How is Alcohol Free Wine Made?
Confused, I am afraid you will be.
Well I am always when it comes to some of the process involved in alcohol free! I think it comes with the territory!
I am always a curious why winemakers have not got their act together so it doesn’t taste like grape juice. Maybe that is unfair.
However, times are moving on and winemakers are slowly getting their act together. And yes there is good news ahead.
So how is alcohol free wine made?
Many people have asked me on the blog and why wouldn’t you? It’s a bit of a grey area and for some reasons even less so than beer. Maybe we just need to talk about it more or the marketing needs a bit of a push.
If you have a health issue like me, are pregnant or a driver there are times when we value the social aspect of drinking and includes the value that goes with an alcohol free beverage.
Because of my experience of wine I decided to find out if I was really just drinking grape juice or was there more to it. I was hopeful and I think I may have got an answer!
Wine makers are trying new techniques all the time so maybe I am being harsh when I say they are probably behind the beers and gin manufacturers but it’s a personal view but I do believe it.
The good news!
There is one brand in my view where they have the taste just right.
There is a great choice of rose, white and reds now available and it’s great to try them out for taste. For me it gets us as near to the alcohol wine experience we can get.
Confusion surrounds the process.
There is a lot of mystery as to how you make alcohol free wine, is it not just fruit juice and if not why not? What does the fermentation do and how do they get the alcohol out?
What is low alcohol as opposed to alcohol free?
Here are my top ten things you may want to know about alcohol free wine and how it is made. Then again you may just want to drink it, know what it says on the label and get on with your life.
I would not blame you!
What is alcohol free wine?
Now maybe here is the problem as making alcohol free wine at the beginning is not that different to making alcohol wine. So how come the taste is not often there?
If I went into a bar and ordered alcohol-free wine and got or dealcoholized wine is that same thing? Apparently these terms are swapped around as much as goods at buy and sell event!
It seems when alcohol is removed these terms can be used in such a complicated way that it is no wonder that people are confused. It also depends on what country you live in bizarrely.
So you hear you all sorts of terms banded about including :
They do have one thing in common though as it means there is very little or zero alcohol in the wine when it is sold. So you will often see me talk about these terms on the blog and that is know as abv.
This means alcohol by volume and as I have liver disease this means I have to pay close attention to this stat.
So for me 0.0% is the magic number.
If you look at the term more closely maybe this will help in understanding alcohol free wine and if you can even call it that or is it a wine flavored drink?
Get ready for the ABV education.
- Low alcohol is thought of as 1.2% abv or less
- Non-alcoholic’, ‘de-alcoholised’ so the alcohol has been extracted and it contains no more than 0.5% abv
- Alcohol free which is the one I insist on has the alcohol extracted and no more than 0.05% abv.
The last one is often a legal requirement because of the fermentation in the product. At the end of the day there is a naturally occurring trace of alcohol in orange juice and even burger buns.
Any wine it seems including alcohol free starts with the grapes. It would be odd if it didn’t really !
Yes the grapes do come from the vineyard which is why they are so adamant this is wine through and through. I do get that!
It’s the type of grape that decides things like how acid the wine is, the sweetness and the flavor. The choice of grapes it seems is everything.
Fermentation is complicated
It’s a complicated process or so I’m told. In typical alcohol production it does more than just turn the grapes into alcohol it also creates the flavor of alcoholic drink. This is of course very true of wine and beer.
There is a very good reason different wines are different on our tongue and smell different under the nose. Until wine became part of everyday drinking, the smell, the aroma, the color, the texture were all part of the drinking and exploration process.
Of course some people shove a straw in a bottle and be done with it. Maybe that is just the type concerts I go to. Has wine been ruined by the “buy one big glass and get the rest of the bottle free”.
Wine is well and truly mainstream now so forget the vineyard tour and spitting it out its now “knock it back”.
It’s a shame after all the effort and science that goes into fermentation.
But hey we are talking alcohol free here. Different yes? Not so fast as fermentation is still involved.
Fermentation is the challenge in everything alcohol free
How do they take the alcohol out of the wine then?
Remember the alcohol by volume content of the wine can be anything up to 14 % so no wonder my love of wine did not take kindly to my social drinking !
The 3 ways are this according to the wine experts ( and I trust them, I think!)
In Vacuum distillation alcohol is removed at around 25°C-30°C then the flavors are blended in afterwards.
There is also something called “Spinning cone columns” and this involves putting the wine through a low-temperature evaporation condensation process. So basically it separates the wine from the alcohol as both react to the temperature differently .
The cheapest way is what is called “reverse osmosis”, which is a mixed filtration process that separates all the parts of the wine including the alcohol before putting it back together again. Clearly without the alcohol this time.
I have to admit a lot of it goes over my head and I really want to know, does it taste good and is there any alcohol in it. That’s not too much to ask is it.
One of the reasons a good deal of wines are too sweet is that the sugar itself is substituting what you would get in terms of feel from the alcohol.
Wineries are now wanting to improve on this following feedback from us the customers and are testing out different ways to add in ingredients to change the texture and feel of the wine. I have read article that says they are experimenting with green tea and botanicals.
Maybe taking their lead from the producers of alcohol free gin where they are crucial in getting the flavor right.
Maybe cider has the answer, who knows? That is for the wine makers to work out not the consumer.
The future could be a bit scary.
I expect that wine needs to taste better and I hope my review of Torres Alcohol Free wine gives you some comfort. It did me.
My worry is the challenge to labeling in the UK and calls for it all to be branded alcohol free up to 0.5% abv.
Personally I think this would be a big mistake.
I am pleased many alcohol industries in the UK are pushing back on that. If every wine is branded “alcohol free under 0.5% abv then for people like me with liver disease where it needs be 0.0% abv and really clear, it makes it extremely difficult to make informed choices.
It is confusing but bringing less transparency is unhelpful and could harm the market for a long time to come.
Hopefully alcohol free wine will continue to grow in taste and the brand awareness like zero gin and beer have done and continue to flourish. Wine producers are probably still catching up and I am still a bit confused as to what the problem is on taste if I am honest.
I am however reassured that alcohol free wine goes through a similar process to alcohol based wine otherwise we really do just have grape juice and that will never do.
One of the reason for alcohol alternatives is that is makes it a social event but without the alcohol so for wine it’s the
aging with the grape type which determines its taste and how long it is barreled for. Great wine has lots of factors including:
- The bottling
- The aromas
- The colors
- The texture
- The taste
- The labels
- The name
So it needs to be more complex than just the juice from grapes and feel like wine otherwise what is the point? Otherwise, get me the sparkling grape juice. Having said that the sparkling alcohol fizz is out there and tastes really good.
The good news is that there are now a myriad of brands fighting out to be the best alcohol free wine and if we are embarking on an alcohol free lifestyle or just wanting to cut back then it’s time to get stuck in there try some out and push back if we don’t like them.
You may be pregnant, a driver, or just looking to avoid the Sunday hangover and having choice including alcohol free wine has a great place to play in that!
Have you tried alcohol free wine and did you know how alcohol free wine is made? Have I reassured you? I would love to get your comments and hopefully you will give some brands a shot and let me know what you think. I always get back to you!
Leave your comment below.
To get to know your alcohol intake better visit drinkaware