June 30, 2023
Choosing the Right Dealcoholization Method
What’s Most Important and Where to Start?
Prompted by various factors such as warmer temperatures, the need for a balanced wine style, growing tax concerns, consumer trends, and the rising demand for fresher styles, the need to reduce alcohol levels in wine and other fermented beverages is growing. Luckily there are dealcoholization technologies on the market to not only remove alcohol for style preferences and to achieve overall balance and quality in the finished wine, but also to help with the unique considerations of making no- and low-alcohol products. When choosing a dealcoholization method, it is important to be sure that it meets the needs for your desired end product. BevZero offers several technologies and services that can be customized to your needs.
There are various processes available when reducing alcohol levels in wine at different stages in its production, including viticulture, pre-fermentation, fermentation, and post fermentation practices. At BevZero, we believe that to make a quality low- and no- alcohol wine, it is best to start with a fully fermented product. Flavors and aromas that are developed during fermentation can’t be obtained in any other way, so starting with a high-quality wine and removing the alcohol as gently and efficiently as possible will help to ensure a complex and balanced finished product.
Our dealcoholization processes can be used to remove a small or a large amount of alcohol depending upon the product and desired result. The two primary ways we serve our clients are:
- Alcohol adjustment: Reducing alcohol slightly as desired for product style preferences or for tax reasons. In this case, only a small amount of the total wine blend needs to be processed. For example in a warmer region, a wine that fermented to 15.5% ABV could be reduced to 13.9% to obtain the “sweet-spot,” allowing it to reflect the region it came from by avoiding higher levels of alcohol which may mask the desirable aromas.
- Low- or no-alcohol products: Removing a larger amount of alcohol to produce new wine styles. These offerings may vary from 7-10% lower-alcohol wines, all the way down to non-alcoholic wines at <0.5% or even <0.05% ABV.
The removal of alcohol produces structural changes in the wine, because when one of the main elements (alcohol) is removed, other elements are concentrated, such as total acidity and tannins. Careful selection of both wine and dealcoholization technology are important to help maintain quality and minimize any negative impacts of the alcohol removal. The two most common methods for commercial dealcoholization are membrane separation and vacuum distillation.
Among membrane separation techniques, reverse osmosis (RO) is the most utilized, with the advantage of working at low temperatures of approximately 8-10° The disadvantage is incremental alcohol reduction, with a max reduction of 6% ABV) as well the loss of volatile aroma compounds through the membrane. Reverse Osmosis is batch processed prior to maturation or blending, passing the wine through a fine porous membrane permeable to water and alcohol at pressure filtration (up to 4 Mpa), through the difference in molecular weight. Alcohol is removed by 0.7% to 1.5% ABV per pass, thus a 15% wine would take 8 passes to remove alcohol to 3%.
The vacuum distillation method is ideal because it can remove alcohol to <0.5% ABV. This method involves gently heating the wine to allow the separation of alcohol and water based on differences in the boiling point; thanks to the very low pressure obtained in our equipment, the maximum temperature reached is no more than 48ºC. The alcohol evaporates and is captured separately from the remaining dealcoholized wine. This technology combines a vast surface area, low temperature, and minimal residence time to avoid any thermal damage or stress to the wine. With experience, this method can be used to capture most of the volatile aroma compounds that can be added back to the dealcoholized wine, ensuring a more flavorful, aromatic non-alcoholic wine that retains more of its wine-like character. Alcohol can be removed from 15% to <0.5% ABV in a single pass. The two most effective and widely used technologies used in this sector are the SCC (Spinning Cone Column) and packed columns. BevZero offers both technologies to its customers.
The SCC is a vertical stainless-steel cylinder composed of alternating rotating cones that spread the wine out into a thin film, allowing rapid removal of the alcohol. The most volatile aroma compounds are extracted from the wine in a quick and gentle first pass, then the alcohol is removed in a second pass. The aroma components are then blended back into the wine.
Packed Columns consist of two or more columns as vertical stainless-steel cylinders, which are filled with packing material that provide a huge surface area, making distillation very efficient. This method is a continuous process and extracts the aromas and the dealcoholized wine in one single run.
The high capital costs of both vacuum distillation technologies and the need for dedicated staff and in-house dealcoholization expertise make purchasing the equipment viable only for companies dealcoholizing large volumes; for smaller volumes, the wine can be dealcoholized by an experienced service provider such as BevZero.
BevZero’s 30 years of experience in dealcoholization and working with hundreds of customers across the globe have given it an edge in developing high quality non-alcoholic products. If you are interested in learning more visit the BevZero website and social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn), or please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.