If you or anyone you know is giving Dry January a try, you might be hearing about a lot of different products like non-alcoholic cocktails, non-alcoholic beer, and dealcoholized wine. If you’re like me, the only alcohol-free product that was still like alcohol on the market when you hit 21 was O’Doul’s and you were never quite sure how it was made.
You may be wondering what the difference is between alcohol-free, non-alcoholic and dealcoholized, where you can and can’t buy these products, and exactly how they’re made. Let us answer some of those questions and help demystify the world of non-alcoholic and dealcoholized beverages.
In some places you will see the terms non-alcoholic, alcohol-removed, and dealcoholized used interchangeably. All of these can refer to products that have less than 0.5% alcohol by volume, but contain very minor trace amounts of alcohol. These are products that were made with alcohol in them initially and had the alcohol removed.
The important difference is between alcohol-free and dealcoholized. Alcohol-free products are made to mimic the flavors of alcoholic products but have never gone through the fermentation process and did not contain any alcohol to begin with.
So dealcoholized wine is made like regular wine and then the alcohol is removed where a 0.0% abv, alcohol-free wine is made with flavors and acids that mimic the taste of wine. O’Doul’s is a dealcoholized beer, so it’s made using fermentation like regular beer and the alcohol is removed.
In New York state the laws about what can be purchased and where are very specific. Stores like TIPSY that are licensed to carry wine and liquor are not allowed to sell any alcohol-free beverages. That means no lime juice, no club soda, and no alcohol-free wine! Because alcohol-free wine is essentially juice that mimics the taste of wine, you can buy it at the grocery store but not at a wine shop. Ever wonder about those wines you see at Duane Reade? They are not actually wine but “wine products” that are juice blended with alcohol so they can be sold at the same places beer is sold.
On the other hand, wines and spirits that are dealcoholized are made in the same process as normal wine and liquor before the alcohol is removed and so can be sold and purchased at wine shops!
There are a few different ways to dealcoholize wine, the most common are filtration and vacuum distillation. In the filtration process, the wine is separated into two parts: very concentrated wine and the other water and alcohol. The alcohol is then filtered out and the water recombined with the wine concentrate.
The more wide-spread method is vacuum distillation where the wine is heated gently in a vacuum and the alcohol essentially burns off leaving only trace amounts in the wine. Just like making a dessert en flambé, where the heat consumes most of the alcohol in the dish but leaves the delicious flavor behind. Working in a vacuum lowers the boiling point of liquid significantly so the wine never has to be heated to the point where it damages any of the delicate flavors and aromas.
We are only going to see more innovations and new dealcoholized products in the future. At Tipsy, we recently started carrying some fantastic dealcoholized wines from Thompson & Scott - a lively Chenin Blanc and a vibrant Syrah. Give them a try, you will be amazed!
Tipsy is a woman-owned wine and spirits shop in New York City. We offer more than 200 varietals for every palate and budget, as well as artisanal gifts and glassware. In addition to our retail presence, we produce educational wine tastings for law firms, nonprofits, and companies of all sizes. Our team of women sommeliers is also available to lead wine tastings for private events, engagement parties and bridal showers. To book a tasting or order client gifts, email email@example.com.