There are some good non-alcoholic wine options, but they’re not at the LCBO
Ever think of pouring yourself a glass of non-alcoholic wine? Me either. Largely because most non-alcohol vino is dire. Frankly, wines without alcohol tend to fall flat. But exceptions exist.
St. Regis de-alcoholized wines have been around for ages in grocery stores, and usually disappoint. But the St. Regis Sparkling Secco with its tasteful label and foil capsule is surprisingly quite good. Each glassful gleams the palest shade of butter yellow and exudes the fragrance of candied lemons, pineapple and a touch of white flowers. The racy entry offers a mouth-watering hit of refreshment — vivid and vivacious —with a touch of sweetness for balance. The lemon-lime-pineapple flavours taste sheer and delicate enough to suggest wine—and not soda pop. Score: 90
St. Regis Sparkling Secco is sold at Longos ($12.99/750mL) and at Well.ca ($9.99/750mL).
For a cute, single-serve bottle of bubbly — sans alcohol — there’s Gruvi Dry Secco. Unlike St. Regis’s de-alcoholized version, Gruvi was never wine to begin with. It’s simply a blend of spring water, white grape juice concentrate, natural flavours, citric acid and carbon dioxide. As a result, it’s not quite as complex as the St. Regis. But it’s zippy and well-balanced.
Pale straw in colour, Gruvi Dry Secco smells faintly of fresh peaches and sliced pears, and the attack is bright and lively. Though the drink isn’t dry like the label says, it does strike the right balance between sweet and sour. Juicy orchard fruit flavours taste quenching and lifted, and a gentle astringency on the finish lends a bit of grip and interest, making it food friendly. This is a less complex and “winey” option than the St. Regis, but it’s still a decent drop. And the format is handy and appealing. Score: 89
A new wine-adjacent option well-worth your attention is the Silver Swallow Luxury Kombucha Deluxe Blanc with 0.5 per cent alcohol. Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage, and Silver Swallow is made from hand-picked, white tea buds from Yunnan, China. Bottled like a sparkling wine, the result is quite elegant and sophisticated-tasting.
In the glass, Silver Swallow is slightly hazy and the colour of sunlit straw. The fragrance is coy and subtle with quiet suggestions of white tea and honey. Then, it sweeps in cool, crisp and understated, with fleeting notes of gentle white and green tea, dry hay, honeydew melon, wildflower honey and a little passion fruit lift. A touch of sweetness lends gloss to the drink’s texture. Impressive pour indeed. Score: 92
Silver Swallow Luxury Kombucha Deluxe Blanc is available online at silverswallow.co ($57.00/3x750mL) and at upscale grocery stores such as six of the seven Whole Foods Markets in Ontario ($19.99). It’s also served at such smart hotels as Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa and the Ritz-Carlton Montreal.
Note that none of these winelike drinks are available at the LCBO. Though it would be nice to see a selection of non-alcoholic wines at the liquor store, they don’t stock many. They are, after all, in the business of selling alcoholic beverages — not fruit juice and kombucha. When I asked the liquor giant for a list of non-alcoholic wines, only three were on it, all of which have been delisted and are either sold out now or almost gone.
That said, you might still be able to find some of the Darling Cellars De-Alcoholised Rosé from South Africa (LCBO 18948 $11), which is excellent. This Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache blend shines a coral hue and swirls with scents of sliced strawberries and cantaloupe. The attack is bright, crisp and citric with allusions of red berries and pastry unfurling. A touch of smoke and stone on the finish gives a sense of complexity and finesse. Score: 90
Non-alcoholic wine is tough to do well, it seems. Often, it lacks structure and complexity. After all, winemakers work hard to balance all the technical components of a wine, which include alcohol, fruit concentration, acidity, sugar and, in some cases, tannin. It’s never as easy as simply taking the alcohol out.
But it’s nice to know that those who would like a good glass of something winelike without the alcohol now have some serious options.