Freixenet released alcohol-removed sparkling wine to the U.S. market. How is it?

I’m a Dry January drop out, class of 2020. While I discovered that an entire month without alcohol is not for me, I do appreciate non-alcoholic drinks that aren't water or soft drinks. So, when Freixenet contacted me to offer samples of their alcohol-removed sparkling wines, I was intrigued.

Earlier this week, I popped the corks on these very fizzy (open over the sink - both bottles became gushers open opening) 0.05 ABV wines and spent some time via Zoom with Freixenet Global Brand Ambassador Gloria Collell. How do alcohol-removed wines differ from carbonated grape juice? They are fermented and turned into wine, and the alcohol is almost completely removed through vacuum distillation. Because it was once alcoholic wine, it is still legally considered wine.

But, when the alcohol is removed, the naked wine tastes like "water with acids and bitterness," according to Collell. It's too unpleasant to drink so some sugar and aromatics are added back in to make it drinkable. Both the white and the rosé come in at 50g of sugar per bottle. Collell said the sugars in this wine are lower than any other N/A wine she's aware of, and they will be launching a version in the next few months that has 30g of sugar per bottle. It's not unusual for Freixenet to release new versions. They've been tweaking their alcohol-removed sparkling wines since 2011 and are committed to working hard to create more aromatics in the future.

How does Freixenet Alcohol-Removed Sparkling Wine taste?

You may be asking yourself, "Is there any alcohol-free wine that actually tastes like wine?"

My answer, "Not any that I've had."

However, if you want something that you can drink in place of a sparkling wine that's enjoyable and has a few sparkling wine characteristics - including looking like the real deal - the Freixenet Alcohol-Removed ($12 SRP) isn't a bad choice.

The white sparkling wine is lacking in complex aromatic. I get little on the nose. It's the sweeter tasting of the two. A crisp acidity helps to temper that sweetness to a point. It's not unpleasant, but it's lesser wine-like of the two.

Pairings suggested for this non-alcoholic white sparkling wine were charcuterie and soft cheeses or a salad. I chose to pair it later that day with my go-to green salad: 50/50 spring mix and spinach, pecans, low-sugar craisins, blue cheese, and a slight drizzle of white balsamic shallot vinaigrette. Because the craisins and the vinaigrette have some sugar, the sweeter white bubbly paired nicely with the salad, seeming less sweet. I would also use the white as a cocktail ingredient to give a cocktail some sweetness and effervescence, perhaps making the addition of simple syrup or another sweetener unnecessary.

The rosé sparkling wine is more aromatic with bubble gum, vanilla and strawberry on the nose. It tastes of strawberry, and raspberry. While I wouldn't confuse it with an alcoholic sparkling wine, it does have more wine characteristics of the two.

Pairings suggested for this non-alcoholic sparkling rosé include pizza with spicy meat, pasta, and spicy foods. There's almost always leftover pizza in my refrigerator, so I tried a few bites of pepperoni pizza with it. It worked.

One last note - these wines should be enjoyed really cold. As they warmed, they did become more sparkling cider-like than wine-like.

Who is going to enjoy this (almost) non-alcoholic sparkling wine?

You're probably aware of Freixenet's Cava. It's the black bottle you'll find in most stores. The Freixenet alcohol-removed sparkling wines don't taste like Cava, which isn't surprising. If you're looking for a genuine sparkling wine experience, you're going to need the alcohol.

These wines do have their place, though. Who will appreciate them?

  • Anyone taking part in Dry January or Sober October who wants to take part in the ritual of having a glass of wine or a cocktail will appreciate these alcohol-free wines as a replacement for their boozy counterparts.

  • The same goes for anyone whose having an alcohol-free day. Since these wines do pair with food, they're good for those nights when you're abstaining.

  • Those watching their calorie intake will appreciate these wines, too. An entire bottle has just 180 calories. If you go by the traditional five glasses per bottle, that works out to about 36 calories per glass. Depending on its sugar content, a 5 oz alcoholic sparkling wine pour can have from 125-175 calories, according to Wine Folly.

  • These wines are NOT for someone who must be or wants to be completely alcohol free. They contain somewhere between 0.04 and 0.05 ABV.

If drinking less alcohol is appealing to you, you might want to check out Hilary Sheinbaum's "The Dry Challenge." We were sent a copy of the book that has encouragement and insights for losing the booze for a day, a month, or longer. It contains recipes for alcohol-free cocktails. Another fabulous resource is the Better Without Booze website from Joy Manning who started Dry January in 2017 and never stopped. And, if you're trying to understand why someone who wasn't drinking alcohol would want to imbibe in something that seemed like alcohol, let me point you to a piece I wrote a while back - Nonalcoholic Cocktails, and Those Who Drink Them, Deserve Respect. (Originally published on Mother Nature Network in 2018, it has been moved to Treehugger.)

Curious about the samples I tell you about here on Wine & Wonder? You can view my sample policy to find out what I choose to write about, and what I don't.

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