Winemakers who are bottling alcohol-free wines are doing more than just making grape juice these days, with many making traditional wines and then removing the alcohol through various means.
They do it in different ways, with osmotic distillation, reverse osmosis, thin-film evaporation and thermal gradient process being among the most popular methods.
Companies like Acid League in the United States produce wine proxies (and they’re careful not to call themselves alcohol-free wine). Also trending is the process used by Schenk Wines, which originated in Switzerland but has wineries in four countries. Schenk makes dealcoholized wine using spinning cone technology, which pulls the alcohol out of the wine with the goal of preserving its character.
Schenk Marketing Director Ruben Basantes told Vintner Magazine that the key to the system is in its ability to work at very low temperatures in a vacuum system and in the ability to extract and capture all the essence of the wine. Basantes said the interior of the column is made up of 40 inverted cones, of which 20 are fixed and the other 20 rotate.
“The rotating cones spin the wine gently until creating thin layers of liquid while a cold vapor created from the wine itself travels up the column, capturing the most volatile molecules in the liquid, in this case, alcohol,” Basantes explained.
In New Zealand, Giesen Group makes a full line of estate wines that include alcohol, but it introduced its first alcohol-removed wine — the world’s first New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with 0.5% or less alcohol by volume — in 2020.
Committing to making dealcoholized wines with spinning cone technology at your winery requires a sizable investment. Giesen Group took the plunge in 2019, spending more than $2 million on the equipment that employs technology similar to that used in perfume making.
The Giesen Group spinning cone machine gently distills wine into three layers: aroma, alcohol and body. The alcohol is removed, but the aroma and body are preserved with the intention of making a beverage that’s recognizable to wine drinkers.
he company also employs a team of specialists that handle Giesen’s no and low alcohol products. Giesen Chief Winemaker Duncan Shouler said investing the money gave Giesen greater control over the quality of the product.
“It’s rare to have a whole team dedicated particularly to the NOLO wine process, but we believe that the wine needs to taste as pure and fresh as our alcohol range,” Shouler said. “Having our own technology allows our team to experiment and continually innovate and improve.
“We’re seeing better 0% wines every time we produce them and learning about which parcels of wine work best to produce the flavors and aromas of these wines.”
So far, the gamble appears to have paid off and is resonating with customers in the United States. Giesen recently reported a 454% growth in shipments to the US in fiscal year 2022 from the previous fiscal year.
Giesen Group has responded to the initial success of their Giesen 0% Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand’s benchmark variety, releasing a Rosé and Red Blend, in spring 2022. The company plans to release an alcohol-free 0% Pinot Grigio in the fall.
“This is an opportunity to show consumers that craft and premium alcohol-removed wine are available in many styles,” Shouler said.