I’m sipping a glass of non-alcoholic sparkling Chardonnay as I write this. No, I don’t think the world is ending. (Though recent events in Canada sure have had me wondering this several times over the last few weeks.)
I love everything about wine, including the alcohol. (Especially the alcohol, depending on the day I’ve had.) I suppose I don’t love the hangovers, but I’m willing to deal with those in exchange for the pleasure of having a glass of wine and the warm dissolution that it brings.
So, I’m really not the target market for no/low alcoholic wines. However, I kept seeing articles pop up about them, so a few months ago I decided to explore them further.
No/low alcohol is having a Renaissance right now – and that includes wines, beers and yes, even “spirits.” It’s one of the fastest growing market segments and a number of producers around the world have invested in creating no/low beverages that don’t totally suck.
I was skeptical. Very skeptical, especially when I saw the price tag on this new generation of no/low booze. The alcohol-free bubbly I’m drinking right now (Noughty Organic Sparkling Chardonnay) retails for around $25. For that price I could get a very nice Cava, so the booze-free version had better be good.
And…they aren’t half bad, actually.
To date, I’ve tried a few non-alcoholic sparkling wines from Noughty and Oddbird. They were all good, honest efforts to make something that actually tastes like wine. If you aren’t paying close attention, these can (almost) fool you into thinking you’ve got the real thing. They are dry; they smell and taste like wine; and the bubbles do a good job masking the lack of booze.
The missing alcohol is most noticeable on the finish. This was true of all the non-alcoholic wines I tried, as well as a couple non-alcoholic beers by Big Drop. I also tried several non-alcoholic spirits by Undone, which were a lot less convincing. On their own these were very strange indeed. I made a Not Gin and tonic that tasted like tonic water spiked with perfume. I also made their version of a Negroni using their Not Gin, Not Vermouth, and Not Orange Bitter (i.e. fake Campari). It tasted like melted lipstick.
Weird imitation spirits notwithstanding, the no/low wines show real promise. It’s great to have options for non-drinkers that aren’t just sparkling water or juice. I might keep a bottle lying around for nights when I want a drink but don’t want the after-effects of alcohol.
I have yet to try any no/low still wines, either red or white. I have heard through the grapevine that these still have some work to do before they’re at the level that the no/low bubblies have reached. I will withhold judgment for now, but I also won’t be rushing out to buy a bottle.
If you’d like to hear more about no/low alcohol wines, especially what the situation is like at a local Edmonton level, check out my latest story in Edify.
Name: Thomson & Scott Noughty Organic Sparkling Chardonnay
Region: southern Spain
Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Taste: fresh apples, lemon, sugar cookies
Texture: fine mousse, some residual sweetness and a slightly cloying finish
Name: Oddbird Spumante
Region: Spumante, Italy
Grape: 100% Glera
Taste: lemon, green apple, white pear
Texture: bracing acidity but finishes a little murky
Name: Oddbird Rose Sparkling
Region: Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Grape: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
Taste: powdered jelly doughnut, Granny Smith apples
Texture: soft and cloying, muddy finish