1. It’s not wine
Strictly speaking… yes. To be rigorous, it would be necessary to speak of “non-alcoholic wine-based drink”. Because, according to French regulations, a wine must result from “Complete or partial alcoholic fermentation of fresh grapes or fresh grape juice”, and must contain a minimum volume of 8.5% alcohol. Below this proportion, and even if the beverage is only made from fermented grapes, it cannot be called wine. Alcohol is an essential component of its definition. However, although inherently contradictory, European legislation authorizes the term “alcohol-free wine”. But be careful, it can only concern wines that have been dealcoholized. In other words, “alcohol-free wine” is a drink that was wine and is no longer wine. Otherwise, we speak of a “drink made from grapes”.
2. There is no alcohol
Did you really think it was that easy? This point is even more hazy than the previous one. Fortunately, it is starting to clear up. Because the reform of the common agricultural policy, which is due to enter into force on 1is January 2023, gives an unprecedented and more transparent legal framework to these drinks, of which an alcohol level, admittedly minimal, could nevertheless remain, generally around 0.3%. From now on, “de-alcoholized wines” and “partially de-alcoholized wines” will be legally authorized. The latter may display a protected designation of origin and will contain between 0.5% and 8.5% alcohol. Those who are completely dealcoholized will only be able to display the words “table wines” and “country wines”. Wines from France designated “alcohol-free” will then officially have less than 0.5% alcohol. Not quite “without”, therefore.
3. It’s grape juice in disguise
Unless you skipped the first two paragraphs, you will have already understood that no. And yet… there are also! Some show it clearly, such as Péti’Pierre, by Pierre Deshors (Domaine La Tour de Pierre). On the label, “Sparkling grape juice”. And in the bottle, grape juice (muscat) for half, carbonated water for the rest. And a hint of citric acid to acidify everything. For the brand Le Petit Béret, which offers chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and grenache or pinot noir without alcohol, it is much less obvious. The bottles and labels include all the codes of the wine. But the juices are “guaranteed without fermentation” and are the result of a blend of “grape infusion”, grape juice, natural flavors and acidifiers. Conversely, Pierre Zéro, from Pierre Chavin vineyards, in Chardonnay or Merlot, are indeed de-alcoholized wines. Just like the entire La Côte de Vincent range, by Bruno Marret. But why go to so much trouble? For the taste. The difference between a grape juice and a wine, apart from the drunkenness that the latter provides, is there. The fermentation cycle gives rise to an aromatic complexity that has no equivalent. Hence the desire to go through the “wine” box.
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Five misconceptions about alcohol-free wine