Visitors to wine-pages may have seen my reviews of various wine-based alcohol-free drinks over the years. These are products that begin life as regular wine then have the alcohol removed. This is done with a variety of techniques involving specialist equipment that seeks to separate the alcohol from the liquid and remove it before bottling. You may also have read my disapproval of some associated marketing bumph that implies you will barely notice any difference in aroma or flavour from ‘the real thing’. In my experience these might be pleasant enough drinks, but I have yet to find one with the aroma, flavour, texture or character of ‘real’ wine.
I was intrigued to be approached by a Danish company called ISH, who have a whole range of alcohol-free beers, wines and spirits. International Sales Director, Henning Kallesen, says “Because we are determined to have the best tasting products in market, we went back and improved our exciting product … and we did that twice. We will keep doing that as we learn new techniques or ways to improve the taste experience.”
The company press release also stated “ISH make it easy for you to enjoy your favourite drinks without alcohol and with no compromise.” That’s the sort of claim which immediately has my cynical antennae twitching: ‘no compromise’? It’s a promise so often made, and so often broken. So I requested samples of three wine-based products to taste for myself: a still white drink and a white and rosé sparkling drinks.
The labels state the origin of the sparkling drinks as Germany. The white blends Pinot Blanc and Silvaner, the rosé Merlot and Pinot Noir. The origin of the still wine is Spain, but grape varieties are unstated. I have to say that the two sparkling wines in particular are among the better examples of this genre. They will never be mistaken for Champagne, lacking body and certainly some complexity, but there is a trace of vinosity here that some others lack completely, and flavours are balanced.
Creating a truly ‘no compromise’ alcohol-free wine remains a pipe-dream for now, but companies taking the challenge seriously are to be welcomed.