So, how is alcohol free wine made if there’s no fermentation stage or aging or residual sugar and all that mess? Well, actually there is all that mess. Non alcoholic wine goes through all the processes of normal winemaking, but then goes through a reverse distilling process. When you distill liquor you heat the mash and trap the vapor that is released. This then cools back to a liquid as alcohol. Then you throw out the mash. With making alcohol free wines the same process is used, but instead of discarding the wine must and keeping the alcohol, you discard the alcohol and bottle the juice.
The thing about alcohol free wines is that they aren’t 100% alcohol free. I think they call that a misnomer. The preferred term by the few wine makers producing these wines is dealcoholized wines, as the wines still contain a trace amount of alcohol. The same term applies to “non-alcoholic wine”. The actual percentage of alcohol in a dealcoholized wine is about 0.5 percent. Oddly enough, this same percentage is found in one glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. As a plus, the calories in one glass of dealcoholized wine amount to about half of a regular wine. This is great news if you are counting your calories. Another big commendation to these wines comes from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which states that the red varieties are beneficial to your heart health.
There aren’t a lot of these wines roaming the earth but more and more wineries are making the effort to offer non-drinking consumers the choice to enjoy alcohol free wine. I say choice, whereas many might suggest the term luxury, but these wines are not luxury items by far. The few processes in practice through which the alcohol is removed is deleterious to the textures and flavors of the wines. The wines are not subtle enough to balance the delicacy between body and mouthfeel like real wines. One reason is that alcohol plays a large role in the characteristics of a wine. It can give a wine viscosity and fullness.
That’s not to say you can’t find palatable wines that are low in alcohol. I can’t tell you what the best alcohol free wine is, but I can point you in the direction of the more popular ones. I would look into the Fre wine products by Sutter Home. Fre makes an alcohol free red wine, white wine, an alcohol free sparkling wine and I believe a blush wine in White Zinfandel, also alcohol free. They source their grapes from the Trinchero vineyards, so you’re talking about decent wine grapes here.
The wine makers at Fre don’t heat their wines to separate them; they use a spinning cone column, a steam distillation technology made of spinning stainless steel columns through which steam is pumped up at the bottom as the wine enters the top. The alcohol is “spun” out of the wine and evaporates. This process preserves the aromas and flavors of the wine because it uses low temperatures near the must and higher temperatures where the alcohol is removed. As the spinning cycle finishes the remaining particles fuse back with the unfermented grape juice where you end up with the full flavors and aromas of a premium wine.
Another process includes Reverse Osmosis (RO). It involves pushing wine through a filter in the form of steam to remove impurities (read alcohol) based on how small the molecules are in the makeup of the impurities. Water being the smallest of wine particles passes through first. Alcohol molecules are larger so they don’t pass through the filter and are discarded. To prevent blocking the filter, a cross filtration is needed. This is where the wine is recirculated through the filter over and over until the wine reaches its dealcoholized level.
Ariel non alcoholic wine is another adjunct to the dealcoholized wine genre that uses the R.O. method. Another is Eisberg, a German producer. Oh, here is the Ariel site. Yet another German producer, Carl Jung, has been producing alcohol free wine since 1903.
Believe it or not, you can even find a dealcoholized mulled wine, but I don’t know why on earth anybody would want an alcohol free mulled wine. It’s hard enough to put down that heated German favorite.
One thing I have not come across is an alcohol free Champagne. The closest thing is the sparkling wines produced by the aforementioned houses.
As to where to buy alcohol free wine, well any large chain grocery store should have it. Not club stores like Walmart, but your Krogers, Food Lions, Safeways, whatever’s popular in your neck of the woods.