From fermenting in stainless steel wine drums to using UV robots to combat vineyard pests, it’s so amazing to see how an industry as longstanding and steeped in tradition as winemaking can continue to innovate. And now, as New Years resolutions take hold and more health-conscious consumers look to make changes to their lifestyle, the demand for and innovation in non-alcoholic wines is booming.
Technically, non-alcoholic wine isn’t officially wine, but we don’t hold that against it. Non-alcoholic spirits, beers and wines are one of the fastest growing markets in food and beverage. Whether striving to cut calories, take the path to sobriety or just cut back on alcohol consumption, consumers are seeking out alcohol alternatives that deliver on taste and experience, without the less desirable side effects.
To be considered a de-alcoholized or alcohol-removed wine, the beverage must contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. But that doesn’t mean they must contain less flavor, right? Well, that’s where non-alcoholic wines prove particularly tricky. When we picture a wine lover, it is easy to imagine someone with a refined palate. Someone who senses subtle notes in every sniff and sip. Someone who cannot be fooled by a non-alcoholic wine. But there are large players in the non-alcoholic wine industry whose product can satisfy even the most serious wine drinkers.
De-alcoholized wine first appeared on shelves in the 1980s and one of the first popular brands, Ariel, actually received a gold medal at the 1986 Los Angeles County Fair while competing against wines with alcohol. But until recently, the non-alcoholic wine category remained quite small.
In the wake of the pandemic, non-alcoholic wine brands and wineries’ non-alcoholic options have experienced steady growth. Ariel is still out making waves and Fre Alcohol-Removed Wines, also launched in the 80s, aims to provide wine lovers with a premium alcohol-removed option. Non-alcoholic beers and alcohol-free spirits have similarly grown in variety and success.
The ubiquity of traditional alcoholic beverages was historically as a countermeasure to inadequate or unclean water supply–the alcohol content being the very reason the beverage was safe to drink. But, while a time traveler may be confused about the growing demand and popularity of alcohol-removed beverages, we raise our glasses to progress and innovation.