called the Distillation method where the wine is heated so that the alcohol evaporates. Generally, this method is considered a rough process that can significantly impact the quality of the wine if the wine is heated up too much - either removing or changing aromas and flavors - and so the method used more commonly today is altered slightly so that the distillation happens in a vacuum and the wine can be heated to a much lower temperature which is supposed to save a lot of the flavors and aromas.
Another method used is called the Spinning Cone method. In this method, wine is put into a column of cones in a centrifuge, and in the process of spinning the wine, the alcohol is separated out. Because some other compounds are also removed in this process, after the alcohol is removed, these compounds, which can really impact the flavor, are put back into the wine. There is also a really brief period of heating in this method which some people don’t like.
The last method is called the Reverse Osmosis process, although the winemaker who uses this method on their website calls it Cold Filtration. The winemaker who uses this process likes to mention that this method keeps from heating up the wine, which, again, both the Distillation and Spinning Cone method use. In this method, wine is pushed through filters or membranes that filter out the alcohol and water, leaving behind essentially a wine concentrate, and then the water is added back into the wine, which is said to retain a lot of the original flavors and aromas of the wine.
Ok, well, hopefully that was not too overwhelming, but I think it is really cool, and actually kind of an accident because I didn’t plan it that way, that each of the wines we are trying today use a different method. We’ll see if any of these seem to create a wine that tastes like wine. Again, we have lot of great links to articles that give lots more information in our show notes.
One other note I should make about these wines is that they are generally lower in calories than regular wines, which is an extra bonus!
ARTICLES and LINKS
Wines We Chose for Dry January - Three Dealcoholized Wines 16:28
Ok, let’s talk about the wines we chose for today’s episode. And, just note that all of the wines today, as you would expect, we got for under $20, in fact, none of them was more than $13.49, and one was under 10 bucks! And, they should be relatively easy to find, or similar versions of these wines should be. We got all of these at Total Wine, but I know you can find some brands, like Sutter Home’s Fre (F-R-E) brand of alcohol free wines, which we are not trying today, at a lot of grocery stores. And, just a note, the Total Wine near our house in Seattle actually has a whole non-alcoholic section with wine, beer, and spirits, which is cool if that is something you are looking for.
As I mentioned before, we are trying three different wines - a sparkling, a white, and a red - from different parts of the world, and that all use different dealcoholization methods, so this should be a good cross section to see if non-alcohol wine is something we like. I was very tempted to do all sparkling, but I decided for our first foray to do a variety of types and then go from there. But in the future, we could focus on a specific varietal or style like sparkling.
Ok, our first wine is a sparkling wine by a well known producer called Freixenet - and they are famous for their Cava sparkling wine which comes in a black bottle, is pretty inexpensive, and is pretty darn good.
This wine comes in a frosted bottle and the wine looks yellow inside, and is called Freixenet Premium Sparkling Alcohol-Removed Wine. A few notes about this wine.
- The method of alcohol removal they use is the vacuum Distillation method, which I think is probably the most controversial because it requires heat, although, again, the vacuum is supposed to reduce the amount of heat needed.
- The fact sheet on the wine from Freixenet itself says that they first made their alcohol free sparkling wine in 2011 after a few years of research, and then renewed the way in which they made it in 2016, and I am assuming they think it means they have a better product.
- They are not totally clear on what grapes they use in the wine. This is how they describe it: Cuvée of selected classic grape varieties from traditional wine regions (Airen dominating)
- What is interesting about the use of Airen is that it is not a grape used in Cava. However, this wine is made in the area where Cava is made, and the wine maker is well known for Cava wine.
- Airen is a grape that is very common in Spain, but it is sometimes described as “acidic and characterless” which is not a great description, and it is often used to make brandy.
So, I am not really sure what to expect from this wine. As I said, we like their Cava, but this is not a Cava, so we’ll have to taste it and see what we think.
The second wine we are going to try is called Giesen 0% New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Now, we love Sauvignon Blanc, and we love Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, so this will be an interesting test.
Giesen makes their wine alcohol free using the Spinning Cone method, which mostly uses gravity, but also uses a bit of heat to get the alcohol out of the wine. The fact that it has to be “reconstituted” from concentrate like frozen orange juice makes me very curious. They claim that this is a gentle method and that they do vigorous taste-testing, so we’ll see if we think it is vigorous enough.
Interestingly, this wine is only 80% Sauvignon Blanc. It is also made of 14% “dealcoholized white wine” and then also 6% grape juice. The grape juice is sort of strange, because it means that they are not just adding back in the water that came out from the alcohol removing process. They are adding in grape juice, which will be sweet, and they are not descriptive about what the grape juice comes from, and the same with the addition white wine they add - these very generic descriptions make me a little nervous, but we are not going to pre-judge!
The last wine we are going to try comes from a large producer of non-alcoholic wines called Ariel located in California. The wine is called Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon Premium Dealcoholized Wine. So, they added a “premium” in there for good measure, but it is not clear what “premium” actually refers to.
Ariel does not talk a lot about where their wine grapes come from, but I did find an older version of the wine where they talked about the grapes coming from San Luis Obispo County, which is in the Central Coast of California.
And, they also mention online that they are owned by J. Lohr Wines, which is a huge wine producer from California, and they have access to all 3,700 acres of their vineyards which lie in the Central Coast. They do mention these are the “primary” source of the fruit in their wines, but I don’t really like that they are not super clear about it. Given the low price of the wine, and the fact that it is alcohol-free, I am not convinced they are using super high quality grapes, but I could be wrong.
On their website, they also talk about the method of dealcoholization they use, which again is the Reverse Osmosis method, which they call the filtration method. So, again, they are not using heat to extract the alcohol.
I do like that they are upfront about the expectations for their wine. On the website, they say: ARIEL does not taste the same as wines containing alcohol, so it will not satisfy all palates. While ARIEL is made in a similar manner to regular wines, alcohol lends body and texture. Without alcohol, our result is lighter and less robust. If you are transitioning to dealcoholized wines after being accustomed to drinking traditional wines, it may take a few ARIEL experiences before you get used to its lightness. However, many customers actually prefer this taste to that of traditional wines with alcohol as ARIEL is lighter, smoother and very easy to drink
Like a traditional Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is oaked, although I was having some trouble finding a fact sheet on the wine itself, so I had to pull from a variety of sources. I do expect, too, that they are using some grape juice to reconstitute their wine, based on some sources I found online, so not that dissimilar to the Sauv Blanc.
All right, enough of that jibber jabber, I think it’s time to try some wine!
ARTICLES and LINKS
Dealcoholized Sparkling, Dealcoholized Sauvignon Blanc, and Dealcoholized Cabernet Sauvignon pairing tasting and review 26:46
Wine: Freixenet Premium Sparkling Alcohol-Removed Wine
Region: Spain, Penedès
Producer: Freixenet and Mionetto
Retailer: Total Wine
Grapes: Cuvée of selected classic grape varieties from traditional wine regions (Airen dominating)
What we tasted and smelled in this Premium Sparkling Alcohol-Removed Wine: Citrus, yeast, gluey, pineapple, tropical fruit, tastes like a tart apple cider. Sour candy. Something vegetal on the aftertaste. More sophisticated than a sparkling cider. Summery wine, festive, good for celebrations where you have people who are not drinking alcohol. Feels grown up.
Food to pair with this Premium Sparkling Alcohol-Removed Wine: Not a dinner wine. A before or after dinner drink. Appetizer wine.
As a reminder on our rating scale, we rate on a scale of 1-10, where 7 and above means that we would buy it, and 4 and below means that we are likely to pour it down the sink, and in-between we are likely to drink it and finish it, but we are probably not going to buy it.
- Joe: 6/10
- Carmela: 7/10
Wine: Giesen 0% New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Region: New Zealand, Marlborough
Retailer: Total Wine
Grapes: 6% grape juice, 80% dealcoholized New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, 14% dealcoholized New Zealand white wine
What we tasted and smelled in this Dealcoholized Sauvignon Blanc: Struck match, sulfur, fresh mown grass with a gas lawn mower, sweetness, not a lot of fruit on it. Super tart on the tongue. Lemon Head candy. Tastes like sucking on a lemon. Tastes like sugar-free lemonade. A bit of a green vegetable or grass taste. Very tart. Almost vinegary. Very little body. Maybe more of a cocktail substitute than a wine substitute.
Food to pair with this Dealcoholized Sauvignon Blanc: Fish and chips. Something you need lemon with. Salty foods and fish.
- Joe: 4/10
- Carmela: 5/10
Wine: Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon Premium Dealcoholized Wine
Region: California, San Luis Obispo County?
Producer: Owned and operated by J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines
Retailer: Total Wine
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon
What we tasted and smelled in this Dealcoholized Cabernet Sauvignon: Smells sweet, fancy licorice, tobacco, cinnamon gummy bear or Red Hots, stewed cherry or stewed plum. Tastes like grape juice. Very light, very little body. A little smoke or leather on the after taste. A touch of tannin. Some tartness. Pleasant.
Food to pair with this Dealcoholized Cabernet Sauvignon: Bacon cheeseburger. Nachos, enchiladas, burritos.
- Joe: 5/10
- Carmela: 7/10
Which one of these are you finishing tonight?
- Carmela: Freixenet Premium Sparkling Alcohol-Removed Wine
- Joe: Freixenet Premium Sparkling Alcohol-Removed Wine
What is the verdict on Alcohol Free wine?
A nice substitute for those who are not drinking alcohol. A different experience than drinking a wine with alcohol. The sparkling is a great option for something more festive, fun, and grown-up. A fun way to feel a part of a celebration or dinner. We are total fans of the concept. A thoughtful way to keep all people involved whether they drink alcohol or not.
Taste profiles expected from Dealcoholized Sparkling, Dealcoholized Sauvignon Blanc, and Dealcoholized Cabernet Sauvignon 49:15
- Dealcoholized Sparkling
- Winery: On the nose there are refreshing tropical notes and elegant citrus hints. The palate is clean, fruity, and especially refreshing. The very well balanced acidity and the medium size bubbles produce a pleasant mouth feel.
- Dealcoholized Sauvignon Blanc
- Winery: This alcohol-removed wine offers delicate aromas of fresh lime, redcurrant, and lemon shortbread. Delicious citrus flavours followed by distinct blackcurrant and passionfruit notes define this premium New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.The wine finishes crisp and dry, with a mouth-watering juicy brightness that leaves you reaching for a second sip. You’ll find it light, fresh, and invigorating - perfect for enjoying at home, out with friends and family, or any time you’d prefer a glass of wine without the after-effects.
- Dealcoholized Cabernet Sauvignon
- Winery: ARIEL is described as oak aged with “aromas of black currants, cherry, blueberries and chocolate, with soft tannins and a dry finish.”
Outro and how to find The Wine Pair Podcast 50:35
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Thanks for listening to the Wine Pair podcast, and we will see you next time. And, as we say, life is short, so stop drinking shitty wine.