Want to know more about how a non-alcoholic wine in made, and some general tips for buyers? What are the benchmark wines? What to look out for? We’ll do that here in my Non-Alcoholic Wine Guide. Or, go to my list of top non-alcoholic drinks.
Two Categories of Non-Alcoholic Wine
De-alcoholised wines These wines have been through fermentation, so at some point they have had alcohol within them. The wines go through an additional process step that removes the alcohol. For the nerds amongst you the winemakers choose from using the reverse osmosis, spinning cone or triple distillation methods of alcohol removal. Usually, after this process some extra grape-juice or sugar is added.
Fruit juice based based marketed as wine. These never had any alcohol in them in the first place. For some people that means they are not really wines at all, merely appropriating the word ‘wine’. They are typically sold in 750ml wine shaped bottles. They are not always make from grapes either. Think of them as ‘long’ drinks to accompany a meal or to be drunk like wine
Do They Taste Like Alcoholic Wines?
There’s no point comparing a non-alcoholic wine to an aged alcoholic wine with all that complexity that comes with ageing. Non-alcoholic wines are not currently sold with bottle age.
The non-alcoholic wines that comes closest to their alcoholic cousins are sparkling white wines, and sweeter wines…which usually means white wines. In the case of the best sparkling whites they can easily match a good quality sparkling white wine priced around AUD 15-20.
Dry wines are more challenging, though good non-alcoholic ones do exist. If you blind tasted a dry alcoholic wine against a non-alcoholic wine one made from the same variety of grapes you will usually have no problem working out which is which. Even the best non-alcoholic ones often have a taste of the added grape juice and so taste a bit lighter or fruitier than the alcoholic ones. The majority of and still white wines have citrus dominated flavours with lemon and grapefruit being the most prevalent though there are exceptions such as the France’s Zera Chardonnay with it apricot flavour. The worst white wines can taste like wet cardboard.
At the time of writing this article all the best red wines I’ve tasted are only available from specialist online vendors such as Australia’s SanDrinks and Alcofree, and Craft Zero (I’m not sponsored by any of them BTW). To date I’ve found it much harder to get a good red de-alcoholised wine in a high street chain store.
The same online stores can be used for whites and sparkling wines. I’ve had more luck in high street chain liquor stored with sparkling white and some acceptable white wines particularly under the McGuigan Zero and Jacob’s Creek Unvined brands.
International or Australian. Which are better?
Although the focus of this website is Australian local produce it is good to know what it is compared to. Many overseas reviewers cite Domaine de la Prade which is French cabernet merlot priced at a formidable AUD 25 a bottle (remember there’s no alcohol tax applied on this), so it acts as a kind of baseline. I reviewed it here. The best Australian non-alcoholic wines match this, and in my view are better, and cheaper. Have a look through my reviews here.
The most common still white wines are sauvignon blancs and pinot grigios, though a range of other grape types can be found. In my opinion the sauvignon blancs fare best, with South African Lautus Savvy White being the stand out. Plus and Minus and Songbird are the best Aussie producers. Have a look through my reviews here.