Over indulged throughout December? Nervously taking part in Dry January? Well, you’re certainly not alone. A growing number of shoppers are seeking out lower alcohol or alcohol free versions of their favourite drinks thanks to a shift towards a more mindful lifestyle.
However we all know that not drinking while everyone around you is, can be a little boring – especially if the only thing to wet your whistle is an overly sweet fizzy drink. But thankfully change is afoot and real progress has been made in this area. In fact the low and no alcohol revolution is set to be the biggest drinks trend next year, with a quarter of consumers looking to cut back on their alcohol consumption and one in 10 Brits attempting Dry January. Thanks to this growing number of people demanding sophisticated booze-free alternatives, supermarkets and producers are listening.
Waitrose & Partners reports that sales of low alcohol wines were up by 31 per cent in 2018 with recent research suggesting that 47 per cent of us avoid alcohol during the week, rising to 55 per cent among 18-24 year olds. Pierpaolo Petrassi, Head of Beers, Wines and Spirits at Waitrose comments, “We have seen a strong increase in demand for quality no or low alcohol drinks over the last year and are excited to offer our customers an innovative and wide range of choices.”
It’s important to point out that non-alcoholic wine tends to lack the complexity and length you’ll find in the real thing, so lower expectations accordingly. That said, there are a few things you can do to give it a fighting chance. In the case of white and rose wine, make sure the bottle is well chilled and serve in your nicest wine glass.
We found that wines with just 0.5 per cent alcohol tended to taste a little more like the real thing than their zero per cent counterparts – so if you’re not avoiding alcohol completely (i.e. for religious reasons) – we’d put our money here. However if you really just can’t bear to go that low, we’ve included a selection of naturally low alcohol wines (around 9% ABV and under). So as the saying goes, "less is more"!
Torres Natureo De-Alcoholised Muscat, 0.5%: £4.99, Waitrose & Partners
A big name when it comes to Spanish wine, Torres have turned their hand to alcohol-free varieties to complement the main range. Wines made from the muscat grape tend to be naturally lower in alcohol anyway, so it makes sense this is what was used as a base here. Rather unusually for wine, these grapes actually taste like grapes, and this sin-free version hasn’t lost too much of their signature style. Medium-sweet, as most low alcohol wine is, make sure this is well chilled before serving.
Rawsons Retreat Cabernet, 0.5%: £3.50, Tesco
If you’re a fan of Australian wine, this smooth cabernet from Rawsons Retreat is certainly worth a try. The fruity little number is made in the same way as the real thing, however before it reaches you they remove the alcohol, which results in a shorter finish than you’d find otherwise. At first glance you wouldn’t know this bottle of red contains only 0.5 per cent alcohol thanks to the conventional wine label.
Leitz Eins Zwei Zero Alcohol-Free Riesling Alc Vol, 0.0%: £6.99, Waitrose
The best way to enjoy this medium-dry wine is well chilled, perhaps even with a couple of ice cubes. Again, it looks the part with a proper wine label, so could slip pretty effortlessly into your next dinner party without causing too much of a fuss. Hints of lemon, lime and nectarine make this a good pairing with seafood or lightly grilled white fish. Try switching it for your regular wine at the next party you attend.
M&S Kendermann’s Alcohol Free Merlot, 0.05%: £3.50, Marks & Spencer
If your main reason for swerving the booze is for weight-loss, look no further than this booze-free merlot which contains just 26 calories per small glass (125mls). You can expect the familiar silky smooth notes of plums, cherries and even a hint of chocolate which make it a good match for pizza and tomato-based pasta. There’s also a sauvignon blanc and a rose in the range if you fancy mixing it up.
Buy in store
M&S Fizzero Rosé, 0%: £3.75, Marks & Spencer
New for January 2019 is this refreshing fizzy number from M&S. The rosé version uses a grape juice base before adding a touch of green tea which gives it it’s more complex flavour profile. A good party option, there’s also a white option which is a little creamier, with a touch of buttered toast and refreshing lemon – not too far off the tasting notes you’d get for a glass of champagne.
Buy in store
Harvey Nichols Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Chardonnay, 0%: £10, Harvey Nichols
One of the pricier non-alcoholic bottles we tried, this bottle certainly looks the part with its celebration style label. Whilst we wouldn’t describe this as having the complexity of our favourite sparkler, we liked it for the sweet fruitiness (think ripe tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango) and refreshing citrus notes. It would make a good mocktail base, add a sprig of spanked mint as garnish.
Dr Loosen Slate Hill Riesling 2017, 8.5%: 8.99, Majestic
Aromatic honeysuckle, ripe juicy peach and refreshing lime acidity make this an excellent example of a German riesling. That delectable off-dry sweetness is perfectly balanced with a crisp minerality you can’t beat. Be warned, the bottle will be gone before you know it – but at this naturally lower abv of 8.5 per cent, there’s no need to feel guilty. Great value.
Quinta de Santiago Vinho Verde, 9.5%: £10, Borough Wines
Vinho Verde’s are a great wine to hunt out if you’re looking for something on the lighter side. Easy drinking (particularly in the summer months), this Portuguese white wine is fresh with zippy acidity. As you’d expect, seafood is the perfect pairing, but we’d also suggest this at brunch in place of your regular prosecco or champagne thanks to its subtle spritz.
Tesco Finest Lambrusco Doc Frizzante, 8%: £7, Tesco
Proving that Lambrusco no longer deserves its slightly shady reputation is this bottle from the Tesco Finest range which recently picked up a silver medal at the International Wine Challenge. Coming in at just 8 per cent abv, this sparkling red from northern Italy is excellent with charcuterie or barbecued meats.
G.D Vajra Moscato d'Asti 2017, 5.5%: £18.50, Harvey Nichols
Fresh, fragrant and elegant, this low alcohol, light sparkler should be saved for special occasion desserts. With notes of ripe peach, apricot and baked pear, this is a pretty versatile wine that’s equally delicious with fruity pies as it is with coffee and chocolate based puddings. Slightly sweet but with a pristine acidity, expect a clean finish.
The verdict: Alcohol-free and low alcohol wines
Of the non-alcoholic versions we tried, Torres Natureo is a safe bet to see you through Dry January. Whilst the delicious Dr Loosen Slate Hill Riesling won’t work for every occasion, it’s well worth a try with your next spicy takeaway.
Stacey Smith is the founder of food & drink website Crummbs