As more people embrace sober curiosity and Dry January, non-alcoholic beverages are booming. You can now find plenty of mocktail recipes and bottled or canned non-alcoholic options that are more creative than just soda, juice, or seltzer.
Whether you don’t drink at all or are simply abstaining from alcohol for a bit, there are a number of fun sips to try, including non-alcoholic wine.
After tasting my way through a handful, here’s what I learned and the bottles I recommend.
What to Expect From Non-Alcoholic Wine
As someone who enjoys and appreciates the real deal, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from non-alcoholic wine.
I knew I probably wouldn’t find a bottle that tasted exactly like real wine, since the wine-making process is what gives grape juice its wine-like characteristics: tannins, nuanced aromas, distinctive flavors, all of which are mostly removed through dealcoholizing.
What I hoped to find, though, were options that could be sipped like wine, in a nice glass, that embody the feeling and some of the taste that comes from enjoying real wine.
The most basic definition of wine is fermented grape juice, so to make non-alcoholic wine, you have two options: either bottle the grape juice before it’s fermented or let the grape juice ferment into wine and then dealcoholize it or remove the alcohol by distillation. (Note: dealcoholized wines do still have a bit of alcohol in them, about 0.5% ABV.)
I sampled bottles that were made both ways: wine that was bottled before fermentation and dealcoholized wine. I found some nice choices, but interestingly the ones I liked the least were wines in which the alcohol was removed. None made my final list.
Here are the five that did.
Red Wine: Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir Grape Juice
Family-operated Navarro Vineyards, in California’s Anderson Valley, knows how to make great wine, and it turns out they also make great non-alcoholic wine. After pressing their Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer grapes, they turn most of the juice into wine but save enough to be bottled as-is.
I found their Pinot Noir Grape Juice to be a delightful substitute for red wine, albeit more sweet than dry. Since the juice is made from wine grapes, it’s not cloying and has more complexity than plain old grape juice.
Unlike red wine, though, it’s best served well-chilled.
White Wine: Alain Milliat Jus Raisin Cabernet Rose Grape Juice
Yes, this bottle is marketed as non-alcoholic rosé, but it doesn’t really pour pink; rather, I found its hue to be deep golden yellow. (I also sampled the non-alcoholic Chardonnay from this producer, but it was much too sweet and cloying to be a contender.)
However, the French Cabernet Rose Grape Juice is made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes pressed with the tannic skin from those grapes, so it has a bit of structure. But since not all the skins are used, it also has nice, bright acidity, like you’d find in white wine.
While the color doesn’t scream white wine, it was the closest I found and a pleasant substitute!
Sparkling Wine: TÖST
As you can see from my favorite non-alcoholic white wine choice, there are outliers among my picks, and TÖST is another one!
TÖST doesn’t actually contain grapes, so if you’re a stickler, you might not deem this is a substitute for sparkling wine. However, after trying a few different bubbly options, this is the bottle that came closest to the look, feel, and festivity of sparkling wine.
TÖST is made from white tea, white cranberry, and ginger. Since its base is tea, it has the dry, tannic structure of wine, but the cranberry and ginger soften the beverage and provide flavor and intrigue. It’s lightly sweet, with crisp bubbles and a dry finish.
Rosé Wine: Wölffer Estate Petite Rosé Verjus
I was excited to try this pretty pink bottle because I am a fan of this New York state vineyard’s wines. Their non-alcoholic rosé is made from verjus, which is the pressed juice of unripe wine grapes.
Since verjus is made from unripe grapes, it’s typically too tart to be sipped as-is. But there’s a touch of sweetness in the Petite Rosé Verjus, which is made from 100% Pinot Meunier grapes (one of the three traditional varietals used in Champagne production).
When combined with water and finished off with carbon dioxide, the result is a bright, bubbly non-alcoholic rosé that’s all too easy to drink.
Wildcard: Proteau Ludlow Red
Even though it looks like wine in the glass, the folks at Proteau are quick to point out that their non-alcoholic drinks are not really meant to be wine substitutes, as they are complex blends of berry juice and botanicals.
I agree. Both bottles I tried had a bit too much going on to be sipped with food, but I think they have their place as a non-alcoholic choice for those who enjoy the body and mouthfeel of wine.
While I wasn’t a fan of the bottle made with strawberry juice, I didn’t mind the inky, dark purple bottle called Proteau Ludlow Red, with blackberry juice as its base. Extracts from chamomile, black pepper, hibiscus, and more give it an aroma and flavor all its own. I think it would make for an interesting pre- or post-dinner non-alcoholic drink.