I bemusedly accepted my editor’s offer when asked to review a range of alcohol-free wine; bemused simply because I had never really taken the idea of de-alcoholised wine very seriously.
When compared to the ‘real thing’ these wines tasted weak and watery without the presence of 12-14% of ethanol to fill out the palate and satisfy the taste buds. In addition there was the quality factor. No maker of fine wine was going to subject his or her best barrels of wine to alcohol removal so that inevitably the sources of grapes for these products were never going to be from premium vineyards.
Removing the alcohol substantially changes the taste impact. Firstly bouquet and aromas are more subdued without the volatility provided by ethanol. Secondly, and more noticeably, the balance of flavours is altered without the richness of ethanol being present. Tannin levels, sweetness and acidity show up differently under these circumstances so that a degree of skill is required to adjust these factors in order to end up with a product likely to please.
When approaching the tasting I found it helpful to disregard these as wines per se. Wine is the product of fermented grape must (juice) and alcohol is a natural and integral part. Much better in my view to see them as non-alcoholic beverages with a health and flavour profile which have a definite niche in the market.
With my doctor’s hat on I can see the benefits of high vitamin C and E levels as well as the reduced calorie count (around half that of wine). It must also be a boon for those intolerant of alcohol and those who need to avoid it.
With my consumer’s hat on these drinks provide an extra dimension of flavour when accompanying food. Their relative dryness and wine flavours lend them to matching with food throughout a meal and if presented in good glassware look just as elegant on the table as any fine wine.
Rather than giving blow-by-blow tasting notes I thought it more appropriate for some general comments.
What I tasted was two bubblies – a sparkling rose and a sparkling cuvee (white), a Riesling, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay and a Shiraz.
All were clean and expertly made with no faults of oxidation or fermentation evident. The Riesling smelt like Riesling, the Sauvignon Blanc smelt just like Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnay and Shiraz showed aromas similar to their vinous counterparts.
On the palate the absence of alcohol showed up as a wateriness when compared to table wine but there were enough wine and grape flavours there to make a reasonable argument for food accompaniment. Both the sparkling wines I felt were the most convincing, the bubbles helping to compensate for the absence of alcoholic strength.
It is salient to point out that the Edenvale range is very reasonably priced. Dan Murphy’s website had them all at less than $10 retail. They are certainly affordable, eminently quaffable and bound to please their target audience.
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