Low and no-alcohol is here to stay

By Anna Webster

26 Oct, 2021

The explosion in alcohol-free drinks prove this category is more than just a trend. 

If the past two years have proven anything, it’s that – much like Covid – the low- and zero-alcohol trend is here to stay. Whether as a counterpoint to pandemic-driven excesses or because of the sheer breadth of options, drinkers are seeking out zero-percenters more than ever before and producers are stepping up to meet them. 

Here’s where the category is at, and some suggestions of drinks to try. 

Alcohol-free wine 

Testament to the saying ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’, giants like Wolf Blass, T’Gallant, Giesen and Brown Brothers have come to the party with a range of ‘dealcoholised’ wines. By removing the alcohol from finished wines, instead of making wine without alcohol (which is essentially just grape juice) producers can more closely emulate the flavours, aromas and even mouthfeel of regular wine. The technology isn’t new – Edenvale has been using it since 2006 – but its uptake among the bigger players speaks to just how in demand low and alcohol-free wines currently are. 

Alcohol-free wine and oysters

Alcohol-free beer

The success of the alcohol-free category overall has arguably been driven by the quality and range of 0% beers, which managed to replicate the flavour and mouthfeel of their alcoholic counterparts sooner and more effectively than wine and spirits. While all the big breweries from Carlton to Corona have an entry, it’s among the craft producers where the trend has really exploded. Since Aboriginal-owned, Queensland-based Sobah burst onto the scene in 2017 with its range of non-alcoholic beers made using native ingredients like lemon aspen, finger lime and pepperberry, we’ve seen XPAs from Heaps Normal and Hop Nation, pale ales from Bridge Rd Brewers, lagers from Big Drop Brewing Co., pilsners from Parc and pacific ales from Nort – and that’s to name but a few.     

Alcohol-free wine alternatives

Although they’re often served in a wine glass and can be matched with food, these wine alternatives bear less resemblance to traditional wines than their ‘de-alced’ counterparts, and are more closely aligned with pet-nats, kombuchas or shrubs (any trace alcohol amounts found in these wine ‘alternatives’ is a result of the fermentation process, and not residual). Ex-Noma chef William Wade makes NON by steeping various dried fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices in hot water before straining and carbonating, resulting in flavour combinations like salted raspberry and chamomile or stewed cherry and coffee. Monceau’s ‘pet nat kombucha’ comes in flavours like blood orange, fuji apple and pear. And Sydney-based chef Gabriel Gutnik uses foraged native ingredients like lilly pilly, Davidson plum and Australian blackcurrant to make a range of drinking shrubs under the Ziggy’s Wild Foods label. 

  Three spirits bottles and a drink

Alcohol-free spirits and aperitifs 

Booze-free cocktails used to mean overly sweet or fruity mocktails, but quality non-alcoholic spirits have opened a whole new world of 0% mixology. Gin is the spirit most commonly replicated, with producers like Seedlip and, locally, Brunswick Aces distilling excellent examples, but Lyre’s have gone further with alcohol-free Aperol (called Italian Orange), alcohol-free amaretto (called Amaretti), alcohol-free American whiskey and Aperitif Rosso, among others. Brands are also premixing virgin G&Ts, and Lake House restaurant Beverage Director Robin Wilson and wife Larissa Wolf-Tasker recently launched cans of non-alcoholic spritz called Senza, which lends itself well to a dash of Campari if you do feel like imbibing. 

Twelve alcohol-free options to try: 
Edenvale – Edenvale Alcohol-Removed Premium Reserve Sparkling Blanc De Blanc
Wolf Blass – Zero Shiraz NV
Giesen – 0% Sauvignon Blanc 
Heaps Normal – Quiet XPA
Nort – Refreshing Ale
Bridge Rd Brewers – Free Time Pale Ale 
NON – Stewed Cherry and Coffee 
Monceau – Fuji Apple Pet Nat Kombucha
Ziggy’s Wild Foods – Native Davidson Plum and Mint Bush Drinking Shrub
Brunswick Aces – Hearts Sapiir
Lyre’s – Italian Orange
Senza – Non-Alcoholic Spritz

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