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Alcohol Free: Better Late than never

Alcohol Free Wine Header

This title is very much a self-confession of over-indulging but making a conscious effort to combat that, finally. When you’re in the wine business, it’s rather difficult to cut down on drinking as you feel you have to try as much as possible to keep up to date and your taste buds sharp. However, as we all know, the alcohol-free industry has been making great strides towards creating drinks that give the right sense, mood and tone that come with having an 18+ drink just without the 18+ element.

Who rules the alcohol-free world? Beers, Spirits or Wines?

One of the biggest things pulling this sector back for me has been taste. Beer arguably has it nailed and a simple look at alcohol free beer options versus wine quickly tells you where the expertise lies. In my local Tesco and tiny Sainsbury’s along Tooley street you’ll find entire shelves dedicated to alcohol-free beer with a minor half shelf for wine and spirits unceremoniously included. I’ve had and enjoyed a number: Alcohol-Free Guinness exudes the roasted coffee, mocha flavour and smooth, Nitrogen bubble led mouthfeel. Erdinger Alkoholfrei is a great wheat beer alternative which simulates wheat beer almost to the nth degree. I’ve recently found a love for the new Beavertown Lazer Crush too which has 0.3% alcohol and has some great IPA flavours. There are many of the beers I could go on about but that is not what I am here to talk about. I’m here for the currently neglected spirits and wines.

I’ve recently experimented with an alcohol-free rose and two premium alcohol-free spirits to see if they are A.) Really able to make you feel like you are having a drink and B.) Actually worth putting up a bit more money for. Find out below!

Everleaf Marine Spritz

This one is more of an aperitif and has been a fantastic evening relaxer in the mid-week. There’s a good reason it says crisp & refreshing on the bottle. I found it has a gently salted undertone of seaweed combining beautifully with the dominant floral and zesty layers of bergamot and sea buckthorn. It has a great savoury streak through giving it some weight and richness. The Juniper then gives it that gin-ny feel. And boy does it achieve that well. Just add some tonic and you will be transported to a world of premium quality gin.

Aim Achieved?
Mimics G&T? Perfectly - albeit flavoured
Able to convince you to delay drinking for just one more night? Most definitely
Value for Money? 9/10 – only because without the tonic it is not as convincing as the real thing.

All in all, a strong start. Currently Everleaf produce 2 other non-alcoholic spirits which I’ll be getting in the very near future. A lot of people may be put off by the price given that it is a similar price to something like Tanqueray. You may think, why should I pay as much for non alcoholic? Well, quite simply the difference is this tastes like the premium stuff. If it had alcohol, I have no doubt that it would be at Mermaid or Tarquin’s sort of price.

Everleaf Marine
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New London Light Aegean Sky

This comes from a background of great pedigree with the distillers of Salcombe Gin putting their expertise behind it. This is a spirit alternative with an Aperol-esque twist. For me the main flavour was bitter black olive skin. Not overtly in your face but shoring up the essence of the drink in the background, much like the bitterness of Aperol. Tropical citrus fruits stand out which is achieved through the addition of Kumquat and Blood Orange whilst rosemary dials up the herbal flavours on the end. It is less traditional in terms of gin flavours than the Everleaf, but then again, it isn't trying to be gin. It is delicious for those wanting something bitter and slower sipping.

Aim Achieved?
Mimics apéritifs? Gin and Aperol rolled into one
Able to convince you to delay drinking for just one more night? Perhaps even longer than just one
Value for Money? 8/10 – It begins to err on the more expensive side and lacks the advantage of traditional gin flavours as the Everleaf has. But, it beats any Aperol flavour I've had, alcohol included.

Like Everleaf, there are 2 more in the NLL range to try out including a direct gin alternative which may appeal to more people. But I couldn’t get pretty much the same thing twice. It is mildly more expensive than the Everleaf but I think it warrants it. The flavours are more pronounced and intense and it is generally more interesting to me. Plus it has the advantage of replacing both a gin and Aperol. It tastes super premium and again, if it had alcohol, I’m sure the price would be way up there.

Salcombe New London Light Aegean Sky
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New London Light & Everleaf

Not Guilty Rose

This is a pretty new brand that caught my eye for the rather amusing labels featuring animal mugshots. Alcohol free wine rarely appeals to me, much less so than the spirits, but if anything will convince me it’s a Panda on a label. Wine has largely been lacking in this sector and if you google for “best alcohol free wine” you’ll likely get the same results on each article. Why? Because there are so few to choose from. So, a new brand seemed worth a shot.

Unfortunately, I don’t think this is the one for me. Perhaps it is just the Rose, and the White and Red version will be more to my taste, I suppose I’ll have to find out. For me, it mainly had the flavour of grape juice, which is arguably not a shocker, but in wine you often don’t actually get a grape flavour. Think the sort of cranberry flavour from the red Schloer. This came with a little dry tartness which ought to appeal to bone dry Riesling and Sauvignon drinkers. But that is mostly what I got out of it. That said, it was easy to drink and refreshing so I think for Summer BBQs and the like this is not at all a bad option for drivers.

Aim Achieved?
Mimics wine? Not strongly enough for me
Able to convince you to delay drinking for just one more night? I’d stick with the alcohol-free spirits instead if you have them!
Value for Money? 10/10 – Sure, I’ve not been amazingly flattering, but the price is so ludicrously low and it is easy enough to drink to make the value worth it.

For the simple price alone, I’d recommend anyone looking to “Drink Better” to try at least one or all of the wines in this range. You have little to lose on wine under a fiver!

Not Guilty Alcohol Free Rose
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A few more Alcohol Free Wine options

I thought it would be worth mentioning some alcohol-free wines I’ve had in the past that I did actually enjoy somewhat more.

French Bloom

Selfridges have a low alcohol bubbly which is somewhat pricy but actually very good: The French Bloom Organic. At 0%, it still manages to taste like a very good quality Crémant with tropical and citrus fruits and a floral undertone.

French Bloom Organic
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Thomson & Scott Noughty Alcohol Free Organic Sparkling

This is creeping along Champagne lines and not a bad price either. Usually under £10, drivers can celebrate with everyone else on special occasions and still feel like they are having something with a bit of pizzaz. It doesn’t quite have the body or flavour richness of Champagne but for the price I don’t think you can expect that. You can just expect a good alcohol-free alternative that is also Organic! Double the good.

 Thomson & Scott Noughty Alcohol Free Organic Sparkling
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Updated 8th April 2024

David Andrews, DipWSET

David Andrews, DipWSET

David brings great enthusiasm to the wine industry, starting with Majestic Wine in 2019 and now joining us at Winesdirect in 2023. He has completed his WSET Diploma qualification and looking forward to share his expert knowledge and tidbits of the wine world.

As an industry enthusiast and expert, David also writes a regular blog on instagram. Check it out here @oinosattheoikos

Read more articles by: David Andrews

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