Alcohol-free wine market makes waves in Australia

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For many wine lovers, booze without the buzz might be a pale imitation of their old-time favourites, however a glass of red or white without the hangover is becoming more popular in Australia.

This growing trend has pushed producers in Adelaide to develop alcohol-free alternatives.

However, removing alcohol from wine is harder than with beer as winemakers have fewer ingredients to play with.

As part of a two-year project researchers are getting experts to taste-test the wine to figure out how to make it just like the real stuff.

“They are a lot better than they used to be. Now that said, there is a long way to go,” says wine research scientist Wes Pearson.

Alcohol-free red wine is proving to be a greater challenge as some Australian reds contain up to fifteen percent alcohol.

But experts say non-alcoholic sparkling and white wines are getting much closer to the alcoholic versions.

“That would be the holy grail, to make a shiraz with no alcohol in it that tastes like a traditional shiraz,” says Pearson.

The consumer push for booze-free wine is also prompting some venues in Adelaide to rethink their stock.

Shobosho Restaurant now has five alcohol-free bottles on its menu.

“People do call up or they’ll email to make sure that we do have those options and that actually influences where they will book a venue,” says Shobosho Venue Manager, Charlotte Martin.

Australian producers are also under pressure to find new wine markets after China imposed a series of official and unofficial trade barriers in recent years to a range of Australian exports worth billions of dollars including coal, wine, barley, beef and seafood.

According to the International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR), low and zero alcohol wines account for less than half a percent of total consumption.

However, the sale of non-alcoholic beverages is on the rise. The IWSR says the growth forecast of booze-free wines will be 15 percent per annum on average between 2021 and 2015 compared to a growth rate of less than 1 percent per annum for wines in total.

“A third of our consumers would choose low alcohol wine if they could find it and the flavour was at the quality level they expect. So that’s really the chase for us to make sure the quality that we’re delivering is in line with our consumers’ expectation,” says Wolf Blass Chief Supply Officer, Kerrin Petty.

Will the changing tastes of a younger generation keen to skip the buzz to lose the headache force winemakers to rethink their production strategies? 

Only time will tell. 

But in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, Wolf Blass has had its zero wines on shelves for about a year already.