June 18, 2024

Alcohol-free wines to help you get through Dry January

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There are more nonalcoholic wines, beers and spirits than ever – and they’re getting better too

I am in two minds about alcohol-free drinks that try to imitate wine, beer and spirits. In the past, when not drinking I have always preferred other soft drinks such as water kefir and various fruit and herb cordials. I’ll turn to these next week, but today as we head into dry January, full of good intent, a look at nonalcohol wine. The good news is that, thanks to a huge growth in interest, the range of alcohol-free wines, beers and spirits continues to expand dramatically, and the quality is improving all the time. 

However wine has always lagged behind beer, and still does. In my experience, sparkling wines are the best, although some of them can be very sweet (the three producers featured here also produce good sparkling wines). I have tasted some very decent no-alcohol white wines too, including the two here. Many of the reds seem excessively sweet, or have an unattractive earthiness. Vaughan Yates, cofounder and director of The Virgin Mary Bar in Dublin 1 agrees. “Generally, I feel the alcohol-free wine offering is let’s say a ‘work in progress’. Sparkling have cracked it, white is getting there and red is nowhere near.”

Alcohol is a great conveyor of flavour and brings texture, weight and warmth to any liquid. Trying to replicate that is not easy

Alcohol is a great conveyor of flavour and brings texture, weight and warmth to any liquid. Trying to replicate that is not easy. Most alcohol-free wines are made into real wine first and then have the alcohol removed, usually by one of two processes: reverse osmosis or spinning cone column. The producer then adds sugar and or grape juice to mimic the body and texture that alcohol brings to a normal wine. This does mean that many wines are quite sweet, although if it is balanced by the acidity, you won’t really notice it.

The wines featured here are less sweet, but it does make them seem very light, (not always a bad thing), and they don’t quite fill the mouth the way real wine does. Usefully, as nonalcoholic wines fall into a different EU food category, they all have the sugar content on the back label. 

The Virgin Mary (TVM) bar launched a huge range of alcohol-free drinks, hampers and gift boxes prior to Christmas. All are still available, including many drinks that are exclusive to them. See thevirginmarybar.com for details. Many of our supermarkets now have a separate alcohol-free section, featuring NA wines from well-known brands such as Torres, McGuigan and Penfolds.

One of my favourite sparkling wines, Thomson & Scott Noughty Organic Sparkling Chardonnay (€16.50-16.99) is available from independents. Several of the supermarket no-alcohol Proseccos I tried were very sweet (but then most Prosecco is very sweet) and would need to be very well chilled to be drinkable. The best I tried was Nosecco (Tesco, €4) effervescent and full of fresh sweet grapey fruits.

L’Arjolle Equilibre Zéro Viognier Sauvignon
0%, €8.95
Light peach fruits with good refreshing acidity. An attractive aperitif, or to drink with seafood dishes.
From O’Briens, obrienswine.ie

Eins Zwei Zero Riesling
0%, €11.50
Racy red apples and nectarines with lime zest and a touch of honey. Very Riesling-like. Good to drink before dinner, or with salmon and Thai green curries. 
From Mitchell & Son, D1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; Redmonds, D6; Redmonds.ie; Fresh Outlets, freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie; O’Donovan’s, Cork, Odonovansofflicence.com; McHughs, D5, mchughs.ie; Thomas’s of Foxrock, thomasoffoxrock.ie; Drinkstore, D7, drinkstore.ie.

Alt. Sparkling Organic Chardonnay
0%, €15
Made from Spanish white wine, this has floral aromas, racy green apple fruits and citrus peel. An alcohol-free way to celebrate that special occasion. 
From Thevirginmarybar.com

Kolonne Null Cuvée Rouge No.2
0%, €18.50
Made in Spain, this has quite high acidity, fresh red fruits with a spicy, earthy edge and a rounded finish. Try it with grilled or roast red meats.
From Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; Mitchell & Son, D1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue & Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; Green Man Wines, D6,greenmanwines.ie; Rift Coffee, Limerick, riftcoffee.com; Lilith Wines, D07; Avoca, Ballsbridge & Rathcoole, Avoca.com; Pinto Wines, D9, pintowines.ie; Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown, whelehanswines.ie; The Wine Pair, D8; The Corkscrew, D2, thecorkscrew.ie; Café Rua, Castlebar, Caferua.com; Brindle Coffee & Wine, D8, brindlecoffeewine.com; Thyme Out, Dalkey,thymeout.ie; Drinkstore, D7,drinkstore.ie; Fallon & Byrne, D2, fallonandbyrne.com; Stationtostationwine.ie; Frank’s, D2,franksdublin.com

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