Sobriety is trending and more people are taking stock of their alcohol consumption. As such, low and non-alcoholic drinks are growing in popularity, and you may have come across a bottle of “dealcoholized wine” at your local shop. But what is it exactly? Wine labels have a history of intimidating casual drinkers, and the dealcoholized stuff is no exception. If you’re cutting back on alcohol, we strongly suggest you read on for a full breakdown of the different low and no-alcohol wines on the market, plus a few of our favorite dealcoholized picks.
What Is Dealcoholized Wine (And Is It the Same Thing as the Non-Alcoholic Stuff)?
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What Is Dealcoholized Wine?
Dealcoholized wine refers to wines that have had some or all of their alcohol content removed after the regular fermentation process is complete. In other words, these are regular wines that undergo an additional step to “dealcoholize” them, such that they have an Alcohol by volume (ABV) of 0.5 percent or less (but more on that later). According to the experts at AdvancedMixology.com, there are three major methods that manufacturers can use to accomplish this:
- Vacuum distillation involves heating the wine to essentially cook off the alcohol. Ideally, the wine will be heated to the lowest temperature at which alcohol evaporates. Still, wine is a fickle liquid that can easily lose its balanced taste when heated, so dealcoholized wine made using this technique might look and taste different than regular wine. Fruit flavors that taste stewed rather than fresh are a telltale sign that the wine used the vacuum distillation method.
- Reverse osmosis is a process that involves using extremely high pressure to force the alcohol and water to separate from the rest of the wine. Only then is heat used on the alcoholic water until ethanol evaporation is achieved and the (now alcohol-free) water is returned to the wine. This method has the benefit of not exposing the delicate elements in wine to heat and thus maintaining a more authentic flavor.
- Spinning cone technology is an advanced distillation process that uses steam and vacuum conditions to extract the alcohol without exposing the wine to high pressure or temperatures for prolonged periods of time. This method is particularly gentle and yields an especially tasty finished product.
Regardless of the method used to produce it, it’s important to note that dealcoholized wine is not just grape juice. While the taste and color may differ slightly from regular strength wine, it does have the tannins and other flavor elements found in standard vino, which means it’s a great way for wine-lovers to imbibe without worrying about the detrimental health effects of alcohol consumption.
Is Dealcoholized Wine Different Than Alcohol-Removed Wine?
No, which should come as no surprise given that dealcoholized wine, as described above, is wine that has had its alcohol removed. Indeed, “alcohol removed” is just another way of saying “dealcoholized.” In other words, these two terms are synonymous and you might encounter them both on the label.
And What Exactly Does Non-Alcoholic and Alcohol-Free Mean?
Think of “non-alcoholic” as an umbrella term for wines with 0.5 percent or less alcohol by volume. FDA regulations stipulate that a wine must meet this criteria in order for its label to read “non-alcoholic,” “dealcoholized,” or “alcohol-removed.”
Still, not all non-alcoholic wine has been dealcoholized; there are non-alcoholic wines that contain no alcohol to begin with, which is the case when the alcohol content was reduced during, not after, fermentation—either by reducing fermentation sugar or using an interrupted fermentation process.
As for “alcohol-free” wines, the FDA says that the term can only be used when the product contains no detectable alcohol whatsoever. In other words, "non-alcoholic" and "alcohol-free" are not one and the same.
5 Dealcoholized Wines to Shop Now
This bottle of sparkling wine was thoroughly dealcoholized—the ABV is 0 percent, hence the “alcohol-free” designation—and is as dry and lean as a prosecco, with fine bubbles to match.
The rose cousin of Thomson & Scott’s sparkling chardonnay has little residual sugar, making it a clean, dry and oh-so refreshing choice.