What is dealcoholization ?
So how come wine has taken so long to get with the plot to bring alcohol free cred to its “taste”. At the end of the day it was a taste issue. It is why “What is dealcoholization” is an important thing to at least be aware of.
And no you don’t have to know in the “in’s and out’s” of the science but awareness is key. I get a bit confused as an alcohol free drinker to be honest.
How do you make a wine that does not taste like grape juice?
And make it drinkable! It is why the dealcoholization process is important to the industry and for us wanting alcohol free choice.
For ages shelves were full of wine that just tasted not great, and let’s be honest it tasted really bad.
Like really bad!
So do you still get any health benefits that come with dealcoholized wine ?
Its a good question.
As all tests seem to be done on the alcohol ones but its still got grapes and wine ingredients at the core. And after all it is the antioxidants that helps with health not the alcohol!
So if you are choosing a wine that has been through dealcoholization what does that mean? Is it a good process and are the wines safe to drink?
What is Dealcoholized wine?
Dealcoholized wine is really just like any other wine before any alcohol has been removed. However, here is the warning, there might be some still in it and the brands vary considerably.
I may sound like a broken record but it’s important to always check the so called ABV figure which is alcohol by volume. It can tell you a lot.
Especially if like me you are avoiding alcohol.
The other thing is not to get too hung up on the trace of alcohol as there is probably more natural fermented alcohol in orange juice and bread rolls.
It can occur naturally and very often in dealcoholized wine you are looking at anywhere between 0.5 abv and 0.0%. Or should that be the other way around?
Sometimes you may see “not more than 0.05% ” which is a legal acknowledgment that there might be a trace. Although this is so minor as there might be more in your vinegar on your chips and there certainly could be in some fruit juices!
Now alcohol free labeling is not the best and I am not surprised if you might be confused.
I certainly was as I went on my alcohol free journey. You might just want to be “cutting back a bit”. It does not matter as it affects everyone as a consumer.
And yes even if it just a health kick that is making you choose alcohol free wine! Its still important.
I often read about wine and the heart, is that irrelevant?
Well the subject is a complicated one as any health advice is related to having an odd glass of wine and not the bottle.
It’s where national newspaper headlines don’t really help as they grasp onto anything that enforces the “alcohol society” headline.
As my liver consultant points out we have got carried away with what a glass of wine is.
It’s not an extra large one but a standard one that we used to have in one of those small French wine glasses.
Remember one standard drink, so a small glass of wine is 1 unit.
It’s not large or as in some bars where we also get to finish the bottle and say we have had a glass !
Which by the way is very often free! The get one large glass and “get the bottle free promotion”.
Now the good news is alcohol free is a great social option and I am really not bothered about the antioxidants as at the end of the day, it the alcohol content that really matters.
For me it is the alcohol is that could affect our health and well-being.
And no I am not talking about the occasional glass here but when wine can be become a big part of our social activity day in and day out.
After all wine can have up to 13-14 per cent abv (so alcohol by volume). It can also punch some calories as well
If you are concerned about how much alcohol you are drinking just check out the guidelines at drink aware
What about the antioxidants?
Well they are known as “polyphenols” and are found naturally in many vegetables and fruits including of course grapes which is the main thrust of any good wine making.
Now when you have heard of “Polyphenols” which are often written about by health professionals which it is then it’s taken to the extreme by the newspapers who forget the alcohol bit.
If you go on any alternative health website which is this is not by the way antioxidants are often talked about in the context of protecting us from so called “free radical damage” and its “good for heart” !
Red wine more than white wine is hailed as being the best for this and of course there is mileage in it as experts document and its backed up by science that a diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables can have its benefits.
Of course its called a healthy diet!
However, If you are drinking tons of wine this may as well go out the window!
It’s often linked to heart disease in terms of protection but then is too much alcohol is said to cause a range of diseases.
So given that alcohol free wine certainly starts out the same as it alcoholic counterpart the thought process assumes you will get some of the benefits.
But this is a big – most people would not choose an alcohol alternative for this reason. They want avoid the alcohol!
It’s more about social alternatives or getting healthy by reducing our alcohol content that is really the big driver here.
But I have seen people still drink plenty of wine because of the so-called “heart benefits”.
Please do check with your Doctor but I think I know what they will say. How many units of alcohol do you drink per week?
Alcohol free wine is good news on the calories front
If you make the switch to Dealcoholized wine you are definitely looking at the consumption of fewer calories.
In fact, you could probably take off about a third or maybe a fourth of what you would normally be drinking in wine and calories.
That’s probably an even bigger advantage than the antioxidants I would have thought!
Now the good news is no one would drink it if you were really just drinking grape juice. It got to taste like wine in some way really!
Before the Dealcoholized process started becoming the production of choice it really was in many cases just grape juice. Not good!
People just would not have bought it long term after trying it as it tasted horrible. In fact, it still has a bit of a reputation.
The reason why its taste has improved is simple. No taste, no profit.
No-one is going to drink alcohol free if its tastes horrible at the end of the day!
Alcohol free wine is now made the same way as alcohol fermented wine. This could be a worry at first.
However, fear not, they get rid of the alcohol.
Before it comes to us in its nicely made wine bottle it could be filtered or subjected to a so called “spinning process”.
This is when it gets a bit complicated but according to one of my ex colleagues involved in this kind of the production the water and alcohol is taken out of the wine.
Then the magic happens and it is filled back up with the water and sometimes the fermented grape juice.
So they keep as much of the essence of the wine as possible.
So does dealcoholized wine tastes OK ?
OK it does not taste the same, of course it would not as it does not have alcohol in at the end of the day.
It’s like saying alcohol free gin is gin, well it isn’t but at the end of the day it tastes great generally if you get the right brand.
As an alcohol free champion we are looking for great alternatives and alcoholic free gin in my view does a fantastic job.
I personally applaud their efforts as anything that brings more choice is a good thing.
However, it used to taste like grape juice and it does not do that now thank goodness.
There are now some excellent choices.
A dealcoholized wine is as good as you are good to get and yes it keeps much of the aromas and the flavor in my view!
Always check the abv figures and check professionally if it’s OK to drink though. I still go for the 0.0 and would not go near a 0.5 % abv option.
But that is me personally. Everyone is going for this option for their own reasons and that’s a good thing.
It’s more complicated to make alcohol free wine than alcohol free beer! So I do cut the wine option some slack.
So how do they take the alcohol out of wine?
There are three production processes that I am learning about that make alcohol free wine that would end up in a bottle or your glass so you can drink with confidence.
By the way, if you are concerned about alcohol intake I always insist on seeing the bottle. And tough if they don’t like that request!
So the process and I’ll keep it simple. It’s complicated.
So with this one think of a technical process, the so called “distillation column” that takes out the natural compound that you would connect with the aromas in wine and this is done at a temperature of around 30°C.
After this they then put the wine through the column a second time and this takes out the rest of alcohol.
It appears to be a very efficient process and a popular one.
This is a less well-known process but it’s basically taking out the alcohol.
The fermented wine goes through a “reverse osmosis” order to get the wine down to the alcohol desired free level and goes through three stages dealing with each of the compounds one by one.
Spinning Cone Column
This is used by process in the United States and Australia and is good at keeping some of the aromas often associated with good wine.
We are talking lots of evaporation made up of lots of cones! And they rotate talking out the vapor obtained using a vacuum process with a small amount of the wine. Only a part of the dealcoholized wine is processed.
So again this is based on distillation and heat process in order to decide how much alcohol is in the wine and for our purpose clearly the goal is as little as possible!
Now if this sounds complicated for someone non-scientific like me it is why I always remind people the ABV alcohol by volume people is key.
Whatever process winemakers use as zero drinker it the alcohol content that really counts and of course taste!
What is your view?
I would love to know your experience of dealcoholized wine and the process of what is dealcoholization and do you really care. I am not sure I do really as long as it does not taste of grape juice and is alcohol free.
The taste of alcohol free wine has certainly improved.
I would love to know your view on what is dealcoholization? Leave a message and I always respond.