This holiday season a glass of bubbly is more likely than ever to be dry, and we’re not talking brut. In response to growing demand, there have been stunning increases in nonalcoholic options for drinking and celebrating.
Sales of wines containing less than .5 percent alcohol, the industry and government standard for “alcohol free,” are up nearly 40 percent over last year, according to NielsenIQ. Home consumption leads restaurant sales, though before long, ordering a glass with no alcohol may be as common as requesting decaf. For a party at home, a considerate host might stock the bar with some alcohol-free beer or wine products, not just fruit juice, cola and soda water.
Bottle shops and websites devoted to nonalcoholic drinks are opening across the country. In New York they include Boisson, with five stores and expansion nationwide on the horizon. Spirited Away moved to a big new shop in NoLIta, and there’s Minus Moonshine in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. Nick Bodkins, a founder of Boisson, said the growth in the market has exceeded his expectations.
Chris Becker, the founder of Better Rhodes, an online retailer with a store in Madison, Conn., for nonalcoholic wines, spirits, beers and other beverages that started less than a year ago, said he was amazed at the number of new products. His inventory for wines has already quadrupled; he now has almost 100 of them, and expects more next year.
Though the options are varied, wine lovers have had a challenge finding alcohol-free options that satisfy the desire for a glass of something garnet or golden to serve with dinner. Unlike faux spirits that are mixed with other ingredients to ramp up flavor, wines are usually consumed straight.
There are three basic methods to remove alcohol from wine: The simplest, reverse osmosis, is a finely tuned filtration system; vacuum distillation removes alcohol with gentle heat; and spinning cone columns involve repeated evaporations and condensations at low-temperature. At the end of the process with all these systems, the aromatics are blended back. Sometimes peppery flavors are added to simulate alcoholic heat, but they fall short. Tart acidity will keep whites and rosés refreshing and chilling can help, but the reds have no tannic complexity. It’s like Botox; the wines do not age.
Of the 11 nonalcoholic sparkling rosé wines sold in Champagne-style bottles I recently sampled, five made for good drinking, enjoyable throughout a meal and appealing enough so the alcohol was not sorely missed. Another three were acceptable. The rest were bland, exhibited odd flavors, were flabby or a touch too sweet.
The removal of alcohol from wine affects the body — texture and mouthfeel. The apt analogy made by wine experts is milk: skim versus whole. Carbonation helps bridge the gap, one reason nonalcoholic beers have done well over the years. “Wines without alcohol, especially the reds, tend to be flat,” Mr. Bodkins of Boisson said. “Carbonation makes a huge difference.”
Nonalcoholic Sparkling Rosés
Chateau DelISH Sparkling Rosé, made in Germany, $25. Pale pink, hint of toast, nice fruit, tart, balanced, appealing finish.
Ein Zwei Zero Sparkling Rosé, made in Germany, $22. Salmon pink, subtle fruitiness, rich, dry, refreshing acidity.
Pierre Zero Rosé, Pierre Chauvin, made in France, $22. Orangy hue, hint of baked apple but dry, lively, good acidity and finish.
Spring in a Bottle, Wölffer Estate, made in Germany, $18. Pretty pink color, fruity, balanced with acidity, rich aftertaste.
Thomson & Scott Noughty Sparkling Rosé, made in Germany, $20. Deep rose, floral nose, strawberries on the palate, full-bodied, nice finish.
Señorio de la Tautila Espumoso Rosado, made in Spain, $23. Pale pink, slightly toasty and fruity, finishing a little sweet.
Starla Alcohol Removed Sparkling Rosé, made in California, $28, minimum of three bottles from starlawines.com. Deep salmon, very effervescent, tropical lychee aroma and flavor, almost bubble gum but not sweet, good acidity.
Teetotaler Wines Sparkling Rosé, made in Spain, $24. Pale salmon, ripe pear on the palate, light-bodied and a bit sweet.
Freixenet Premium Sparkling, made in Spain, $10. Pale blush, musty, dead flower aroma, bland.
Surely Sparkling Rosé, made in California, $25. Salmon pink, slightly yeasty, lacks texture, good acidity but a bit sour.
Vinada Tinteling Tempranillo, made in Spain, $20. Salmon pink, berry aroma but lacks flavor.
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