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Wine: Character lacking

28 August 2020

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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.

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