Category Archives: Alcohol Free and Low Alcohol Drinking

Alcohol Free and Low Alcohol Drinking

Please note that my blogs on Alcohol free and Low Alcohol Drinking have moved to here

In these blogs about alcohol free and low alcohol drinking, I will be looking at the production, choice and availability in the UK.

There are a number of reasons that we should take alcohol free and low alcohol drinking seriously.

Whether, you are a wholesaler or retailer of alcoholic beverages or are in the hospitality trade serving drinks to customers, you have a responsibility to encourage sensible drinking and you may find that offering a reasonable range of alcohol free and low alcohol beers and wines will boost your sales.

If I’m the nominated driver on a night out, I would choose a pub or restaurant that allows me to have a choice of alcohol free wine and beer rather than a kid’s drink as an alternative to wine or beer.

According to the NHS, 90% of men and 86% of women drink alcohol and I am no exception. There are times, however, when I and other people choose not to drink full strength alcoholic drinks:

  • Being the nominated driver;
  • Wanting to keep a clear head during business functions;
  • On a diet and other health reasons;
  • Alcohol addiction;
  • Not liking the taste of Ethanol aka alcohol which ‘burns’ the back of the throat;
  • Various other reasons including religious grounds.

Most pubs offer a choice of one alcohol free lager, most commonly Becks Blue yet there is a huge choice of others. Most, if not all German breweries offer a de-alcoholised version of their beers!

This shows a lack of imagination to attract drivers and non-drinkers into pubs when many are crying out for more custom. I will concede that pubs are traditionally watering holes for the consumption of ales, lagers and spirits. Hotels and restaurants have no excuse.

Hotels and restaurants in most cases, like pubs, will offer an alcohol free lager but do not offer alcohol free or low alcohol wines.  Hotels and restaurants are predominantly selling a meal combined with atmosphere.

Dining out with a glass of wine, is a magical experience, which is ruined when, as a nominated driver, you have to have a fruit juice or pop. It would be so easy to at least offer a simple alcohol free or low alcohol range of wine even if it’s merely a choice of white, red or rosé by the bottle.

Are non-alcoholic wines and beers totally free of alcohol? It is physically impossible to remove 100% of the alcohol from fermented wines and beers but all de-alcoholised wines and beers meet one of the UK legal definitions of a non-alcoholic beverage:

  • ‘non-alcoholic’ – no alcohol at all;
  • ‘alcohol free’ – is for drinks not above 0.05% abv (need to drink 100 bottles to be equivalent to drinking one bottle at 5% abv lager)
  • ‘de-alcoholised’ – is not above 0.5% abv (need to drink 24 glasses to be equivalent to drinking 1 glass of 12% abv wine)
  • ‘low alcohol’ – is not above 1.2% abv (need to drink 4 bottles to be equivalent to drinking one bottle at 5% abv lager or 10 glasses to be equivalent to drinking 1 glass of 12% abv wine)

To put things into further perspective, some orange juices have more than 0.05% alcohol and even an overripe banana can contain 1% alcohol and malt vinegar is 0.2% alcohol.

For those watching their weight de-alcoholised and low alcohol wines contain roughly one third the calaories of alcoholic wines.

The taste of de-alcoholised wine is lighter and less robust than wines with alcohol, so they will not satisfy all palates, however, I find them lighter and smoother and very easy to drink. I particularly like the fact that there is no acidic after taste or a burning feeling in the back of my throat caused by Ethanol (alcohol).

 The Process of Making Alcohol Free Wines

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The Process of Making Alcohol Free Wines

Please note that my blog’s on Alcohol free and Low Alcohol Drinking have moved to here

A question I am often asked is “What is the difference between Shloer and a de-alcoholised wine?”.

Shloer is a drink produced by blending grape juices to produce a non-alcoholic drink that is pleasant but is not wine and has not been produced the same way as wine.

On the other hand, de-alcoholised wine is produced as real wine with alcohol at the winery and then aged in wine barrels until it is mature enough for consumption. Much of the wine is then bottled for drinking as a fully alcoholic wine.

The remainder of the wine, wine not bottled as a fully alcoholic wine, goes through one of three processes to remove the alcohol at cool temperatures to avoid damaging the wines, either:

  1. Steam Vacuum
  2. Reverse Osmosis
  3. Centifugal Force (Spinning Cone)

The quality of the finished product can vary like any wine, however, de-alcoholised wine caught the attention of the wine world when Ariel Vineyards of California entered their de-alcoholised Ariel Blanc into an international professional wine competition and it won a Gold Medal against wines with alcohol!

The Steam Vacuum Process

This method is still used by Carl Jung Winery today and their de-alcoholised wines are readily available from the Alcohol-Free Shop by mail order or collection.

The vaporisation temperature of alcohol is lower than that of other liquids so , under normal circumstances, it would be necessary to boil wine at high temperatures to steam off the alcohol so damaging the delicate flavours. The Steam Vacuum process was pioneered in 1904 by Carl Jung. This process is done in a vacuum where vapourisation can be achieved at much lower temperatures. The wine therefore looses its alcohol but retains the characteristics and flavours that would be lost with normal boiling.  

Reverse Osmosis Process

This is the method used by Ariel Vineyards of California who have won several Wine Competition awards since winning gold medal at the 1986 Los Angeles County Fair. Their de-alcoholised wines are readily available from the Alcohol-Free Shop in Manchester by mail order or collection.

Some of ARIEL’s varietal wines are are aged in small oak barrels, and all are fined and filtered according to traditional wine making methods. Finally, more than 99.5% of the alcohol is removed through our gentle cold filtration process. This process, which uses reverse osmosis, allows alcohol to be removed from ARIEL while retaining many of the qualities found in traditional wine! Check out how ARIEL is made:

  1. The base tank is initially filled with wine.
  2. A pump pushes the wine into the reverse osmosis unit.
  3. The cylinders have membranes that separate a syrupy concentrate from the alcohol and water.
  4. The water and alcohol flow into a storage tank, and the concentrate is recycled 10-20 times.
  5. Finally, before bottling, fresh water is added to the concentrate, creating the finished product!

Reverse Osmosis Method

Centifugal Force (Spinning Cone) Process

This is a method used by Fre Wines of Napa Valley in California who’s de-alcoholised White Zinfandel wine won the gold medal at the 2014 Jerry D. Mead’s New World International Wine Competition. Their de-alcoholised wines are readily available at ASDA.

Pioneered in Australia, spinning cone technology uses a combination of centrifugal force and nitrogen gas to separate and preserve a wine’s essential flavours and fragrances during the de-alcoholisation process.

How it works:

  1. Finished wine is fed into the top of the spinning cone column;
  2. Rotating cones use centrifugal force to transform the wine into a thin film;
  3. Nitrogen gas is fed into the bottom of the column. When it comes into contact with the film, it extracts the wine’s delicate aromas and flavours and protects them from oxidization;
  4. The remaining liquid is passed through the column again, at a higher temperature to remove the alcohol;
  5. The flavour and aroma essences are recombined with the de-alcoholized wine and blended with unfermented varietal grape juice (to replace lost volume), creating a wine with less than 0.5% alcohol by volume.

Spinning Cone Method


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