THIS year, I managed a dry January, and, many years ago, on medical advice, I suffered a dry year. I then looked at the non-alcoholic wines that were available on the market, and decided that I preferred to stick to water.
Recently, spurred on by an article in a trade magazine that suggested that social drinking is now under attack, I made one of my rare sorties to the local Sainsbury’s to see what they could offer me as placebos for my liking for a glass of wine. I came away with three bottles: Taste the Difference Low Alcohol Sauvignon Blanc (£3.50), Alcohol Free Red Wine (£2.75), and Spumante Nosecco (£3.75).
Before tasting the wines, I digested the labels. Each tells an interesting story. The Sauvignon Blanc said that it was “not more than 0.5%” and has just 26 calories per 125cl glass. It is produce of Germany, and it comes from the cellars of Reh Kendermann, a wine company in Bingen, on the Rhine. The ingredients are listed as de-alcoholised Sauvignon Blanc wine, rectified concentrated grape must, flavourings, carbon dioxide, and sulphur dioxide.
The word “flavourings” suggests that the taste of the wine is not totally natural. We are also told that “A gentle process extracts the alcohol, but leaves behind all the character of the wine.” This is something of an oxymoron, as I take alcohol to be part of the character of any wine.
The red wine also comes from Germany, contains “natural flavourings”, and has an alcohol degree of 0.05%. The Nosecco is a masterpiece of deception. It is beautifully packaged, and the front label says: “Edizione Speciale, Spumante, Nosecco, Da Angelo Taurini, Alcohol free.”
On the back label, it is described as “a carbonated flavoured drink based on de-alcoholised wine”, with a strength of less than 0.5%. Rather than coming from Italy, as one might expect, it appears that Angelo Taurini is a native of the Bordeaux region in France, as that is where the wine comes from.
These bottles were not bought, however, for their labels, but to see how adequately they might replace wine. As the Sauvignon Blanc wine says, “Taste the Difference”, and you can. It certainly has the crisp fruit flavours that the label claims; but, to me, they had the artificiality of pear drops.
The red describes itself as soft and fruity, but so is raspberryade. It has no depth to it, and I find it to be disappointing. As for the sparkler, I must admit that I have not opened it. It is the birthday of an elderly woman in the parish later this week, and it looks so good that I will give it to her as a present.
There are good reasons to buy these bottles: they are cheap, an alternative to alcohol, low in calories, and may help those with obesity problems. If you expect them to provide an acceptable replacement for your regular, however, there is a real chance that you will be disappointed.