What’s Up With Zero Alcohol Wine?

non alcoholic winesI’ve never understood non-alcohol wine. Isn’t it just grape juice? I know fermentation changes the chemistry of the wine in addition to converting sugar to alcohol, but are the changes sufficient to make it taste like something worth paying more for?  Well, thanks to the heroic efforts of David Morrison and his wife, we have an answer to that question. In a word, no.

David and his wife purchased 39 “wines,” red, whites, rosé, and sparkling and proceeded to taste all of them over the course of a week. The results were underwhelming:

Starting with the reds (9 wines), all of them tasted awful, although the Domaine de la Prade is drinkable. They all tend to taste the same, irrespective of grape or geographic origin — that is, they taste like grape juice, not wine….The whites (9 wines) are definitely a step up, as they can handle the grapey fruitiness, by being chilled. However, they also tend all to taste the same, irrespective of grape or origin — they do not taste anything like the nominated grape, unlike wine. This is not to say that they are not a refreshing beverage, of the simple and fruity type (although the Santa Monica was a bit acidic).
The rosé drinks (5 wines) are very similar to the whites, and thus similar comments apply.

Only the sparkling wines were marginally acceptable. And of course none of them have much aroma since, in wine, alcohol delivers the aroma esters.

I get why some people want to avoid alcohol. Some people really should avoid it; it isn’t for everyone. But it’s odd to prefer processed grape juice over grape juice. Is it the ritual of pulling the cork or the attractions of the bottle or label that make it compelling. Perhaps these are props that allow the drinker to imagine they’re tasting wine. I suppose an imaginary wine is better than no wine at all.

Someone must be buying it; sales are steadily increasing. But the psychological mechanisms behind it are peculiar.

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