When people talk about a full-bodied red, they are talking about wine with a high-alcohol content.
If you’re looking for a non-alcoholic wine that tastes as full-bodied as an alcoholic one at 13.5% ABV, such as an Apothic red wine, then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.
Alcohol-free wine presents a different taste experience with all the heart health benefits and wine compounds of alcoholic ones including antioxidants and resveratrol content.
It is alcohol that gives wine body and depth. When it clings to the glass making ‘legs’ and rolls around your tongue, it’s doing so because it’s loaded with high amounts of alcohol.
Wine drinkers in the UK have come to demand ever-higher alcohol content since the popularity of New World varieties swamped the market and made 13.5% ABV the standard.
Going back to the beginning
When wine consumption first began to gain popularity in the UK, it did so as a result of people holidaying on the continent where the wines produced in cooler climates are naturally lower in alcohol.
Back then most Brits drank beer or spirits. Wine intake would be in moderation and for special occasions but drinking wines with dinner is now common and it’s become an every-day item on the shopping list.
High alcohol in wines comes from hot climates that produce grapes with a higher sugar content.
These type of wines began to dominate the market with mass-produced brands such as Hardys , Sutter and, Gallo. Like bottled cola, you know it’s going to taste exactly as you expect every time you open a bottle.
So consumers came to expect full-strength to be 13.5% ABV and even up to 15% ABV. At this level a couple of glasses per day can easily push us over the recommended limit of wine per week.
Now the tide is changing
Wine lovers are seeking out lighter varieties and producers are scrambling to meet demand for alcohol-free and low-alcohol wines of 8% and 5.5% and the growing trend towards a non-alcoholic alternatives at 0.5 per cent.
Alcohol-free wines aren’t just grape juice. They go through alcoholic fermentation and all the stages of standard wines starting on the vine but then have the alcohol removed before bottling.
When you remove the alcohol, whether you de-alcoholise down to 8% or 0.5%, you will lose the body that alcohol provides to a varying degree.
You won’t get the chewy mouthfeel, the lingering on the tongue and the depth. But what you will get is the actual taste of the fruit and terroir which takes an expert pallet and a keen nose to detect in alcoholic wines.
What you are tasting overwhelmingly in alcoholic wines is alcohol which masks the flavours hidden deep in the glass.
Removing the alcohol doesn’t affect the other compounds such as resveratrol which is a component of wine and polyphenols that bring the antioxidant health benefits that reduce risk of heart attacks and high blood pressure.
Red wines present the biggest challenge in terms of maintaining the qualities and experience of alcoholic versions following de-alcoholisation.
However, the absence of alcohol brings the flavours to the fore. In alcohol-free red wines, you will taste the red fruit flavours of cherry, blackberry and raspberry and maybe tobacco, leather and chocolate.
You’ll still find tannins and original aromas but alcohol-free wine does benefit from decanting and aerating to bring out its best.
So, what should you choose?
Some of our favourite red wines from our range include Weinkoenig Merlot – a best seller – and Romance en Rouge – a bold, tannic blend that some customers find comes closest to the experience of an alcoholic red.
The Organic Cabernet Sauvignon – a richly flavoured, savoury wine with notes of pepper, leather and cocoa – is for a mature pallet. It’s not a crowd pleaser but if you’re looking for an alcohol free red with some umph to enjoy as a wine with dinner, this is the one.
You will miss the alcohol. If we’re all being honest, that’s what many people are looking for when they buy a bottle of alcoholic wine.
It’s easier to retain the original qualities in de-alcoholised white wine which have more floral notes, citric, or apple flavours and a buttery or mineral finish. To enjoy de-alcoholized wines, particularly in the case of alcohol-free sparklings, the benefit of chilling makes a big difference.
Some of our most popular whites include Romance en Blanc – a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes that has a pleasant, dry, citrus flavour similar to a Pinot Grigio.
It’s common in southern Spain to chill red wine. In fact in Andalusia the drink of choice during the warmer months is Tinto de Verano which is an iced red spritzer.
Alcohol-free red wines are generally recommended to be drunk at a cooler temperature than we’re used to with alcoholic reds.
Yes, there is an element of self-delusion but, if you can kid yourself that you’re drinking the regular stuff, you’ll be doing your body a favour and avoiding damage to your skin which can suffer from enlarged blood vessels.
Are the health benefits of alcohol worth the damage it causes?
Moderate alcohol consumption has been reported by some researchers to have some positive effects but more recent studies suggest these heart benefits are outweighed by the harmful effects.
Alcohol doesn’t just damage your liver – starting with fatty liver disease – when consumed to excess. Alcoholic can cause cancer even when we drink wine in moderation. The healthiest option is to avoid it.
Low risk drinking guidelines published by the Department of Health suggest that moderate drinking should be considered no more than 14 units of alcohol per week for both men and women to avoid adverse effects and health risks such as cardiovascular disease, increased risk of dementia and some types of cancer.
A single 175ml glass at 12% ABV is 2.1 units while a large 250ml glass is 3 units. Regularly consuming two glasses of wine at this level will qualify us as heavy drinkers and raise the chance of chronic disease
The World Health Organisation says that consuming one glass a day increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by 4 per cent. The risk increases with each additional glass consumed. Drinking half a bottle of wine increases the risk of breast cancer by 40 or 50 per cent
The UK’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, the first female in the post for 168 years, sparked controversy when in 2016, she recommended that women make a mindful decision when they reach for a glass of wine: ‘Do I want to increase my risk of breast cancer?’.
Despite some heart health benefits, it is the alcohol that raises the risk of coronary artery and heart disease, stroke, liver disease and cancer.