What is Dealcoholized Wine and is It as Good as Regular Wine?

What is Dealcoholized Wine and is It as Good as Regular Wine?

If you are a fan of wine and are looking to enjoy a short (or long) term sobriety, such as Dry January or Sober September, you may be wondering what dealcoholized and nonalcoholic wines are like.

Although the process of how alcohol-free (or mostly free) wines are made varies, the dealcoholization follows a few standard processes that all have similar net end effects.

So in this one, we thought we'd put our chemical engineering hats on for a transpiration and talk well-nigh dealcoholized wine- how its made, what to expect, and share a fun little trick we learned to help the wines taste just a bit better.

What is Dealcoholized Wine and How is It Made?

Dealcoholized wine is a wrap term that is used to describe any and all wines where swig has been removed via an external process.

There are many pieces of industrial equipment that can remove alcohol, and some of the most worldwide ones are using reverse osmosis and vacuum distillation.

Reverse osmosis is a filtration device that helps separate dissolved compounds in a liquid through a medium (i.e. a filter membrane). Under upper pressure, water and swig are separated from the wine and potentially other components (color, flavor, acids, etc.) that are adjusted later on.

Vacuum distillation is flipside process that plays off the fact that ethanol is a volatile recipe and will turn to gas at a variegated rate than water. A vacuum is unromantic and temperature is adjusted to indulge the ethanol to wilt vapor and is removed. Of course, any other compounds that are in the wine that are volatile and may contribute to the wine's foible could moreover get removed here, too, but this method is often the increasingly preferred of the two for keeping the wine as true-to-style as possible.

In both of these cases, it is rather difficult to get to 100% removal of alcohol. This is often why dealcoholized wine is labeled as < 0.5% ABV as some ethanol may still be present in the final product either due to inefficiencies of the technique or blending some of of the removed product when in to add savor and other characteristics for balance/complexity.

There is a third nomenclature of non-alcoholic wine out there, and that is wine that is not dealcoholized but rather composite with ingredients to make a faux wine in taste only. These may or may not be made with grapes, and, while stuff present without swig (and thus have some of the same concerns we will outline below), have a variegated starting point.

That said, for all of the whilom processes, there is one topic that should be of the utmost importance to consumers- how does it taste?

What Does Non-Alcoholic Wine Taste Like?

Aside from stuff an intoxicant, you may likely know that swig contributes soul to a wine. This is the heft your mouth feels (often described as the “weight on your palate”) in a wine.

In the sparsity of alcohol, or most of it at least, dealcoholized and nonalcoholic wines have the perception of stuff light in body, scrutinizingly watery or juice-like. This is a major issue in nonalcoholic winemaking, and is one without a good solution at this time (pun not intended but, in retrospect, appreciated).

Many winemakers in the nonalcoholic wine space have been experimenting with additives to bring when the impact of soul in wine, with two of the most popular either stuff sugar or glycerins (the latter stuff wontedly made from vegetables and used in non-alcoholic spirits for similar effect).

As you may expect, some nonalcoholic wines with sugars widow (like grape must) will, of course, be sweet. This may be fine for some grapes and styles wontedly made on the sweeter side, such as sparkling wine, but may be unexpected for those who prefer a increasingly dry style. As the labeling for sweetness levels can be improved upon, it is unchangingly worth asking a shop employee whether an NA wine is sweet or not as a first check.

Diving deeper, one set of compounds that is often removed in the dealcoholization process are those that requite floral characteristics to the wine like elderflower, honeysuckle, geranium, and the like. This often ways nonalcoholic wines have a bit less complexity than their full-alcohol counterparts.

Likewise, swig is moreover a preservative, so non-alcoholic wines are often made, bottled (with screwtops), and sent out for firsthand consumption. These often include an expiration stage as the lack of swig (and often, spare sugar) ways that the wines can spoil much quicker. But there is flipside component that most NA wines moreover lack that is tangential to this- oak aging.

In our experience, we've never seen a non-alcoholic wine that has been weather-beaten in oak, and this, like the floral counterparts, moreover changes the expected flavors and complexity in a wine. Why would a producer go to all that uneaten forfeit and effort to age a wine in oak only to remove the swig without the fact? The financing of running dealcoholization equipment is once quite expensive, so expensive secondary white-haired techniques, like the using of oak (if possible at all), is likely to be minimized.

  • Some producers could likely consider subtracting oak staves or fries to condition the wine on, but in our wits we have not seen this.

What you are often left with is a light bodied wine that may or may not be sweet, with some of the increasingly prominent complexities removed, and food-safe chemicals like grape must or other flavorings (floral, oak, etc) widow when in to try and correct some characteristics that consumers may find unpalatable.

Ultimately, while we are not terribly versed in all styles of non-alcoholic wines out there, the worldwide trend we have seen in our limited sampling is simply this- the wines are incredibly light in body, have juice-like characteristics (often with dominant grape juice character), and may or may not be sweet. Your mileage will vary for the particular snifter you purchase, of course.

How to Make NA Wine Taste Largest – Add Bitters

When we bought our first few bottles of non-alcoholic wine at a local NA snifter shop, we expressed hesitancy well-nigh the wines- particularly for the whilom reasons.

To our surprise, the shop owner flat-out well-set with us and said these were valid concerns well-nigh NA wine. But we were moreover given an idea on how to make the wine better? Add bitters.

This was a fascinating recommendation that ended up checking a lot of boxes.

First, bitters can run the spectrum of flavors and, as you may guess, can be strategically chosen to add components that are lost in wine. Angostura bitters have strong notes of clove, cardamom, cinnamon, and other spices, which are conveniently the kind of flavors that oak provides (and are notably woolgathering in NA wines). A soupcon of those in an NA Syrah, for example, really helped bring when a lot flavors we thought were missing.

Have a wine that you think needs increasingly floral notes? Grab an towardly bitters. Something else missing entirely? Bitters really can be used to retread minor flavors as you please.

Second, bitters can be comprised of two primary wiring ingredients- swig or a vegetable glycerin. These both contribute to the sensation of soul (or mouthfeel), and could potentially, albeit nominally, add a bit increasingly structure into a wine.

We could see the treatise here either way. I have to shoehorn that I'm not fully convinced that the soul reverted too much to my palate when trying this, if only considering a couple of drops in a 5-ounce glass of wine may not be much in the grand scheme of things compared to traditional 12-15% wines. But I moreover won't oppose if others finger like it does something.

Of course, what wiring you use may depend on how single-minded you are to stuff fully non-alcoholic. But, like the commentary above, plane a few dashes of a 44.7% ABV Angostura bitters will do little to transpiration the overall swig percentage in a glass of wine.

  • Math time: A single soupcon of bitters may be well-nigh 1 mL, which in a 150 mL pour of 0.5% NA wine may increase the swig to just 0.8%, two dashes may push it to 1%, and so on. Other bitters may come with much preferably droppers than Angostura, and would have plane less of an impact.

But there was one thing that bitters did not do that is moreover important to note. It likely does not mask any sugar, grape must, or other ingredients widow to the wine. That NA Syrah that we widow Angostura to did get better, we'll admit, but the strong grape savor we got out of it still remained and was nonflexible to ignore. The same would be true for other wines where sugars are widow as a substitute for body.

So while bitters can be good for improving the characteristics of non-alcoholic wine, it may do little to mask some of the worldwide pain points that drinkers have with the bottles all the same.

Overall, although nonalcoholic drinks are rising in popularity, expressly during singleness months like Dry January or Sober September, the wine market has been slow to jump on the bandwagon. There may be many reasons for this, but as of now options are limited, albeit growing yearly, and have some interesting nuances that you may not expect. Go into this one prepared, have an honest discussion with any bottleshop employee, and you'll be on the right track.