No Alcohol For Me…It's Lent!

Food

No Alcohol For Me…It's Lent!

Bar None

with Debbian Spence-Minott

Thursday, March 12, 2020

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It is customary during this Lenten season to abstain from some of our most pleasurable pastimes. While most people abstain for religious reasons, others find it a fashionable and on-trend activity to follow. People may abstain from rice, pork, smoking, and, dare I say, alcohol. (By the way, did you know that Lent lasts for 40 days excluding Sundays?) Last December, I broached the subject of alcohol-free drinking. However, because of the euphoria of the holidays the information may not have been fully digested. With that said, let us revisit the conversation, given that you may be in the space of abstaining from alcohol for the season. And so that you do not unknowingly lose your way, we will look at three concepts: alcohol-free wines, non-alcohol wines, and dealcoholised wines.

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 to 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 (people who never drink alcohol), but it can be consumed safely without the fear of getting intoxicated, so this type of wine is ideal for those days 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. Dealcoholised 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, dealcoholised 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 the wine 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 two to four 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 a less aromatic wine, which means that 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 reasons, personal choice 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 for religious reasons, as the rules for this can be very strict.

If I just complicated this whole business of 'non-alcohol wines' for you, it was not intentional. But now you know! Jamaica has a plethora of non-alcohol wines on the shelves so be sure to read your labels and be informed!

For those of us who are not drinking spirits but only wines, remember our grapevine of the month is riesling. Please submit your comments, photos, etc by tomorrow, Friday, March 13, 2020. Please find additional details below.

Readers' Grapevine Club: If you are new to wines and want to join us on our wine discovery, then this is for you. On the third Thursday of each month (commencing March 2020) I will highlight your feedback on our grape variety of the month. I know that you have all tried moscato and are enjoying every sweet note; however, for the coming weeks, try to purchase a bottle of riesling from your local store, and call a few friends. Share with me a description of the wine using the information about reading wine labels and what you thought about that experience.

Grape Variety of the Month: Riesling

Readers' Feedback:

Extraordinary wonder and joy are interwoven through ordinary life. Seek them relentlessly. Please share with me your 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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