"Only good wine can become non-alcoholic," says Felix Fischer of the Berlin company Kolonne Null. For more than four years, it has been dealcoholizing selected wines from Europe and researching the taste in its own laboratory. According to the cellar master, bouquet and aroma grape varieties are particularly suitable for non-alcoholic wines. More and more wineries, winegrowers' cooperatives and wineries are offering alcohol-free wines, as reported by Ernst Büscher from the German Wine Institute.
However, they are not yet served as often as sparkling non-alcoholic sparkling wines. According to Büscher’s estimates, the proportion of Riesling, rosé or cuvées without a percentage was still less than one percent of total German wine consumption in 2022. "However, with a growing tendency, as almost all providers report." In food retail, sales growth in 2022 was around 18 percent. However, there are no absolute numbers.
However, a forecast by the market research institute IWSR suggests annual growth of seven percent, says Michael Degen from Düsseldorfer Messe GmbH, organizer of the leading international wine trade fair ProWein. "No and Low Alcohol" is an important trend. "You can't get past it at all." The trade fair organizers have identified an increased health awareness and a changed consumer behavior of the younger generation as drivers of the trend.
"In addition to younger people, many women are also asking about alcohol-free wine," reports Wilhelm Keicher, sales manager from the Heilbronn cooperative winery. According to a representative survey by the market research institute Nielsen from 2020, women prefer non-alcoholic wine to men (60 to 66 percent).
There are also "people who like to drink wine, but where the doctor said it would be good if they stopped drinking wine," says Keicher. The individual cooperative sells between 80,000 and 100,000 bottles of non-alcoholic wine a year, six to eight percent of the entire production.
"Riesling is one of the bestsellers," says company co-founder and CEO Philipp Rößle from Kolonne Null. According to their own statements, the Berliners are now selling around 700,000 bottles - twice as many as at the beginning. "The lack of a sensible non-alcoholic meal accompaniment" is what brought Rößle, who actually comes from art, to the business idea.
"Alcohol-free wines are sometimes bought very rationally," reports Marian Kopp, Managing Director of the Lauffen Weingärtner cooperative. "You want to drink at a dinner party, but no alcohol." Alcohol-free wine is often a big disappointment. "We're just learning how the beer industry learned, which is 40 years ahead of us," says Kopp. "We are now where the disappointment is rapidly diminishing."
"Many people who want to avoid alcohol when drinking wine believe that they could drink grape juice instead," says Büscher. "But it only contains the fruity aromas from the grapes." It lacks the "vinous" taste that only arises through fermentation.
Thanks to new technologies and process optimization, dealcoholized wine tastes much better than it did a few years ago, says Büscher. "In the meantime, the dealcoholization of the wines is carried out very gently at relatively low temperatures of below 30 degrees Celsius by vacuum distillation or in a centrifugal cone column."
The German manufacturers are international leaders in production. About 15 percent of the volume of the wine was lost during dealcoholization, says Büscher, also with a view to prices.
For the taste, it is important to pay attention to aromatic grape varieties and good quality, so that as many aromatic substances as possible can get into the barrel and the bottle, says Büscher. In this way, the lack of alcohol in the wine can be compensated for a bit. "Because alcohol is a flavor carrier, like the fat in food."
"The industry wants the end product to be as close to the wine as possible," says Büscher. A lot is tried to get the aroma of the starting product even better. This also includes the addition of fruity aromas, vanilla or verjuice - a sour juice from pressed unripe grapes. "It has nothing to do with fruit wine," emphasizes Büscher. "It's 99.9 percent wine."
Lemon can be tasted with the alcohol-free Riesling with Rivaner from the Lauffener Weingärtner. The Jörg Geiger manufactory from Schlat in Baden-Württemberg also relies on flowers and herbs. Complex processes are also being tried in which the aroma of the distilled alcohol is recovered and added to the dealcoholized wine, as Büscher reports.
Legally, the wine must be called "dealcoholized" because it may still have a maximum of 0.5 percent by volume. This year it was included in the wine law. Wines to which aromas are added after the alcohol has been removed are not included. They are called, for example, non-alcoholic mixed drinks based on dealcoholized wine or dealcoholized flavored wine-based drinks.
Wines with little or no alcohol are in demand, especially on special occasions, away from home, with a good meal and at conferences, according to the industry. "My prognosis is that in five to ten years every winery will have a non-alcoholic wine in its range, just as it has a secco or sparkling wine today," says Büscher.