For the Best Nonalcoholic Wines, Look to the Land of Beer

May 25, 2024
Dining & Wine
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“Full-bodied reds with a lot of alcohol are harder to replicate because when you remove the alcohol you’re taking out the backbone of the wine; having a little oak and some tannins helps,” Mr. Jung said. Pinot noirs and the red blends from Kolonne Null, Carl Jung and Misty Cliffs from South Africa are pleasant choices. But the base line comparison is young Beaujolais, not aged Burgundy or Barolo. Reds without alcohol benefit from being served cool, always with food.

The Jung process, as he described it, involves more than just removing the alcohol. First, using a different patented technique, the aromas, which are even more volatile than alcohol, are released and captured. Then the alcohol is removed, the aromatic components are restored and the wine is bottled at a cold temperature. Often the wine is also sweetened with a little grape must. “You need the sweetening to have the proper mouth feel but our level of sugar is lower than many others,” he said.

For decades Weingut Carl Jung was alone in producing nonalcoholic wines. In the 1920s the winery began shipping its nonalcoholic wines to the United States, a market that dried up with the repeal of Prohibition. But there’s a new demand for beverages without buzz; for the last five years or so, Mr. Jung said he has seen continued growth, amounting to about a 35 percent increase annually in domestic and international sales for his company.

The consumers are mostly older wine drinkers cutting back for health reasons, combined with young people who are avoiding alcohol for a number of reasons, including driving. Having a glass of nonalcoholic wine eliminates much of the social pressure, Mr. Jung noted. At her new Manhattan restaurant, Lola’s, Suzanne Cupps offers a number of nonalcoholic choices on the wine list. “I want them and I’m sure some of my customers do,” she said.

But even in Germany, nonalcoholic wines are far from mainstream. They account for less than one percent of total German wine sales, Mr. Schindler of the trade group said. These days, in other wine-drinking countries, consumption of nonalcoholic wines could probably be measured by the spoonful though according to Fact. MR, a research company, by 2033 the market for nonalcoholic wines is expected to grow by 10 percent with 40 percent of sales in North America.

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