If you are one of those who feel sick drinking water, plain juices or mock tails at every social event you attend, this is something that will interest you. The revolution in the beverage and wine industries is here with the invention of non-alcoholic drinks (including wines). How interesting does that sound? No more embarrassment now if you do not drink wines and feel you are not part of the group – you have a healthier version to compete with them now.
Non-alcoholic drinks are versions of their alcoholic counterparts leaving the alcohol behind. These alcohol-free drinks are available in almost all the super stores where you tend to find alcohol drinks, wines, etc.
Just to be clear though, you may find many wine bottles in your local supermarket where the label reads non-alcoholic wine. But you must research well before you buy them because they may still contain traces of alcohol and technically not be alcohol free 100 percent. Why this happens is because the process to make a non-alcohol wine starts with a normal wine that has some percentage of alcohol in it. Based on which winemaker, which winery, which technique and which method has been used to separate and completely remove the alcohol from the wine, removing it fully is not possible at all times.
The federal law in the United States says that for any wine to be marked, packaged and sold as alcohol free or dealcoholized, the alcohol content in that wine cannot be more than 0.5% by volume. So anything more than that is not a non-alcohol wine and you must pay attention to the volume content and read the labels carefully when you purchase non-alcohol wines, for that matter anything that you eat or drink must fully be checked by reading the product label.
How are alcohol-free wines made?
It is a bit of a hard process to remove alcohol from wines. It is easier to make wine out of a normal juice at home. But what a home winemaker can find challenging is to separate alcohol from wines and this requires special equipment, technical know how and knowledge of key commercial processes.
One of the ways commercial wine makers make alcohol-free wines is through a process called filtration. Using special equipment, the wine is made to pass through a membrane under an extremely high pressure. This high pressure ensures only the water and little alcohol can pass through the membrane. The process is repeated again and again until the filtered wine is highly concentrated and leaves most of the alcohol behind. Water is added to the final filtrate to reduce its concentration to a wine level and what you get as an end product is wine with no alcohol.
This process is also called reverse osmosis in some parts of the states
As the name suggests, the second method is to distil the alcohol from the wine through a process called distillation. Distillation is simple – just steam away the wine, right? And this can seem like something a home winemaker can do to make alcohol-free drinks. But not really! This is so because when you start heating wine to distil it, it can very soon become extremely brown and caramelize to an extent that it becomes useless. This is where technical know how and inside knowledge of wine making comes into play. Commercial winemakers have mastered this art of distillation by getting around the age-old way of distilling liquids. They keep the wine in a strong vacuum and increase the vacuum gradually. As the vacuum increases, the steaming point (also called the boiling point) of alcohol decreases. They continue increasing the vacuum to bring the boiling point as low as 700F. It then becomes easier for them to distil the wine without heating it up to remove alcohol. The end product is a beautiful free-of-alcohol wine that retains its original color and taste.
So basically dealcoholized wines follow the same journey as any normal wine does. Their life begins as grapes that are let to ferment so the sugar in grapes converts to carbon dioxide and then alcohol. It is after this process that the alcohol is removed from the wine to make it free of alcohol. The two processes above can vary slightly based on winery to winery. For example, some wineries prefer to add water to the final concentrated wine after removing alcohol while others make use of grape juice to reconstitute the wine. However the beauty is that although each winery may follow a slightly different process to make non-alcoholic wines, the final products are all the same – wines that taste the same but miss the alcohol.
What do alcohol-free wines taste like?
We know what you are wondering now. Are you thinking that you can buy a fruit concentrate from your local Walmart or Target and add water to it and that will pretty much be alcohol-free wine? No, that is not correct and that is where non-alcohol wines are different from fruit concentrates you buy from your supermarkets. Fruit concentrates are syrupy sweet – alcohol-free wines are not. Such wines only miss the alcohol part, not the taste part. So you can still enjoy the tannins and the body of the original wine.
However, having said that it may not hold true for all types of alcohol-free wines that you can find in your supermarkets. Most of them miss the complexity and flavor that their alcoholic versions truly stand for. Especially for red wines, the alcohol-free red wine resembles the alcoholic version in taste but lacks the full-bodied flavor and texture of the wine. This happens because it is mostly the alcohol part in the wine that renders all the aromas together in the wine and gives it the thickness and the mouth feel that a typical red wine stands for. When we remove the alcohol part from the wine, it takes away with it percentages of that aroma and thickness from the wine and that is the reason it ends up in a different class of flavor and texture.
But as many rightly say, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. When you drink alcohol-free wines, you are not looking for differences between that and their counter wine, but you are making a life change to switch to non-alcohol drinking. So even if dealcoholized drinks do not taste the same as many red or white wines do, they can still be enjoyed for their health benefits, as listed below, and for the smart lifestyle changes they bring to you.
Should you be drinking non-alcoholic wines and are there any health benefits?
Let us start with calories first when we are talking about the health benefits of dealcoholized wines. When you remove alcohol from the wine, you end up reducing its calorie level by about one-third, so that in itself is a great health benefit. People who are constantly watching their weight with what they eat and drink, alcohol-free wines can serve as a great drink for them.
Numerous studies have been done to study the health benefits of a range of alcohol-free wines to see whether there are better or worse than their counterparts. Studies have proven that dealcoholized wines provide an interesting alternative to juices and concentrates that are much higher in dyes, artificial flavors and sugars and therefore not so apt for the human body. Most of the non-alcoholic red, white and sparkling wines are not only free of alcohol, they are also rid of fats, are much lower in sugars, have no added preservatives and are extremely low in calories too that make these wines a perfect accompaniment.
An important thing that removing alcohol does from these wines is that it also removes the dehydrating symptoms and other effects that slow down body metabolism and other life risks that can happen under the influence of alcohol.
Several studies reveal that alcohol-free red wine decreases the risk of heart diseases. Studies done at the University of California and the San Diego School of Medicine revealed that heart diseases have decreased in people drinking dealcoholized wines. They also state that your cholesterol levels and chances of having a stroke also reduce considerably by choosing this drinking option.
Particularly in red wines and their alcohol-free versions, scientists have identified a glucose-based plant compound called saponins that are connecting to lowering cholesterol in humans. Some studies strengthen the belief that drinking one glass of red or white wine or their free-of-alcohol counterparts can help lower the chances of suffering a stroke. However, the same is not so true for liquor drinks or beer.
Can a pregnant woman drink alcohol-free wine? Well, if you go by technicalities because it is removed of any alcohol, you should be fine. But it is still advisable that a pregnant lady checks with her midwife or GP to ensure there are no risks associated with her or her developing baby if she takes sips of free-of-alcohol wine.
It has also been confirmed by many studies that taking the same amounts of dealcoholized red wine leaves you with the same punch of antioxidants that you get from an equal glass or normal red wine. But the other advantages of not having alcohol in your red wine are avoiding hangovers, tipsiness and headaches. In case you suffer from high blood pressure and like taking a glass or two occasionally, alcohol-free red wine is your best alternative.
But remember that just because your new wine is alcohol free it still does not give you the liberty of taking more than one or two 4-ounce glasses each day. Whether it is alcoholized red wine or alcohol-free red wine, anything more than that amount can harm you. If you feel like more, you could try alternatives such as resveratrol supplements.
Where can you find wines without alcohol?
You can perhaps buy wines without alcohol from pretty much any super store that sells wines, liquors, etc. Stores such as Walmart, Target, Costco, etc. are stocking huge ranges of non-alcohol wines in stores that are huge and have a separate liquor land space in it.
If you can drive, you can also research for vineyards or wineries that make alcohol-free wines and go for their wine-tasting sessions on the weekend to taste different varieties of red, white and sparkling dealcoholized wines and then choose and buy the ones that you like.
Out of all the wine makers, LA-based ARIEL wines have been ruling the market and have been making some of the best non-alcohol wines in the world. They have also been world renowned and have many awards added to their hat for producing the best alcohol-free chardonnays and cabernet sauvignon in the world.
Here is a list of some of the best red, white and sparkling non-alcoholic wines that you can try for yourself and will be sure to be left with wanting for more.
Cabernet Sauvignon non-alcoholic red wine: perhaps one of the best dealcoholized red wines in the market available today. It does not quite taste like the normal red wine but it is still very close to the original and as close as a non-alcoholic red wine can get to its alcoholic counterpart.
Chardonnay non-alcoholic white wine: again one of the best white wines out there in the market. It is much less sweeter than many other alcohol-free white wines available in the supermarkets and will leave you with a taste on your palate that is very close to white wine, so you will not think about missing anything.
Brut non-alcoholic wine: this is one of the best alternatives to sparkling white wines and is also priced well so does not come heavy on the pocket.
White zinfandel non-alcoholic wine: this alcohol-free wine is less sweet and a little more tart on the palate than many others available in the market. It does taste best when you pair it with white sauce pasta and makes a great companion to dinner.
At the end of the day, when you choose to drink a non-alcohol wine, it is about enjoying it with an open mind. If you do not expect an exact replacement to your alcoholic wines, you will find yourself talking endlessly about these non-alcoholic versions and the good things they bring to your life.