Laithwaites Wine Club
Laithwaites Wine Club
Find the best prices on the drinks you want, enjoy exclusive voucher codes and make amazing savings

The joy of low and no alcohol beers, wines and spirits

By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr


low alcohol gin and tonic

Although "Dry January" is nearly over, many of my friends choose February as their alcohol free month. Probably because it is the shortest month!

Back in the 1980s I was involved in making non-alcoholic beer, which was successful, so we thought "should we put wine through the same treatment?" Basically we were vaporising the alcohol by subjecting beer or wine to high temperature, steam, and removing the alcohol as vapour. With beer, we were able to make vital final flavour adjustments, perhaps a little malt extract, and certainly some added hops or hop extract, for a little hoppy "bite".

With wine, adding back "winey" flavours was much harder, it generally involved some grape must, which was often sweet, but always tasted like grape juice. Some producers have used some oak , and some have even used tea, which has tannins like grape tannin. Indeed both Fortnum and Mason and Selfridges have good ranges of tea based non-alcoholic products, often sparkling.

Whilst a lot of progress have been made for no and low alcohol wine in the last forty years, the alcohol free beers have been far more successful quality wise, and there is now a great selection from Ale style beers like the excellent Suffolk brewer Adnams' Ghost Ship at 0.5% alcohol in Tesco, two great Pilsen/lager beers from Belgium, Leffe Abbaye Blond, £4.50 for 6 x 250 cl. bottles, and Stella Artois, which Tesco's have 4x 360 cl bottles for £3.50.

Adnams Ghost Ship 0.5%

Shop Adnams Ghost Ship 0.5% >

Leffe Blond 0%

Shop Leffe Blonde 0% >

Stella Artois Alcohol Free Beer

Shop Stella Artois Alcohol Free Beer >

For me the best non-alcoholic spirits are "gin" based, as all the flavourings, known as botanicals in the industry, are easily added back when alcohol is removed. Gordons make a good product, with ice, lemon and tonic, makes a good look alike G&T.

But the best is the original zero alcohol Sipsmith, widely stocked in Waitrose, Asda, Tescos, Sainsburys all at either £28, or £28.50 per bottle.

Gordons Alcohol Free Gin

Shop Gordons Alcohol Free Gin >

Sipsmith Alcohol Free Gin

Shop Sipsmith Alcohol Free Gin >

For low and no alcohol wines, I find the addition of "fizz" helps tremendously, Frexinet 0% sparkling is £4.50 in Tesco is one of the best, and is also stocked in Asda, and Sainsbury's and Majestic. The Frexinet 0% Rose is also excellent, and is stocked by the retailers above.

Freixenet Alcohol Free

Shop Freixenet Alcohol Free >

Freixenet Rose Alcohol Free

Shop Freixenet Rose Alcohol Free >

One of the first to develop no alcohol wines was Miguel Torres in Spain. They are one of the most reliable still and widely stocked under the brand name Torres Natura. £6 for a 75cl bottle. The full range, red, white and rosé are stocked by both Waitrose and Tesco.

Back when we were researching the best methods of retaining flavour, we found that as little as 0.5% alcohol made a big difference, and many brands still retain this tint touch of alcohol. But I have always enjoyed low alcohol products anyway. Asti Spumante is on 5.0%, as the sugar is not all fermented to alcohol, it makes a delicious cheese or dessert wine. Martin d'Asti is widely stocked in Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury and Morrisons all at around £8.50, and most stores also have an own label.

Martini Asti

Shop Martini Asti >

The other low alcohol wines I love are German Rieslings, normally 7.5 to 8.5% alcohol, if they are medium sweet. The fashion for dry Riesling or "trocken" makes those wines far more alcoholic, up to 11/12%.

Dr Ernie Loosen has good distribution for his wines. Dr "L" in Asda is £7, and only 7%.

Dr L Riesling

Shop Dr L Riesling >

Christopher Burr, MW

Christopher Burr, MW

Christopher has been involved in the wine business for over 45 years. He is one of only 502 MW’s from 31 countries worldwide. Learn more about his experience as a Master of Wine here.

Read more articles by: Christopher Burr, MW

Let us know what you think! Review or comment on this page


Laithwaites Wine Club