No/low alcohol alternatives for the festive season

There are many reasons why you might be planning for alcohol-free or alcohol-limited celebrations and an increasing number of consumers are indeed decreasing their alcohol consumption as part of wider wellness and lifestyle trends. The ‘sober curious’ are driving the increasing demand for the no/low category, leading some of the UK’s foremost retailers – such as Waitrose and The Wine Society – to ramp up their offering in both quality and diversity.

But do the available alternatives stand up to their boozy counterparts? Can they underscore merriment and conviviality in the same way? There’s a growing number of appealing alternatives that deliver in both drinking pleasure and food pairing possibilities.

Beer – low in alcohol but not in flavour

Low-alcohol beers have been around for centuries, having played a key role in the diet (and survival) of many western countries since times immemorial. When clean drinking water was unavailable, low alcohol beer provided a safe, storable alternative; the management of fermentation to arrive at a moderate alcohol level has long been mastered. It didn’t take much, therefore, for brewers to put the latest technologies (such as cryogenic fermentation) at their service to arrive at even lower levels without – unlike alcohol-free wine; more on this below – significant loss of flavour or body. It’s easy to find superb alternatives – of which the below are just two examples among many – that comfortably measure up against boozy brews.

Spirited away

One of the flashiest and most diverse sub-categories in the no/low scene is alcohol-free spirits. Technically not all these drinks are spirits to which alcohol has been removed; many are herb & spice mixes and elixirs that never started as an alcoholic product. Relying on the same botanicals and spices that shape the profile of the alcoholic products they stand in for, these concoctions are worth exploring.

The absence of alcohol might make it a bit challenging to enjoy no/low spirits neat as they could feel a bit thin and lacking in depth. But as the alternative components in mocktail recipes they can provide the basis for delicious, warming and very festive drinks. Outstanding branding and packaging add to the sophistication and respectability with which these products have claimed their corner in bar shelves across the world.

Dealcoholised wine?

Perhaps the least exciting of the no/low subcategories is dealcoholised wine – especially if you’re looking for a drink with gastronomic appeal. The challenges of producing a complex and balanced alcohol-free wine are many. The dealcoholisation process removes important flavour and structural components (aroma compounds, tannins etc) along with the alcohol. And the latter is itself a good bonding agent, vehicle and preservative for such components, meaning that, in its absence, they are not likely to remain or be as expressive in the final product. Producers are investing in new and better technology but alcohol-free wines still pale in comparison with the base product.

If you’re staying away from alcohol as a part of a general effort to build a healthier lifestyle, you should also consider that alcohol-free wines and spirits are significantly processed products to which artificial sugars (and other additives) are often added. So perhaps you are better off enjoying the health benefits of moderate drinking? Something to consider ahead of your New Year resolutions.

Alternative ferments

It’s also worth exploring the no/low alternatives that do not rely on dealcoholisation and/or emulation of an obvious alcoholic twin. Where before there was not much more than juices and kombucha, you’ll now find complex and flavourful creations, favoured by sommeliers in virgin pairing flights.

Among them are sparkling teas, often – but not necessarily – made bubbly through fermentation with kombucha cultures. While tasting for this piece these truly stood out for their structural and…


Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine-reviews-tastings/no-low-alcohol-alternatives-for-the-festive-season-519782/

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