Christmas Alternatives

Guess what I got for Christmas?

Reviews coming soon.

(In Order - Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir - Draper Valley Vineyard)

The "Dusey"

By day I teach computers. By night I'm a photographer. But when I'm burning the midnight oil, I write about non-alcholic drinks. :P

At an event I was shooting last night, after all was said and done, I went to get something to drink from the bar. Throughout the event I had asked for "just water" several times, as I try to keep myself hydrated during a shoot, but, just paid and about to leave, I wondered if they had anything else to try behind the table-cloth covered folding table bar. So I asked the awkward question that I'm starting to get used to asking (esp. at weddings)

"What do you have without alcohol in it?

They were kinda stumped. She muttered something, the only thing I heard was "virgin bloody mary." After some friendly suggestions by someone else grabbing a drink (they didn't have any of the ingredients she suggested...) I got me a drink made up on the spot. She poured the cherry juice from a bowl a cherries (maraschino type juice, I think, not actual cherry juice... I think...) some orange juice, and some sprite.

Before I tried it I told her that, since she made it up, she got to name it. "What's your name?" "Dusey." said I. "Well then, the Dusey."

I Present the Dusey

Fill a glass with ice
Mix, in this order, equal parts:
Maraschino cherry juice
Orange Juices

Don't give it more than a quick stir.

I liked it!

Kristian Regále Pomegranate-Apple Sparkler

My Experience:

The color of Kirstian Regále Pomegrante-Apple is peach-ish, or coral. The Pomegranate is the stronger smell, overwhelming the apple. The fizz isn't nearly as fizzy as Martinelli's, and the taste is sharp with a strong bite. The Pomegranate gives it a fair amount of acidity without too much of a tang. The bite overwhelms the finish as it fizzles away. The apple can be tasted, but acts more to tone down the pomegranate. It went very well with the lemon chicken we had, which was already pretty acidic. The Chicken was pretty light, yet still strongly acidic, and this Sparkler went well with it. It's sweet, but much dryer than any of the other sparkling juices we've had, and cleanses the palette much like the dealcoholized wines I've had. Less of a soda than other sparkling juices I've tried so far, with smaller bubbles. It's not flat, just finer. This doesn't have a head, while the others generally have a bit of one. This one also has continues tiny bubbles drifting upwards, where the others I've tried so far (Welch's Red and their White sparkling juices, as well as R.W. Knudsen's Sparkling Pear Juice and Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Grape) just have bubbles that are stagnant, attached to the side of the glass (in general.)

Works as a wine Alternative: Yes, this is perhaps the closest to the dealcoholized wines we've had, yet without the fermentation signature.

Did I like it: Yes, both my wife and I enjoyed it quite a bit. 9 out of 10.

Would I Recomend it: Yes, still sweeter than wines I've had, but getting there, and tasted good, though worked better with food than alone. Since I am primarily looking for drinks to go with food, this is a Highly Recommended.

Who Might Like it: It's sweeter than wine, but not as sweet as most juices. Great with food, so anyone looking for those things. Probably a great intro drink, this might go on my upcoming "What I'd try first" article.

Welch's Sparkling Red Grape Juice

My Experience:

Stronger than Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Grape, the Welch's appears a more vibrant red, and has a heavier mouth feel. It's less fizzy, though fine (as in small) bubbled. An obviously grapey taste, we had the Welch's with BBQ Tri-tip.

This could make a good Aperitif or Desert Wine alternative.

Simple, but good!

Works as a wine Alternative: Yes. A very good one.

Did I like it: Yes, better than Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Grape. I'd say a 7 out of 10.

Would I Recomend it: Yes

Who Might Like it: If you like grape juice, this is a more refined, subtle yet vibrant taste.

Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Grape

My Experience:
While I've yet to have the courage to write my Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider tasting experience, I have gone ahead to try one of their other drinks, Sparkling Apple Grape.

It's not as deep purple as I was expecting it to be. I think the green bottle tricked me. It's a dark red with a hint of purple. Surprise surprise, it smells like apple and grape! It's smells almost the same as the Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider. The taste has a touch more of a tang than the "normal" Martinelli's, with just a bit of the grape juice taste added in. The carbonation almost creates a small head, as it's very bubbly. It foams up in the mouth and has a quick bite as the carbonation disappears and evaporates during the finish. We served it with noodles and spaghetti sauce! It's a touch more acidic than the Sparkling Apple Cider, not so much as Ariel's White Zinfandel however, for example. The Welch's was much more grapey, less fizzy, and stronger in general.

This could make a good Aperitif or Dessert Wine alternative.

Works as a wine Alternative: I think so

Did I like it: Yeah, but not as much as Welch's Sparkling Red Grape Juice. 5 out of 10.

Would I Recomend it: Sure

Who Might Like it: Someone who likes normal Martinelli's

Welch's Sparkling White Grape Juice

Welch's Sparkling White Grape Juice

My Experience:
Smells like grapes! Has a touch of an apple taste, but tastes mostly like white grape juice. It's not quite as sweet as Martinelli's, and fizz is very fine, just barely there. Not very acidic, I wish it was a touch more. We tried it again later, straight from the fridge instead of only slightly chilled, and preferred it. I do, however, like most of my drinks quite cold. We had it with Rosemary Chicken.

This could make a good Aperitif or Dessert Wine alternative.

Works as a wine Alternative: Yes, one of the better ones I've had.

Did I like it: Yes, and we preferred it chilled straight from the fridge. 6 out of 10.

Would I Recomend it: Yes, I would. It's less acidic than R.W. Knudsen's Sparkling Pear Juice, which changes what I might eat with it.

Who Might Like it: Someone who likes their drinks cold, and not terribly acidic.

R.W. Knudsen's Sparkling Pear Juice

R.W. Knudsen's Sparkling Pear Juice

Fine, small bubbles, compared to what I'm used to anyway (soda, martinelli's...) Had a fizzy feel to it. The Pear juice dryer than say, Martinelli's. It's dry enough you can taste the pear, sweet enough that it's easy to drink. I'd prefer it a little more acidic, with the pork chops we ate it with.

Works as a wine Alternative: Yes, a nice alternative to a sparkling wine, I think. Subtle enough, though not very complex.

This could make a good Aperitif or Dessert Wine alternative.

Did I like it: Yes, this is a definite buy again. 8 out of 10.

Would I Recomend it: Absolutely, worth a try for anyone.

Who Might Like it: Someone who likes Martinelli's, but is looking for a more subtle alternative.

Sutter Home's Fre Chardonnay

My Experience:
I picked it up at Total Wine, after calling my wife and finding out what we were having for dinner. Tonight we ate fish, so tonight would be a white. I've been waiting to see what chardonnay tastes like, and I just couldn't help myself. I had to go big, so I got Sutter Home's Fre Chardonnay.

And the verdict?

It tastes like watered down apple juice. Very watered down apple juice.

Smells like white grape juice, tastes like very diluted apple juice with a tiny touch of fermentation, with very very slightly citrus air to it. It has a very short finish.

We ate it some flounder, and it tasted better with the flounder than alone, though only very slightly. It cuts through the food better than say... water. Very dry, yet not very acidic or sharp either. In fact I'd call it dull. I tried this the same night as our Juice Roundup (link) I suppose it's a good thing we tried this with other juices, otherwise I might have tricked myself into thinking I just needed to get used to this.

Works as a Wine Alternative: The odd thing is, of the few things I've tried so far, I'd say many of the juices (with the exceptional exception of the horrible Yum Berry Juice) actually workbetter than this wine, as a wine Alternative.

Did I like it: No. Not kinda. Not "depending." Neither my wife nor I liked this. Not one bit. Some of Ariel's wine carry a vintage, but as far as I can tell, Fre Wines don't. I might revisit this one years down the road, but for now it's not on my buy again list. It was pretty bad. Let's say a 2 out of 10.

Would I Recomend it: No.

Who Might Like it: Reviews I have seen online from people who normally drank wine who where looking for something with out alcohol, all uniformly had negative reviews. I was hoping this might be very close to a "normal" wine, but I just can't imagine that is so anymore.

(Compare to varietal grape juice Chardonnay, by Draper Valley Vineyards)

Juice Roundup - R.W. Knudsen's Pomegranate Nectar and Yum Berry Juice

R.W. Knudsen's Pomegranate Nectar

It's a blend - the ingredients list says Water, Apple, Pomegranate, Grape Juice, and Pear Juice.

Looks like apple juice with a tinge of red, and I thought it would be stronger than it is. It's smooth. The apple and pear come through stronger than the pomegranate. For a juice it's not too sweet. Cut a bit of water into it - too weak. Cut with Sparkling water - not bad. Best chilled.

Works as a wine Alternative: Yes, though not as sweet as most juices, still a bit sweet for a wine alternative, however.
Did I like it: Yeah, it's pretty good. i'd give it a 5 out of 10.
Would I Recomend it: Yes, it's worth a shot. Not a stand out drink, but I thought it worked well.
Who Might Like it: Anyone who likes juice, I think.

R.W. Knudsen's Yum Berry Juice
Lots of ingredients. Very thick, smells mostly of strawberry, thick like Kerns nectar, My wife hated it, not recommended. Cut with anything makes it worse - It stays thick but loses flavor.
Works as a wine Alternative: No
Did I like it: No, it was horrible. Maybe a 1
Would I Recomend it: No
Who Might Like it: Can't think of anyone.

R.W. Knudsen's Blueberry Pomegranate Juice

I had this at the same time we tried Ariel's White Zinfandel & R.W. Knudsens' Black Current Nectar

My Experience: I don't have much to say about this. The blueberry taste is the strongest, and it tastes like a juice. It's sweet, and has a slight tang to it. The aftertaste is mostly blueberry and tangy. Much better with ice.

Works as a wine Alternative: Not really. It's a juice. An interesting juice, but it's not subtle enough nor is it complex enough.

Did I like it: I liked it through about one glass, didn't want to reach for another, though. 4 out of 10.

Would I Recomend it: Not as a wine alternative, maybe for a juice-o-phile.

Who Might Like it: People who love blueberry.

R.W. Knudsen's Black Current Nectar

R.W. Knudsen's Black Current Nectar

The same time I tried Airel's white Zinfandel I also tried a few juices, this being the first. (This being the second)

My Experience: It looks like a red wine in the glass. Guess what it smells like? (Black Currant, duh!) It's nice to have experienced this to know exactly what it smells like when someone says a wine smells of black currant. Now I know! It was smooth, with a hint of better, like the dregs of grape juice. It's sweeter than wine, but not sugary like many juices. The aftertaste has a touch of tang. I had it a room temperature and liked it better that way, compared to being iced. It'd probably be best just a bit under room temperature (like red wine.)

Works as a wine Alternative: Yes, I think it does. It's subtle, though not terribly complex, I think it does work. Just barely acidic enough to pull it off.

The ingredients also list Apple, so this isn't quite a "Pure Juice" so under the blended juices label it goes.

Did I like it: Yes, both my wife and I thought it was worth trying again. 6.5 or 7 out of 10.

Would I Recomend it: Yes, again if for no other reason than to taste black currant. It's so common to hear that a wine tastes or smells like black currant, so it's worth it to try it out.

Who Might Like it: I'd think this juice would have a very wide appeal. Sweet, but not sugary, not too acidic, easy to drink.

Ariel's White Zinfandel

I hid something embarrassing when I told you about the Fre White Zinfandel a few posts back. I got home, ready to try it, tore off the foil... And my mind started to race. Surely, surely we had a corkscrew somewhere. As always in this situation, my first instinct took over. "Honey, do you have any idea if we have a corkscrew around here anywhere?" She had a small swiss army knife in the house somewhere. After some time, I gave up. We had to find another way to get that cork out of there. I went to the garage, got a small screw, and washed it well in the sink. The screw went less the half way down the cork after I'd grabbed a screwdriver and and spun, spun away. I tried pulling the head up with my fingers, and the screw quickly ripped out of the cork. Great, just great, I'm going to have to hack away at it until it crumbles into the bottle I thought. In one last desperate measure, I went back to the garage, and dug to the bottom of the pile of screws, and I found a very large one with wide threads. I don't even know what it was for, just that the end wasn't pointed, so it was going to be hard to get in there. I tried to get it to catch in a new part of the cork I hadn't torn up yet. After a few minutes of working it down, I had to go get some pliers, and slowly but firmly pull it up, and thankfully the cork came with it. I had no way of removing the screw from the cork. That poor screw sacrificed itself for the drink, and into the garbage it went.

Lesson #1: Own a corkscrew.

I have a Lesson #2, but that will be for another day.

So, when I went to Total Wine (which opened up right next to where I work on my birthday) I had two missions. Not only did I have to find my way to the "non-alcoholic" section through tens of thousands of bottles, I had to find a corkscrew.

After I entered, the first thing I realized is that this was much more organized and well labeled than anywhere else I'd been. The place was so big I had no idea where to start. So, again, I had to ask that question. The man who answered sounded like car salesman. "All my non-alcoholic stuff is right over here." My stuff? Surely I wasn't talking to the owner nor the winemaker. "I've got Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Brut." I saw they also had several types and sizes of Martinelli's. "Heh, Martinelli's" I said half to myself. "Yeah," he said "That's really popular during the Holidays." Really? I didn't know. Did you just see that in the training video? (I'm sorry, I'm sorry, they were really nice and helpful, this guy was just too much eager and not enough genuine.)

They had, as far as I could tell, all of the Ariel and Fre stuff, in addition to the Martinelli's. It was all in a small section labeled "Non-Alcoholic." I was secretly hoping to find a Carl Jung or some varietal grape juice, or *gasp* even some EGA. But I can't complain, so far they had the best selection, they even had both major brands, not just one or the other. So I grabbed the Ariel White Zinfandel (to compare to the Fre I'd recently had) and then got pointed to the accessories aisle.

I don't want to say they had tons of accessories, but the variety and absurdity of some of them was impressive. Some were absolutely essential, like corkscrews, and in being so essential (and the task being somewhat difficult - I can imagine certain people who, due to whatever physical circumstance, would have a hard time popping the cork out) there were many types. I think I even saw a battery operated one. But some of the accessories seemed like they were relying on an ignorant but enthusiastic wine fan to think they needed all of these things to "truly" enjoy their drinks. Some were just plain weird.

Anyway, I got me a simple, cheap butterfly corkscrew (something like this), it seems to work well.

Anyway, I get home with the Ariel in hand and find out my wife has prepared the perfect birthday meal. Cheese. Lots of it, too. Brie, a wet Goat's Milk, a dry Sheep's Milk, Blue Cheese and Extra Sharp Cheddar. In addition to that, there was a fondue with Irish Swiss and some of the cheddar, and home made bread to go with it. Throw in some apple slices and pear slices, and we had quite the meal!

We had a few other drinks to try as well - Blueberry Pomegranate and Black Currant Nectar.

My Experience: We had a lot of things to try it with, it was soooo much fun. In general, it was less floral smelling than the Fre White Zinfandel, but still quite fruity. It was a bit darker smelling (that is to say it smelt more of dark fruits or berries) than the apple-ly and rosy Fre. This time we had it somewhat under room temperature, which I liked the taste of better, but makes it a bit harder to smell. It seemed smoother, less tingly, and just a touch less strong than the Fre, perhaps slightly sweeter. Less acidic, so it didn't cut through the food as well as the Fre. The finish was bland and watery, and short.

Works as a Wine Alternative: (This section is intended for wine alternatives that are not dealcoholized wine)

Did I Like it: Both my wife and I found this one much more enjoyable than the Fre. It was great with a variety of the foods we had. Lets give it an 8 out of 10.

Would I Recommend it: Yes, I think this is a particularly easy entry point for people who are new to this.

Who Might Like it: It's not strong, it's not bold, it's not adventurous, but it is safe.

(See the Fre White Zinfandel post here)

Trader Joe's Just Cherry Juice

The same night I tried the Fre White Zinfandel, I also had some pure cherry juice on the table. It was from Trader Joe's, called "Just Cherry Juice."

My Experience:
When I read a review of First Blush (which review I can't find anymore) the reviewer didn't like how sweet it was (I'm guessing being very used to wine) so he called them up! They suggested cutting it with water or sparkling water, to dull the sweetness.

So, I've decided that some of the juices I'll be trying might need a push in the right direction to really shine. I'll be trying them straight, cut with water, and cut with sparkling water.

I got a few glasses out, and mixed away.

When I tried it as is, it was very tart and a very strong taste. Tastes like what, you ask? Cherries, of course. It tasted like tart black cherries. It reminded me of the sauce that goes with Ris ala monde.

With Water:
This was gentler, and was a strong palette cleanser, however I now detected a bitter aftertaste.

With Sparkling Water:
The effervescence brought out the bitterness more than plain water. I did not like this much.

I tried them all again slightly chilled, and I accidentally chilled it a bit too much, I think, but I liked it straight and chilled the best. My wife preferred this drink over the Fre White Zinfandel, mostly do the stronger bite the Zinfandel had. I preferred the Zinfandel over the tart cherry juice.

Works as a Wine Alternative: I think so. Maybe find something strong and not at all sweet to go with it, to let the sugar sing out a little.

Did I Like it: It was ok. I think finding a killer pairing is key. My wife and I agree that you could make an amazing cherry juice and vanilla ice-cream float! A 6 out of 10.

Would I Recommend it: Yes, and here's when and why. It will help you build your tasting vocabulary. The next time I taste hints of cherry in a drink, there is no way I will miss or misidentify it.

Who Might Like it: If you like tart, strong flavors, this might be for you.

Sutter Home's Fre White Zinfandel

Well, this is it! My first dealcholized wine!

My Experience:

I was in Sprouts looking around with my wife. She knew I'd been on this wine alternative stint for a while, reading everything I could find online about the subject. It was much easier for us to look at the pomegranate, cherry, and black currant juces. I wandered through the wine section, confused and wondering how in the world I would find any dealcoholized wine in what looked like a sea of identical bottles to me. There is a part of our brains that activates when we see faces, helping tell apart very similar details. This part of the brain changes in people who study cars, and activates when they see a car, helping them tell the difference between a '71 and '72. I wonder if that part of the brain will someday help me as I wander through this sea of seemingly identical bottles.

I was hoping to avoid this, but I was determined to leave with something besides apple juice in hand. So I asked the most awkward question. "Do you have any non-alcoholic wine?" "You mean Fre?" he said. Well, I just figured out which one-and-only brand they carry. I picked the White Zinfandel quickly. I'd read it's a good starter wine, not too dry (some might call dry the opposite of sweet).

We got home and I threw a frozen Bertolli's (roasted chicken) in a skillet and got out some stemware that had only until then seen water and Welch's.

I poured some in, gave it a swirl and a sniff. Wow! Cherries, apples, flowers! So fruity, it took me by surprise.

I knew to expect something much less sweet than I was used to, but I was not prepared for the bubbly tingle I felt on the fist sip. I almost spit it out! The bubbly sensation reminded me of some kimchee I'd once had! That makes it sound much worse than it was, I was just surprised. I thought only sparkling, bubbly wines like champagne were carbonated. This wasn't bubbly like soda, it just had a touch of unexpected sparkle.

So, I braced myself, took another sip, and was ready for the tingles this time. Having already had a taste, it didn't have as strong of a bite, but still had one. It slightly smoothed out as I sipped slowly, but it was a little tart. As I ate and drank, the acid helped cut through the food and cleanse the palate. I wish I could say how dry it was compared to other wine alternatives, but it was drier than anything I've had before.

Works as a Wine Alternative: Sure? I'm including this section more for the things like varietal juices and such. I think dealcoholized wines are a given.

Did I Like it: Well, my opinion might change, but with the right food pairing I think it worked. I stopped up the bottle and stored it in the fridge. The next day I pulled it out before dinner with enough time for it to warm up, but not to room temperature. I liked it better chilled somewhat, as the tart bite was a bit less, and the acid was a bit more forgiving. Lesson of the day: serve your drinks at the right temperature! Read my next review for some more thoughts. Lets give it a 6.

Would I Recommend it: It's my first try! Read my next review.
[EDIT] after having tried a lot more stuff, I would recommend giving this one a try. Though I liked the Ariel White Zinfandel better, this has a lot to offer and might appeal more to those used to normal wine.

Who Might Like it: It is not sweet, compared to juices. Get that out of your mind, and pair with a light meal like chicken or pasta with a white sauce, and it might work for you. It's tart so that might put some off.

Hey, this is getting exciting!

Tasting Experiences vs Reviews

I'd love to be able to give tons of reviews of all these different drinks, but I have a few problems with that.

First of all, I hardly feel qualified to offer any sort of defnitive or objective advice. Not only am I just embarking on this wne alternative journey, I am also inexperienced with wine in general. It'd be misleading call my opinion on a drink a review, as if I've tasted hundreds of drinks I'd consider a "culinary beverage."

Secondly, I strongly believe that different people have the right to like different tastes! Not only that, but our unique history and biology more than likely affect what we actually taste, even two people drinking the same thing may literally taste something different, and will likely have a different opinion on the matter. My history comes never having tasted traditional, alcholic wine, and surely this will effect my point of view.

I do, however, want to share with all of you what I've tasted. I am hoping as I go tasting all these alternatives, I can share with you a few things.

What I tasted, smelt and experienced in general.
My opinion of the drink's status as a wine alternative.
Did I like it?
Would I recommend it?
Who might like it, and under what circumstances.

So while I hesitate calling these reviews, I'm hoping to provide what I've decided to call "Tasting Experiences."

Alternative Wine Vocabulary

Wine Vocabulary is huge. Many types of wine are named based on the regions they came from, others for the type of grape that was used, and if you're new to wine, and have ever read a wine review chances are you've come across a few words you've never heard before.

A few disclaimers. This is not an exhaustive dictionary. There are many other places for things like that.

This is primarily related to non-alcoholic wines and drinks.

In fact, I'm not sure "non-alcoholic wine" is even the right term. Lots of people use "non-alcoholic wine" and "alcohol free" to mean very different things.

Alcohol, or Not

This section I am completely making up. Ok, not completely. But if you read on some other site that a wine is "alcohol free" you can't be sure what it means. I am, however, going to tell you how I will use these terms on this site, firstly for some false hope that someday these terms will become standardized, and more importantly, so you'll know what I'm talking about whenever you swing by!

Non-Alcoholic - A wine that won't get you drunk. They have less than .5% alcohol. (wine normally contains about 10%)

Alcohol Free - I use this to mean a beverage that has 0% alcohol. Generally varietal grape juices or other drinks that likely never were fermented.

Alcohol Removed - This stuff once had alcohol in it, but some or all of it was removed.

Dealcoholized - Same as above, once had alcohol in it, at least some of it has been removed.

Varietal Grape Juice - Typical grape juices is made from concord grapes, and sometimes has lots of stuff added to it, usually at least Sugar. Varietal grape juices come from one specific type of grape, or variety. (eg. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, etc) Not fermented.

Blended Wine - A wine made with several types of grapes, not just one.

Sparkling wine - A wine that is carbonated (usually naturally through the fermentation process)

Fortified Wine - Typically a wine that had alcohol added to it part way through the fermentation process. This stops the fermentation early, which means less of the sugar is consumed, which means it tends to be sweeter. They might add brandy, as an example. I've never heard of a non-alcoholic version of this. :) Of course, there are many sweet drinks which are not alcoholic.

Dessert Wine - The only part anyone agrees on about the definition is that it is sweet.

Wine Alternative - I did coin this one, actually. At least I haven't heard anyone else use it before. It's pretty generic, however. It means anything that could or is meant to replace traditional (alcoholic) wine. Could be dealcoholized wine, varietal grape juice, pure, blended or mixed juices, or some other culinary beverage.

Culinary Beverage - Any drink specifically designed to enhance another food or meal.

Pure Juice - Any juice that is just juice from one thing. Some juices I've been looking into are Tart Cherry Juice, Black Currant Juice, etc.

Spinning Cone Column - A method (used primarily for Sutter Home's Fre) of removing alcohol from wine by forcing it through a series of spinning cones. Supposedly the benefit is two fold: it doesn't require much heat, and it doesn't put the wine under great pressure.

Reverse Osmosis - A method of dealcoholizing wine (used by several, but Ariel is known for it) by sending the wine through a series of filtration systems. The only alcohol removing process that can be done with no extra heat at all.

Steam Vacuum (Evaporation) - Not very highly thought of, basically involves boiling the alcohol out of the wine.

Club Soda, Seltzer, Carbonated Water, Sparkling Water, Soda Water, Tonic Water - All variations of plain ol water that has been carbonated, like Soda Pop. Tonic Water, despite having some sugar added, has a bitter taste due an additive. All the others are almost identical. Check out some of these links.

You might hear all sorts of names for wines. Here are a few of the most common. (See here for a comprehensive list)

Names based on variety (type of grape used)

Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Sauvignon (Cab for short)

Pinot Noir

Pinot Blanc
Pinot Gris
Sauvignon Blanc

Some wines are named for the Region they are produced in. This is because historically, that region would produce a specific type of wine. A good example is Champagne. People think of race car drivers spraying a very fizzy drink on each other, and might mistakenly call any fizzy wine Champagne, when in fact it could just be a sparkling wine, not made anywhere close to the Champagne region.

There are many more. (also called an Appellation rather than Region)

Some tasting vocab. If you want a list of commonly used terms describing smells and tastes, check this out.
You might hear someone say a certain wine is fruity "on the nose." Just means it smells like fruit.

Aeration - Getting air in the wine. Could be by pouring it, sipping it, or using some sort of aerator.

Legs - If you swirl the wine around in your glass, you'll see it drips and slides down the side of the glass. These streaks are called Legs.

Finish - If someone talks about how a wine finishes, they basically mean the aftertaste.

Tasting Flight - The set of wines you'll be tasting, if you go to wine tasting.

Tannins - The taste imparted to the wine from the grape skin. A bit bitter. Bite into a grape stem to get more than enough of a sampling of tannins.

Acidity - Wines tend to have a bit of acidity to them. Vinegar is very acidic. This is distinct from being tart or sour (like lemon juice... which is also, however, acidic.)

Body - How the liquid feels in the mouth. Also called (you guessed it!) Mouth Feel. Apparently alcohol content is a big factor here. It makes sense, actually, considering the airy and evaporative properties of alcohol. My guess is that mouth feel is biggest hurdle for non-alcoholic wineries.

Corked - A bad cork cause the wine to have been ill-preserved - more specifically some part of the taste of the cork inadvertently made it into the wine. Think wet cardboard. Yuck.

"Mature" and "Young" - Related to the age of the wine, but not synonymous with it. Different wines are best at different times. If you are past that time, it's too mature. If you're before that time, it's too young. This might get used different ways, the thing to remember is some wines are best fresh, and others get better age. Well, with some age, at least. From what I hear very few stay good for years and years and years.

Objects / Accessories

Stopper - That cork is pretty hard to get back on the bottle. Use a stopper instead.

Decanter - A specially designed bottle you pour wine/juice into to help get rid of any sediment. Not as useful now a days when most wine is well filtered for this type of stuff. Can help aerate, however.

There are tons of accessories. The only other one to make sure you know about is the corkscrew. :)

What's Out There, and Where to Buy

This is very simply a list of every supplier or manufacturer I have found so far, and of course I'll update this list as I find new wine alternatives. An (s) means they are a supplier, an (m) means they are a manufacturer, and (w) means a winery. I make the distinction because many of the juice manufacturers I've found that have websites do not sell their products directly on their websites, but most wineries I've found do sell their product on their own website. So an (m) means they don't sell it on their site, but a (w) means they do. An (f) means it's foreign, or outside of the United States - important when considering shipping.

Alcohol Removed Wines:
Ariel (w) - Perhaps the most well known in the States. Brute Cuvée, Chardonnay, White Zinfandel, Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rouge
Sutter Home's Fre Wines (w) - White Zinfandel, Chardonay, Brut, Spumante, Merlot, Premium Red, Premium White
Carl Jung (f)(w) - I've heard a few good reviews of Carl Jung stuff. White, Red, Rosé, Merlot, Riesling, Sparkling White, Sparkling Peach. (canada/usa order form- usa website) (I finally found a US distributor!)
Vandalia Wine (w) - Cabernet Souvignon
Eisberg (alternate site) (m)(f) - Riesling, Chardonnay, Rose, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sparkling White, Sparkling Rose
Fine Wine House (s) - A selection of Ariels and Fres, as well as an Inglenook St. Regis Brut Champagne
AlcoholFree (s)(f) - UK based, a large selection of european dealcoholized wines, including Weinkonig, Bonne Nouvelle, and the Carl Jung wines I've been dying to try.
The Lono Club (s)(f) - Another UK based company, they have products from a wide variety of manufacturers, and even some varietal grape juice based wine alternatives!
Wine Without Alcohol (w)(f) - Not sure where they are from, but have some stuff I've never heard of.
Barimba / (w)(s)(f) - You Aussies are in luck! This place not only makes their own dealcoholized wine, they also sell many other types of non-alcoholic wines.
Total Wine (s) - I don't plan on listing every shop that carries alcohol removed wines, but Total Wine seems worth mentioning since they seem to be growing and present all over the US. Carries Ariel, Fre, and Martinelli's.
Peerless-Specialties (s) - They have some wine alternatives I haven't heard of before, but most importantly they carry Carl Jung!
"Tinto" - a random dealcholized spanish wine I found.
Élivo (m) (f) - website is in spanish, a new spanish dealcoholized wine.
Winezero - a new Italia dealcoholized wine - link is to a mini-review.

Varietal Grape Juices:
Sweet Water Cellars (s) - The mother of all Varietal Grape Juice suppliers. They have tons of products, more than any other I've run across. They even have Juice of the Month clubs! Watch shipping, though (as always) and make sure to look at their chart to minimize costs.
Navarro Vineyards (w) - Gewüztraminer, Pinot Noir, Verjus
First Blush (m) - Aimed at kids as gourmet grape juice. Cabernet, Chardonay, Syrah, and Merlot.
Draper Valley Vineyard (w) - I've recently tried these and was very pleased! Click the varieties for to see the "reviews" - Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Early Muscat, Gewurtztraminer
Regina Grape Juice / Lamanuzzi & Pantaleo (m) - Not too specific, but it looks like they make a lot of varieties. A lot of info about varietal grapes and juices on their site.
JuiceDevine (m)(f) - UK Based (sensing a pattern...) Red, White, White & Mango, Red & Raspberry
RedLand Juice (w) - Chardonnay & Merlot, along with a few other alternatives like Concord and Sparkling Peach & Wildberry.

Pure Juices, and Other Wine Alternatives:
EGA (m)(f) - New Zealand based, just sells (the promising) EGA. It's part varietal grape juices, part pomegranate, and part rooibos.
Shloer (m)(f) - UK based, sparkling juices, include red, white and rose grape juices.
Amé (m)(f) - As far as I can tell, BritVic is a company related to PepsiCo, and owns the brand Amé, which is a sparkling juice marketed towards adults. Looks good! Good luck finding it on this side of the pond.
MonaVie (m) - Açai Berry blends, MonaVie Original, Active, and Pulse.
Wine Country Soda (m) - Varietal Grape Juice Sodas - Chardonnay, Pino Noir, Rosé
Martinelli's (w)- Perhaps most popular and best known sparkling wine alternative. In addition to their many flavors of sparkling cider, they also carry a few premium still juices. I want to try Apple-Pomegranate, Apple-Pear, and Apple-Cherry.
Trader Joe's (w)(s) - I found a few interesting things under the store's brand. Sparkling Cranberry, Apple, Blueberry and Pomegranate Juice. Also lots of still juices, like "Just Cherry" and "Just Pomegrante" juices, as well as many blended juices. They carry a lot of other possible wine alternatives as well.
Pom Wonderful (m) - I read many people mixing pomegranate juice with sparkling water to substitute wine. Pom is a very well known maker of pomegranate juice.
R.W. Knudsen (m) - Like Martinelli's they have several sparkling juices, however their focus seems on still juices and they have a much larger line up of those. Just a few of their items-- Sparkling: Cherry, Grape, Pear and Strawberry. Still: Just Black Cherry, Just Pomegranate, Just Concord Grape, Just Tart Cherry, Just Black Currant, Açaí, Goji, and Yumberry.
Biotta Juices (m) - Some very interesting juices. They have something called Breuss Vegetable Juice that says it's fermented, yet 0% alcoholic (mostly contains sweeter vegetables.) I'm also interested in their Elderberry. Woah, they have Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) Juice (!?)
Sprouts (s) - They carry a bunch of juices, including R.W. Knudsen and Biotta, as well as Fre.
Kristian Regale (w) - Sparkling juices, available in 7 flavors, Apple, Pear, Lingonberry-Apple, Orange, Peach, Pomegranate-Apple, and Black Currant. These are very good, and less sweet than most juices (at least we had a great experience with the Pomegranate-Apple) Some of these I've found at Walmart, and recently I found some at Ikea.
Northland Juices - All Dark fruits, all the time. Pure and mixed juices including cranberry, pomegranate, blueberry and cherry.
Effervé - They make a bunch of (fantastic!) sparkling drinks. I have one "review" up now.
Eurobubbles - What is this? I haven't tried it yet.

Some New stuff I've found
Dry Soda - Just what it sounds like!
GUS Soda - Stands for "Grown Up Soda"

Confused by any of the terms above? Don't know your Chardonnay from your White Zinfandel? Neither did I... Up next, vocabulary.

Where to Start?

Well, I'll tell you where I did...

Google of course! It took some time to figure out what to search for. The easiest to find were mocktail drinks. Like this, this, and this. (I didn't find out until later that a wine enthusiast would probably find it ridiculous to call those even fake champagnes. It's not Champagne if it's not from France!) Well, those might be fun to try, but I was looking something a little more... well, interesting.

The News

I found several articles like this one.

The quick summary is this: Decide why you want to drink non-alcholic wine. If you want to just look cool and fit in, there are a lot of cheap solutions like juice mixes. If you want to experience the taste of wine, however, the fermentation process is critical. If you want the health benefits, there are some places that sell fancy juices.

This one article, however, has a few mentions of places to find wine alternatives that turned out to be, when combined, the biggest collection of non-alcoholic wines and varietal grape juices I've found. I'll share those sources soon. (I know the, suspense is even killing me!) I guess you *could* look at the article itself...

Let's take a look at a few other sources I found first, however.

Dr. Gourmet on Non-Alcoholic Wines is a good read, but perhaps not as detailed as I'd like. There are a bunch of rapid-fire reviews (some as short as Ariel's "Chardonnay (9 out of 10)."), some general health information, and super quick synopsis of cooking with them (on the left column).

The LA Times' article WEIGHING IN - Wine without booze? Why? mentions that wine with its alcohol removed has less calories, and talks about some reasons, as the article's title alludes, as to "Why?" The best part is, starting on page two, they have some reviews of popular wines, but they were reviewed by a small group, so you get several opinions. They were all regular drinkers of alcoholic wine.

The next article is the source of much of my angst. 'Bottom's up': non-alcoholic wine exporter toasts world markets tells the tale of a small Californian company called Creative Juices. The article makes it sound fantastic. Varietal grape juices designed specifically to be wine alternatives, yet I cannot find anything about this company. Please leave a comment here if you know anything about them!

Wine and Beer That Won't Make You Fat or Tipsy? I'll Drink to That! is the Washington Post's version of the LA Times article.

Here is an article called Wine without worry that is a lot like the articles from the heavy hitting newspapers, but is from (redirects to which is a serious look at the juice.

I scoured Wine Country looking for anything non-alcoholic, and found what might turn out to be a few really good gems.

Nonalcoholic 'Beer' and 'Wine;' How Close to the Real Thing - an article behind a pay-wall. Just the abstract is free. Anyone wanna fork up to tell us if it's any good? :)

Resources about "real" wine, for the beginner.

After reading those articles, I began to look for information about wine in general. I figured some reading about traditional wine might help me know what to look for, what to expect, etc. etc. has a wonderful section on Wine Basics that is very approachable to someone interested in alcohol removed wines. Tons of the information is very applicable even to alcohol removed wines. Serving temperatures, common tastes and smells in wine, pairing suggestions, and more.

A little more dense is SOYOUWANNA LEARN THE BASICS OF WINE? (SOYOUWANNA TYPE IN ALL CAPS?) Interesting info, but a little dry and generic. My other problem is it's not from a dedicated wine site - might not matter, but I tend to want to go somewhere that's dedicated and passionate about what I'm looking for.

I've got ideas for several posts about this next topic, but a few of these I just have to put out there. has a step-by-step my-way-or-the-highway guide to Tasting Wine.
-A little less in-your-face advice comes from the WineDoctor (with pictures!).
(He actually has quite a bit of good advice on the matter.) provides us with a wine dictionary that is thorough but not so arcane as to put off someone new to this whole field.

In Closing

I'm very glad I was able to find what I did, but I was really hoping to find a site dedicated to Wine Alternatives. I did find quite a few "mocktails" and other virgin drink websites. I plan on trying some of those out, but most of them seem more like dessert, or maybe something to drink on it's own. I'm really looking for the perfect complement to meals.

There are a few more resources I found, but they are more specific and topical, so I'll be sharing those in future posts.

I feel what I've found has armed me to begin, but really, the answer to the question "where to start?" is "by trying some!"

That's why the next post is probably the most important.

[UPDATE] I just found a new article that's great! It talks about chefs in high end restaurants that are pairing non-alcholic drinks with their tasting menus.

I also found a site that has a list of things to try, but it's hidden at the bottom right of this page.

An Introduction: Why Wine Alternatives

(Photo by yashima)

I've spent countless hours scouring the net; hundreds, if not thousands, of Google searches; and digging around on site after site, trying find out what types of wine alternatives are out there.

You see, my wife and I have been watching a lot Food Network and the like, and I couldn't help but notice how pretty much every meal was served with a glass of wine. I started to wonder what I've been missing, so I started to look around online for information about drinks that might have a similar taste. The information I found was both meager and disappointing. I primarily found negative reviews of non-alchoholic wines.

Not to be deterred, I continued to search for some sort of source for information, reviews, history, and, well, just about anything I could my hands on, about non-alcoholic wines. The problem was all I could find were random mentions, with few details, of non-alcoholic wines from places that normally dealt only with traditional wine. What I needed was a single place with reviews, information, news and advice on the matter! Well, it appears if you want something done well, sometimes you just have to do it yourself...

So why would someone want to do this? Why would anyone care? Well, the answer comes in a few parts. Firstly, and frankly the easy part, is why anyone would be interested at all. When you sit down to a great meal, one which you have planned every step of the way, it's only natural to include what to drink along with the meal in your consideration. Constantly seeing and hearing about wine pairings has got me thinking there is a lot more I could be experiencing, gastronomically speaking, by giving a little more thought to pairing drinks with certain meals, beyond water, milk, or Minute Maid.

But the real question is why not just go buy some wine and start there. Well, there are a lot of reasons to consider going the non-alcoholic route. Firstly, there are medical and health reasons to consider. It could be damaging to drink alcohol to people with specific diseases or health problems. There may be emotional or psychological reasons for it. Women who are expecting should also avoid drinking alcohol. Various religions have many views on alcohol (or any substance that might impair judgement.) There are also simple practical matters such as being a designated driver. It may simply be a personal decision. The point is, there are many reasons someone might consider refraining from alcohol, whether for a single event, for a long period of time, or a life time.

So the question becomes this - what to drink if you don't want alcohol, but you want something a little more complex than a super sweet juice or a soda? Is there anything out there as satisfying as a good wine, that won't make you a little tipsy?

Well, let's find out!

The Plan:

Try as many wine alternatives as possible, and put up my thoughts here.

What's a wine alternative? Anything that would could complement a meal - and I take the word complement seriously! I'm looking for more than something that tastes good on it's own. So far I've been considering a few different categories to drink.

Alcohol Removed Wines
Varietal Grape Juices
Pure No Sugar Added Juices (like "Just Black Currant" juice)
Wine Alternatives (specifically blended mixes meant to replace wine, like EGA)

I'm beginning to understand what's so attractive about wine. There are endless variations, and there is something rewarding about truly studying what you are consuming. Since I've recently started taking notes about what I'm drinking, and what goes well with it, I've found it to be intensely enjoyable. Along those lines, beyond reviews, I'll be explaining the methods I am using to learn about all these new possibilities.

Along the way I'll make sure to point out any other resources I find!

Who this blog is for:

One thing I must say right out. I have no prior experience with wine, so I can't help but create this from that point of view. That does not mean, however, that there isn't much to be contributed by those with much more experience (and wine vocabulary!) than me! I hope for this to eventually be a resource where anyone, experienced with wine or not, will be able to find valuable information.

Wine Alternatives 101

First, I must give credit where credit is due. The photography blog Strobist had a huge influence on my vision of how to pull off this site. (I'd like to think of starting things of with "Wine Alternatives 101" more of an homage than blatantly stealing ideas from the site. :)

With that said, what follows will slowly grow into what I hope is a comprehensive course on the subject. It should be obvious now, however, that I'm not billing myself as an expert. Hopefully we can learn together, as we go, and have fun along the way.