This remark certainly comes up and to be honest it can feel a little devaluing.
It’s clear that I’m an advocate for non-alc options. I’m especially passionate about the alcohol removed wine category; it’s my beverage of choice….I value the sophisticated flavours of the wines, I’m fascinated by the science and technology that applies to winemaking and the innovation of alcohol removal is in itself extremely impressive and to be appreciated.
BUT I’m not trying to dupe you into thinking you will have the same taste and texture when substituting traditional wine with its alcohol removed cousin…..Wines with alcohol and wines without are definitely different. It’s like fries with gravy or without. Both are lovely options with the same base yet differ in taste, texture and sauce ;)
Although wine might be made of grapes we know it doesn’t actually fall into the category of fruit juice.
It is true however, that people who are familiar with the taste of alcohol and new to NA wines comparatively find them sweeter and “juice like” and are sometimes disappointed.
To understand the difference in taste between NA wine and the regular stuff it helps to understand the process of how both types of wines are created.
The Coles notes….Wine makers create wine by fermenting grapes. Yeast is used to start fermentation which converts grapes and their sugars into alcohol (ethanol). This process facilitates the development of the complex flavours that we enjoy as wine drinkers. Once fermentation is complete, the wine is left to age. At this stage the ethanol can be removed from the wine using 1 of 3 methods (reverse osmosis, spinning cone and vacuum distillation).
Part of the process involves the wine being separated into parts:
- The aromatics
- The grape juices
- The ethanol
The juices/fermented grapes and the aromatics are re-blended and the ethanol is discarded. What you are left with are the flavours and aromas of the fermented grapes minus the alcohol. Known to us as non-alcoholic, dealcoholized or alcohol removed wine (and yes these terms mean the same thing).
Grape juice on the other hand is the juice of crushed grapes…no fermentation is involved. Often refined sugars are added to sweeten and adjust the beverage making their sugar content even higher.
Initially, making the switch to dealcoholized wine was an adjustment for me (on many levels). As I evolve with these beverages my palette continues to refine and I appreciate the sophisticated flavour of the grapes (without the alcohol) even more.
I don't feel the taste of alcohol is missing. In fact if I do have a glass of traditional wine the taste of ethanol is bitter, pungent and overpowering…it’s quite an interesting shift.
I’ve been asked if the wine makers will add something to NA wines to mimic the taste of alcohol. I say likely not.
To sum it up I think the key is to be open to something new and different. Allow your tastebuds some time to adapt. Alcohol-removed wine must be seen as a completely different beverage from regular wine and from grape juice. It’s a beautiful and growing category of its own. I'm having so much fun experimenting, I hope you will too.
Cheers my friends and Happy long weekend.