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We at Wildflower Wine Club believe that being a wine drinker is more
than the ABV (alcohol by volume) in our glass, and we say cheers
to having options of our favourite drink if it means we can
celebrate with friends and family even more.

Considering wine is our favoured choice of glassware for summer parties, the idea of back-to-back lunches, dinners and picnics feels exhausting, for body, mind, not to mention the morning after.

Up to only recently, if you wanted to take a break from alcohol the options were a sugar-laden soft drink, juice, or soda water with lemon which can get very dull. Alcohol-free beer seems to have cracked the code and is commonplace, but what about wine?

We are big advocates of moderation, it’s all about quality not quantity. Drinking less alcohol is just better for us – ensuring a decent sleep, more radiant skin and a happier liver.

Whether you want to give up alcohol for a week, a month, or life; for health reasons, perhaps you’re the designated driver for the evening or you just want to feel good in the morning, what are your choices?

But what does ‘alcohol-free’ mean? The UK government guidelines consider any drinks under 0.5% ABV as ‘non-alcoholic’ (keep in mind a ripe banana or fresh orange juice has higher trace amounts of alcohol, so we aren’t talking much). ‘No and low’ alcohol is one of the fastest growing drinks categories in the world today. According to a recent study published by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, ‘low and no’ alcohol products is growing by more than 7% (in volume) globally and has surpassed £9 billion in value.

To date, a lot of alcohol-free wine has been mass produced and is well, uninspiring – flat, watered-down grape juice, that can be loaded with sugar. But times are changing, there’s a new and talented group of wine maestros in town leading the alcohol-free revolution.

Here we speak with four British brands revolutionising this new drinks category where alcohol-free wine can be premium, tasty and look great in both a flute or wine glass.

As we say, moderation is the key to enjoying wine. Avoiding long-term health risks is a great motivation to include some premium alcohol-free wine in your social routine and wine collection.


How is alcohol-free wine made?

Most alcohol-free wine is made in one of two ways. ‘De-alcoholised’ wine starts as a wine that has gone through all the normal production steps of harvesting, pressing and fermentation, resulting in a wine with alcohol.

This is when the fun part starts. The alcohol is removed from the base wine via a gentle yet labour-intensive centrifugal process that breaks down the wine’s components and puts them back together again without the alcohol.

This is also why some alcohol-free wines are not cheap…. an added layer of serious production, time and resource is required to create the final wine.

The dealcoholisation process can affect the delicate aroma and flavour characteristics you find in fermented wine. Alcohol is the backbone of wine, removing it can remove everything that makes wine great – body, texture flavour and aromas – however new innovation and science means the art of creating alcohol-free wine that tastes and feels similar to its more heady cousin is now more commonplace than a few years ago.

Technology is one part of the equation, it is up to the winemaker to taste and blend in what they feel will create the final desired quality – they have an unlimited choice of natural flavours, botanicals and more to create their magic …… all in all it’s ingenious stuff.

The second option of making alcohol-free wine is to work with grape must that has not gone through the fermentation process, blending in aromatics and natural ingredients to create a ‘wine-based’ drink. These tend to be zero alcohol, compared to around 0.5% ABV of de-alcoholised wines.

Whichever way an alcohol-free wine is made, at the moment it seems to suit sparkling, rosé and white wines better than still red wine, possibly due to the naturally high levels of acid, lower body and concentration expected in sparkling and light white wines.


What does it taste like?

We need to consider how a wine feels as much as it tastes. Considering alcohol is the heart and soul of wine, alcohol-free wine can feel thinner and taste sweeter in comparison. Sugar can offer body and flavour, but over-zealous scoops have been the thorn in the side of alcohol-free wines of old.

To combat this, aromatic whites (such as Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat) and warm climate, medium bodied reds (Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon) are preferred for alcohol-free wines as they can offer more fruit and texture – no wonder Australia was an early adopter of the category, however as the technology and science behind alcohol-free wine has improved, and sugar is no longer a key driver – other grape varieties have come into play.

Sparkling has so far been the winner in the alcohol-free wine category, the bubbles naturally create texture and a sense of freshness. Making a good still red wine without alcohol has proven more difficult – alcohol is what helps to balance the fruit, acid and tannins in red wines.

But let’s take a step back, alcohol-free wine is not wine as we know it. We need to approach alcohol-free as a completely new drinks category and rather than going in with a glass half-empty-of-wine approach, understand that the concept of wine is at the heart of this new category, yet it is more subtle and varied. Other than the glass you may serve it in, alcohol-free wine is not your average wine.


The future looks light

Mocktails and zero-alcohol beers are very much accepted today. In comparison, alcohol-free wine is a small yet fast growing category, aligned to more innovative production methods and passionate winemakers. This growth trajectory is unlike anything the wine world has seen and has taken many by surprise, with producers racing to get on the bandwagon.

The trend to drink less or not at all is thought to be led by Millennials and Gen-Zs, however older adults see it as a more responsible way to live and socialise, as much as for health reasons as a way to regulate their drinking options.

The trend is moving towards moderation, of alternating between alcohol and alcohol-free occasions. Offering a stylish option on alcohol-free days is now a reality with sophisticated brands offering grown-up, premium alcohol-free wines that pair just as well with a celebration as they do with food.

UK producers leading the way

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Thomson & Scott Noughty

This pioneering British wine brand was one of the first to launch as alcohol-free, offering organic, vegan, halal wines with low sugar … a lot more respectable than its ‘Noughty’ namesake suggests.

CEO and Founder, Amanda Thomson established Noughty as a fan of Champagne, but not its side effects. “At the time, there were no premium, quality alcohol-free alternatives to Champagne. I hunted high and low but couldn’t find anything that came up to my expectations of what a good Champagne-style wine could taste like without the alcohol. I decided to create my own alcohol-free sparkling wine brand initially, before moving on to still wine, that was not only elegantly crafted but was also low in sugar and ethically produced”.

Champagne continues to be an inspiration for Amanda’s wines with Chardonnay used in her sparkling. The grapes for her Sparkling Chardonnay and Rosé are grown and harvested in Spain, and de-alcohlised in Germany; and her still wines are produced in South Africa..

For her still red wine, a robust black grape variety was needed to create body and tannins – Syrah from South Africa was chosen, that said, continues Amanda “you end up with something much finer and elegant than an alcoholic Syrah wine – the trick is that it beautifully retains the vinous qualities.”

Maintaining their pioneering spirit, the latest Noughty wine to launch is a Provence-style still rosé, which “effectively completes the portfolio, as we can now offer two sparkling wines, both Brut and Rosé as sparkling alternatives and three still wines, a red, a white and a rosé”, says Amanda.

A top seller at Waitrose and found in some of the coolest bars, restaurants, hotels and spas across Europe, Australia and North America, Noughty is raising the bar for the alcohol-free wine revolution in more ways than one.

Thomson & Scott Noughty


The taste test

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Noughty Sparkling Chardonnay 0% ABV £9.25

A lovely pop leads to aromas of green apples, pears and burnt toast.

A dry palate folds into more herbaceous notes balanced with generous texture and a delicate brioche finish.

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Noughty Sparkling Rose 0% ABV £9.50

** Wildflower Wine Club choice of the sparklings tasted

A deep salmon colour bubbles in the glass. Made from organic Tempranillo, aromas of red cherry and redcurrant fold into an off-dry mouthfeel of red fruits and herbaceous notes with a long brioche finish.

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Noughty Blanc 0.5% ABV £9.95

A near equal blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay lends an elegance to this light wine, its aromas of yellow apple, lime and chamomile lead to a fresh minerality alongside honeysuckle, citrus and jasmine on the palate.

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Noughty Rosé 0.5% ABV £9.95

Primarily made from Chenin Blanc with a splash of Pinotage, showing its South African roots, this still, light rosé offers hints of ripe summer berries and sour apples giving way to tart strawberries with a lingering finish.

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Noughty Rouge 0.5% ABV £9.95

Inky ruby in the glass, aromas of rich red plums, sweet, candied raspberries and tobacco hints to its Syrah base.

An off-dry palate integrates well with high acidity and a velvety vanilla backbone folding into raisins and burnt tobacco with a sour cherry finish.

ZENO Wines

ZENO is one of the latest alcohol-free wine brands on the scene with research, science and technology in its DNA.

With grapes originating from central Spain, the first release of ZENO wines scored medals at global wine competitions with accolades pouring in for their innovative approach.

Born out of a desire to give up drinking alcohol without compromising a social life, yet unable to find a wine to suit his palate, Founder & CEO, David Hodgson teamed up with wine expert, Will Willis and brought in a Master of Wine and trained chemist, Jane Masters MW to launch ZENO.

So what makes ZENO unique? “Zeno wines are single estate and vintage specific” says David, and after our taste test (see below), ZENO is a sophisticated option where the balance, concentration and finish are elegant and refined. Their aim is to show the regional expression of the Macabeo and Tempranillo grapes used, to “produce a sophisticated expression of the wine, without the alcohol“.

We like our wines to have integrity with minimum intervention… after de-alcoholisation, we blend batches to arrive at the optimum style (and) achieve intensity and balance, accentuating some of the desired varietal characters”, explains David.

ZENO wines

 

The Taste test

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ZENO Alcohol Liberated Sparkling NV 0.5% ABV £12.49

Popping with fine bubbles in the glass, aromas of elderflower fold into green apple and pear.

The palate shows a touch of sweetness yet retains a fresh balance between the zingy texture of lime and a long biscuity finish.

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ZENO Alcohol Liberated White 0.5% ABV £10.49

** Wildflower Wine Club choice of the whites tasted

Softly aromatic, this is a refined, elegant expression of Viura, the nose shows elderflower and mandarin orange notes alongside hints of lemon, lime, pear and apple.

A generous concentration of flavours balance with a fresh, off-dry mouthfeel and long herbal and lime finish.

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ZENO Alcohol Liberated Red 0.5%ABV £10.49

** Wildflower Wine Club choice of the reds tasted

Vibrant ruby red in the glass with a floral nose mixed with strawberry and black pepper.

The dry palate flows into candied raspberries with a green pepper, almost grassy edge, finishing with a lingering note of sour red cherries.

Wednesday’s Domaine

Wednesday’s Domaine’s founder, Luke Hemsley loves “a glass of wine, spending time with friends and cherishing the chance to unwind, but as I get older, I also know that’s better suited to the backend of the week. Priorities change, so here’s to doing both, just slightly differently and without the alcohol on occasion.”

The two alcohol-free wines from Wednesday’s Domaine are created by blending de-alcoholised wines from La Mancha, Spain with natural flavours, and in the case of the red, tannins are blended to create a wine with the body, flavours, aromas and complexity often lost when alcohol is removed. .

They’re balanced and pair beautifully with food – all that’s missing is the alcohol” says Luke.. We’re on a mission to become people’s midweek wine alternative and in doing so, we need to ensure that our customers are able to feel like they’re enjoying a glass of wine, content in the knowledge that they won’t feel the downsides the next day”.

Wednesday’s Domaine



The taste test

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Wednesday’s Domaine Piquant 0.04% ABV £13.99

Made from Airen Blanco grapes, this is a light, simple, yet elegant expression of a crisp, clean alcohol-free wine showing hints of pear and green pepper on the palate, with notes of toast on the finish.

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Wednesday’s Domaine Sanguine 0.18% ABV £13.99

Almost cloudy in the glass, this Tempranillo based alcohol-free wine is a fruit bomb of strawberry, sour plums with a peach-like aroma.

Off-dry on the palate, cooked red fruits fold into an unusual, but not unpleasant, canned peach flavour.

Wild Idol

In the words of Wild Idol, their wine is all about ‘positive partying’ and ‘conscious hedonism’, concepts we can definitely get on board with.

Paul Beavis, CEO of Wild Idol and his team were inspired to create “a high-quality drink that people could enjoy with friends on a night out or a special occasion that is alcohol free and delivers superior taste and style”.

Compared to de-alcoholised wines, “(Wild Idol) wines have never contained alcohol….Wild Idol has never been fermented. We wanted to ensure that the wines were produced in the purest way possible. Our mission is to provide a premium option for those wanting to opt for an alcohol-free wine”,

The Wild Idol team create their minimal intervention, naturally alcohol-free wine by blending high quality grape juice with ingredients such as aromatics, natural wine vinegar and rectified grape must to showcase their expression of alcohol-free wine. Its complexity and body are thanks to fruit-forward varieties such as Dornfelder, Merlot and Muller-Thurgau, along with some impressive blending expertise and science to create those magical bubbles.

And the future of the alcohol-free wine category? “We expect the category to continue to grow as consumers lean towards more conscious drinking habits. it’s an exciting time for alcohol-free brands!”

Wild Idol

 


The taste test

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Wild Idol Sparkling White 0% ABV £29,99

This beautifully designed bottle opens with a lovely pop of sparkling magic.

The fruit-forward Muller-Thurgau grape variety provides an aromatic nose of sweet peach, apples and cooked pear leading to a medium-sweet palate where notes of green apple continues to dominate.

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Wild Idol Sparkling Rosé 0% ABV £29.99

This award-winning sparkling is Muller-Thurgau-dominant, with a splash of Dornfelder and Merlot.

Aromas of peach and cooked apples lead to an off-dry palate of gooseberry and rhubarb with a well textured finish of red cherries.