Fortune Business Insights reported earlier this year that the market for alcohol-free adult beverages will reach $1.2 trillion by 2027. While the boom is not yet so evident in the US, anyone living in Europe would not be surprised.
Signs for “Heineken 0.0%” have replaced their 4% peers outside many pubs. Supermarkets stock alcohol-free wines and ciders. And a brief panic overtook Ireland about a month ago, when Guinness announced a total recall of “Guinness 0.0%” due to concerns about “microbiological contamination.” Fortunately, the recall was restricted to just Guinness 0.0%, which is currently found only in the UK. Outside betting parlors and on park benches all over the Emerald Isle, a sigh of relief was heaved.
More on that in a moment. But first, what do you give a wine lover who has everything?
This week, resident expert Julien Miquel gives us his personal holiday gift guide (with none of the useless gadgetry clogging up most lists)… from the simple and elegant, to the one device that might actually change your life… some gifts to avoid… and one that never fails…
Drunk-driving laws grow stricter. The zeitgeist turns toward “wellness” and “gluten free.” For example, we have it on good authority that it is now perfectly acceptable for a grown German man to offer an alcohol-free pilsner to his friend, without the customary punch in the nose.
Faced with such a change in attitudes (not to mention our wife being pregnant), we decided to lean in this week and try an alcohol-free “sparkling chardonnay” called Opia Zero.
Note that we do not use the word “wine.” Rather, we discovered that the makers of Opia had simply made a juice out of (organic) chardonnay grapes, added extracts from yeast and citrus to give it some depth, pasteurized the entire thing to stop fermentation, then simply diluted it with sparkling water.
The result? No oak. No butter. No cloying syrup. It turned out to be one of the best chardonnays we’ve ever had. Add in some vodka, and now you’re cooking!
Equally as pleasing, yet not quite as drinkable, was another wine alternative we sampled: an authentic Irish fruit wine of blackberries and elderberries.
This one, thankfully, had alcohol in it, though only 11% (our malbecs can hit 16%).
If we had one word to describe Móinéir, it would be: plump.
On the nose, it smelled like blackberry and herbs. “Those herbs are actually elderberries,” remarked C. after a sniff. “They forage them locally.”
We expected a sweet, port-like wine on the palate. Instead, we were surprised to find Móinéir surprisingly tart... and delicious. Nothing like wine. But delicious.
As it opened up, the herby elderberry took the fore. We closed our eyes for a moment and imagined a little brambly cluster on a hedge row, bathed in morning dew.
Berry wines aren’t drinkable in the way a traditional grape wine would be. Though of excellent flavor, berry wines have a unique mouthfeel. There’s a thickness once on the tongue – plump, like syrup without the sweetness.
After two glasses, we were done. Yet, we kept the bottle. Perhaps, many months from now, when the sun shines again on the Emerald Isle, we’ll mix in a bit of Pellegrino and enjoy a glass outside for a few minutes before it rains.
Until next week,
The Wine Explorer