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.