This is probably the most popular alcohol replacement out there. I’ve seen it served at weddings during the toast instead of Champagne, and my family has had it yearly during Thanksgiving and Christmas for many years. It’s a staple of the holiday season for me, and it was the first thing I’d ever drank that was from a wine-bottle-shaped-bottle. It stood out as unique to me because of how rarely we had it, and it’s extreme fizz made me have to sip it lightly. It was only years down the line that I started to think “what other options do we have?” I’ve always liked to try new foods, and after a few years, despite liking Martinelli’s, I got bored with it. As it was my parents making the purchase, I didn’t really do anything about it. Eventually, in the last few years, as I started thinking more about the food I was eating both from a culinary perspective and a health perspective, I really started to search for other things to pair with my foods. In a way, this should have been the first thing I posted here, because it was first wine-alterative I’d ever tried. So, I sat down with a new bottle and dissected it.
It’s the color of a clear apple juice, though lighter than most. The bubbles cling quite strongly to the sides of the flute. Various sized bubbles floated up, creating a very slow, but stead stream of released carbonation. It’s quite strongly carbonated, and if you place the plastic topper back on (after you’ve popped the bottle cap off for the first round) it will shoot off when you open it. I’ve often gotten the hiccups from drinking the first glass too swiftly. It still happens to me often. it smells like apple juice, but with a touch more tartness in the scent. The carbonation gives it a strong prickle, and if you give it a switch in your mouth, it foams and evaporates almost immediately. It’s quite a fun sensation. It’s very sweet, with a touch of tart from the apple, and perhaps a bit more acidic than straight apple juice. And I’ll emphasize, it’s very sweet for someone looking for a wine replacement. There is no barrier of entry- anyone who likes apple juice will likely enjoy this. It’s simple, not very complex, and yet I personally find it addictive. I’ll finish any bottle that gets opened. I like sweet drinks, and even though I’m finding some juices and be too sweet when paired with meals, Martinelli’s is more easily paired with many foods. It is, however, a pretty strong drink that can overwhelm some foods. It would definitely work as an aperitif or dessert wine - definitely as a dessert wine.
It’s nothing spectacular, but then again I’ve grown up with it. I think it fails with some of the pairings I usually have had it with, and it would work much better with stronger foods than turkey. Some of the sides, cranberries for example, make a better pairing.
Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider is agressive. It hits your hard up front, and in that way it’s like a soda - it’s not subtle. it’s good for cutting through tart, but it will affect how the rest of your food tastes because of how sweet it is. It minimizes the sweetness that may be present in your meal, for example pairing it with ham would emphasize it’s umami, but diminish it’s sweetness. This happens without any added sweeteners - it’s pretty much just apples and carbonation - which is interesting because they have an organic sparkling apple juice which is different from the cider (but they have non-sparking apple cider and non-sparkling apple juice that are the same!), but the process this is put through intensifies it’s flavors and naturally occurring sugar.
Works as a Wine Alternative: For any strongly sparkling dessert wine, yes.
Did I Like it: yes! 8 out of 10. My sweet tooth (and sweet) wife likes it also.
Would I Recommend it: Yes, just remember it’s the furthest from dry you can get. It’s aggressive, yet approachable for those coming from sodas and juices.
Who Might Like it: Someone who is looking for somethings subtle or more complex.