May 10, 2023
The Do’s and Don’ts of Making Non-Alcoholic Wines
How BevZero’s Team Can Help You Get It Right
Perhaps due to deep global cultural connections to the category, wine seems to be the most difficult in crafting a non-alcoholic version that mirrors the original. Consumers, especially those who love wine, are looking for NA wines that preserve the character and soul of the original wine rather than simply adding a lot of alcohol-free ingredients.
With that mission in mind, BevZero has been providing product development and dealcoholization services to customers building low- and no-alcohol brands for many years. Our team of global experts, including winemakers and food scientists, have gained valuable experience as to how to make the highest quality non-alcoholic products.
But before our talented team and powerful equipment can begin working its magic, BevZero has identified the most important factor in making a great no- and low- wine: Start with a great wine! Key elements that contribute to a great non-alcoholic wine include the original wine’s, flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, and aftertaste. The closer a non-alcoholic wine mimics these key factors the more satisfying the drinking experience. So how do we get there in creating a great NA wine?
To create a great NA wine, you have to first create a great wine.
Just like with any wine, a quality product starts in the vineyard. Selecting the best grapes that are ripe, healthy, and have good flavor will result in a premium wine and therefore a premium non-alcoholic wine. Additionally, using only the best winemaking practices and equipment, including the process to dealcoholize, will ensure your wine develops a complex and balanced flavor, which is not lost when alcohol is removed. Ideally, through the process, the less “intervention” of the wine, the better.
While dealcoholization can be considered an intervention, it is necessary to achieve a non-alcoholic product, when starting with a fermented wine. BevZero uses a method that is gentle and doesn’t affect the wines volatile flavors and aromas, which is key to maintaining the characteristics of the original wine. BevZero uses a vacuum distillation process that offers minimal intervention through low temperatures, short run times, and a single pass process. In this process, our experienced technicians and winemakers remove the alcohol while maintaining the aroma and flavor volatiles.
Some of the Challenges of No- and Low-
Because the removal of alcohol makes a significant structural change in the wine, other elements such as total acidity and tannins become concentrated, making the wine selection and technology management important in helping mitigate the changes with as little intervention as possible.
In addition to best-in-class equipment, an experienced team and starting with a high-quality product, BevZero has identified several other factors that are key in making great nonalcoholic wines:
- Fermentation provides important flavors and characteristics to the finished wine, so it’s important to make sure the wine was fermented cleanly. If there are flaws in fermentation, they’ll be amplified during the concentration that occurs in the dealcoholization process. Contamination by Brettanomyces or other undesirable yeast and bacteria can produce off flavors that remain in the wine. Wines that contain excessive sulfides should also be avoided.
- Wines starting with lower acidity are often better because the dealcoholization process concentrates the wine’s natural acidity. A high-acid wine will make a very sour non-alcoholic wine, which then needs to be balanced with sweetness or acid removal.
- Dealcoholization and formulation can both impact cold and heat stability, depending on the base wine and ingredients being added. BevZero recommends testing and confirming stability during development and production.
- Has the wine been fined with bentonite, proteins for tannin removal, or any other fining agents? This is helpful to know because some red wines can have filterability and tannin precipitation issues when dealcoholized; if they have been clarified or protein fined this can make them easier to work with.
- Be careful of extended maceration and oak content. In red wines, the phenolics will concentrate. These characteristics are great in a full-alcohol wine, but can be overwhelming when concentrated in a dealcoholized wine. Winemakers should consider using less new oak and lighter toasts when barrel aging wines intended for dealcoholization, or stainless steel aging and using oak extracts during product development.
- Analytics for the wine are very helpful including free and total SO2, pH, titratable acidity, sugar, volatile acidity, potassium, and copper. These can give the winemaker helpful indications of how well a wine will dealcoholize, how much adjustment it may need, and whether or not it is suitable for different packaging options, especially cans. For example, a high-copper wine will need to be fined to make it suitable for canning, while a high-sugar wine is more susceptible to microbial growth between dealcoholization and packaging. Additionally, high pH decreases the antimicrobial effectiveness of SO2, but a pH that is too low can increase the chances of reduction issues in canned products.
- It is essential to do trials before dealcoholization to provide a good vision of what kind of non-alcoholic product the wine will make. The BevZero team has the experience and equipment to help with this process.
- The best wine styles suited for non-alcoholic wines are very aromatic, full-fruit driven wines with medium acid, and red wines with soft tannins. Consider when creating a non-alcoholic white wine to blend in very aromatic wines, such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Viognier, or Muscat. Utilizing aroma boosting yeasts and other fruit-forward and big, aromatic winemaking and vineyard techniques are effective.