Celebrating Freely? Non-Alcohol Wine Options


Celebrating Freely? Non-Alcohol Wine Options

Bar None

with Debbian Spence-Minott

Thursday, December 12, 2019

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Jamaicans are now in full celebration mode. An office party here, a get-together there and the drinks continue to flow! The season also marks a key gifting occasion and sometimes selecting that right gift with or without alcohol may be challenging. 'Tis the season to be jolly, but you can choose to do so even if you do not drink alcohol. As is customary, we try to be very inclusive so that all our readers benefit from the information we share. Today, we share three concepts: alcohol-free wines, non-alcohol wines, and dealcoholised wines. Bar None readers, I can almost hear your responses… “Say what, now? Who knew subcategories existed!” Continue reading, you are about to have an eye-opening experience.

What is alcohol-free wine?

Alcohol-free wine is a beverage product that has not undergone the fermentation process. That is, no yeast has been added to the base solution which would cause alcohol to be formed. An additional benefit is that these wines come in a variety of flavours and colours; for example, white grape, apple, raspberry, and so on. The fermentation process converts the natural sugars present in grapes into alcohol, which results in the wine being less sweet as well as the traditional flavours we know and love. So, because alcohol-free wines are made without fermenting the grapes, the result is usually a bit sweeter than traditional wines; however, some alcohol-free wine producers remove some of the sugar, which results in a less sweet product. Alcohol-free wine will always be your safest choice if you are uncertain of which wine alternative to get. If a product is classified on the bottle as alcohol-free or as having 0% alcohol, you can be guaranteed that there is absolutely no alcohol and that it's safe for everyone (even children) to drink.

Non-alcoholic wine

Non-alcoholic wine is wine that has less than 0.5 % alcohol. This means that some non-alcoholic wines could in theory be alcohol-free, but this is not always the case. Non-alcoholic wines generally undergo some form of fermentation, but the production of alcohol is interrupted by halting the fermentation process early or by mixing the fermented wine with the unfermented drink to lower the alcohol percentage. In some non-alcoholic wines, the alcohol is removed by the process of dealcoholisation; however, for this article, I will treat the topic as separate.

Since non-alcoholic wine does contain some alcohol, it is not ideal to serve to teetotallers (persons who never drink alcohol), but it can be consumed safely without the fear of getting intoxicated, so this type of wine is ideal for when you are the designated driver! In fact, in order to feel any impairment of cognitive abilities (ie, getting tipsy or drunk) on 0.5% alcoholic wine, the average person will have to consume between 8 and 10 glasses in less than 10 minutes. Non-alcoholic wines taste more similar to traditional wine, as the fermentation process adds some of the classic flavours we associate with wine, while also removing some of the sugars. If you think that no one will be able to tell the difference, think again as the difference in flavour can be picked up easily by pretty much anyone.

Dealcoholised wine

If you are used to drinking wine, dealcoholised wine will probably give you the closest approximation of the flavours of wine; however, do not expect it to taste exactly like wine. It does take some getting used to. De-alcoholised wine also has less than 0.5% alcohol, but the process of making it is different than the process of making non-alcoholic wine. Simply, dealcoholisation is the term used to describe the process of taking alcoholic wine and removing most of the alcohol from it. This means that dealcoholised wine is made using exactly the same process as making alcoholic wine, but once the fermentation process is complete, the alcohol is removed from the wine through either vacuum distillation or reverse osmosis. Without getting too technical, reverse osmosis filters out the aromatics from the wine before the alcohol is removed through distillation. Once the alcohol has been removed, the filtered aromatic water is added back into the dealcoholised wine concentrate. This means that it will retain most of the flavours associated with wine. This process can be quite expensive and time-consuming, as the wine usually has to go through the procedure 2-4 times before enough alcohol is removed for it to be classified as dealcoholised. On the other hand, vacuum distillation evaporates the wine inside a vacuum chamber. This process volatilises the aromas in the wine, which leaves it less aromatic and the flavour will not be as spot-on as wine dealcoholised through reverse osmosis.

What does this all mean?

Basically, think of non-alcoholic wine or dealcoholised wine as vegan cheese. If you expect vegan cheese to have the same flavour and texture as normal cheese, you will be in for a surprise, but if you think of it as a different product altogether that has taste and texture in its own right, you will probably like it! If you are shopping for yourself or someone you know who does not drink at all due to pregnancy, medical, personal or religious reasons, you will have to be able to tell the difference between the types of non-alcoholic choices. It is always especially important to be 100% sure of your choice when you are shopping for someone who does not drink due to religious reasons, as the rules for this can be very strict.

Jamaica has a plethora of non-alcohol wines on the shelves so be sure to read your labels and be informed! Happy shopping, and cheers to an amazing season!


Following our celebration of women in wine series, we wish to clarify:

The first wine bar in Jamaica was Wine With Me (established February 2007).

The first wine bar in Kingston was Bin 26.

Readers' Feedback:

Imagine if we embraced life's moments big and small, without reservation. Together, we might fill the world with contagious joy. Please share with meyour wines, spirits and cocktail experiences or comments on the above article at debbiansm@gmail.com, or follow me on IG @debbiansm #barnoneja.

Debbian Spence-Minott

An Alumna of the US Sommelier Association

CEO of the Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines

President, Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Limited

Marketing Studies Lecturer – The University of Technology Jamaica

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