From nonalcoholic Rieslings to red blends, these are the booze-free bottles you'll want on your table
If the idea of non-alcoholic wine conjures visions of grape juice in a fancy glass, think again. Like spirits, aperitifs, and beer, nonalcoholic wine is having a moment. With so many upcoming opportunities to raise a glass (or two), it’s exactly the right time to pick up a bottle or two.
“Holidays are a major time for gatherings, reunions, celebrations and definitely a lot of ‘cheers,’ so it’s important to be inclusive and allow guests — and yourself! — to celebrate the way you want,” says Hilary Sheinbaum, author of "The Dry Challenge: How to Lose the Booze for Dry January, Sober October, and Any Other Alcohol-Free Month." She adds that nondrinkers and sober curious individuals alike still want to have those same tasty, and memorable, experiences, without having to opt for juice, soda or water.
Whatever your reason for choosing nonalcoholic wine, there are dozens of options. From wine that’s been dealcoholized to beverages that mimic the flavors of wine, you could try a new bottle for every dinner party, cookie swap and gift exchange this season. Not sure where to start? Let our experts recommend their favorite still non-alcoholic wines.
Best nonalcoholic wine for the perfect host gift: Wander + Found Nonalcoholic Pinot Noir
“Wines are the final frontier in the nonalcoholic space to make comparable in taste, and the toughest of the nonalcoholic beverages to replicate — especially reds,” explains Sheinbaum.
It’s a challenge due in part because beer has had decades to get it right (Anheuser Busch and Pabst made what they called ‘near beer’ during Prohibition; German brand Clausthaler began selling its non-alcoholic beers in 1979), and mocktails, which have so many different ingredients, can be tinkered with, to pin down the right taste and consistency. Nonalcoholic wine, however, is a newer category, and Sheinbaum points out that it can often taste watery.
Not this Pinot. “This is a glass to pour in the presence of a fire pit or a fireplace — or even a space heater,” says Sheinbaum. She recommends pairing it with a charcuterie spread, chocolate desserts, and meat-heavy dishes–all holiday staples. This versatility coupled with the $19 price point makes it a great gift. Plus, “I'm not going to lie,” Sheinbaum adds, “the label caught my attention!”
Best nonalcoholic wine for when you need to switch things up: Leitz Eins Zwei Zero Riesling
When you need a night off from rich spreads and buttery baked goods, Derek Brown, founder of Positive Damage Inc,, reaches for this Riesling, which pairs beautifully with Thai food, or any sweet and sour dish.
Brown’s company consults for bars, brands, and nutrition and wellness organizations, in addition to hosting classes and events centered around mindful drinking and wellness. He praises this bottle as, “off-dry with lovely notes of beeswax, lime, tropical fruits, and tarragon.”
It’s worth noting that Leitz also produces wines with alcohol, just one example of how the NA wine category has grown. Brown first tried a wine alternative while working as a sommelier in Washington, D.C. in 2006. “People love wine occasions but don't necessarily want to drink, or drink a lot, of alcohol,” he says. “We're seeing a renaissance in NA wine, and I'm here for it.”
Best nonalcoholic wine for a dessert wine alternative: NON2 Caramelized Pear & Kombu
Along with dealcoholized wine, wine proxies are another major category in the NA wine world. Proxies aren’t wine and not meant to mimic a certain wine varietal. Instead, these complex beverages lean on spices, fruits, and teas to make them especially food-friendly.
At Sipple, a nonalcoholic bottle shop in Houston, founder Danny Frounfelkner stocks 11 different kinds of wine proxies. One favorite brand, NON, makes blends that rely heavily on seasonal flavors.
“The NON 2 is complex with beautiful autumn and winter flavors. It's almost like having a liquid spice rack that leaves you wanting more,” he explains. Made with pears, verjus, black tea, kombu (kelp), olive brine, vanilla, agave, clove, cardamom, ginger root, star anise and peppercorn,it’s for the adventurous palate.
If you’re up for that adventure, Frounfelkner recommends pouring a glass to go with pies, pumpkin and apple-based dishes, savory pastries and cheese boards.
Best nonalcoholic wine for gatherings on the go: Gruvi Dry Red Blend
Sisters Priyanka and Chirasmita Kompella recommend Gruvi’s Dry Red Blend. The co-founders of Zero Proofed, which curates alcohol-free cocktail kits, events, and bar programs nationwide, love the taste of the booze-free, California grape-based red.
The Kompellas love the sweet and savory notes of cranberry, cherry and baking spices, but they also choose Gruvi for its portability. With single serve cans and bottles, this is a convenient choice for holiday potlucks, picnics and or travel. “I often stick a couple in my bag for weddings, vacations, and other occasions where I know it may be challenging to find NA options,” says Priyanka.
Best nonalcoholic wine for the most traditional wine-like taste: Leitz Eins Zwei Chardonnay
Another Leitz pick made our experts’ list: The Leitz Chardonnay is Eric Jeffus’ favorite still NA wine. The beverage director at Nashville restaurants Audrey and June says it’s “a remarkable facsimile of its alcoholic counterpart with a surprising amount of body.”
“Every guest I’ve shared their wine with is amazed, due to its verisimilitude, that it’s non-alcoholic,” he adds. “Guests who don’t drink or aren’t currently drinking are grateful to have a complex, thoughtful option as well.”
Jeffus says the flavor is similar to a traditional Chardonnay, but perhaps more like a crisp Chablis than a creamy Meursault. He suggests pairing a glass with oysters, mussels or seafood. It’s a perfect wine for any Italian-Americans celebrating Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve — assuming that guests are amenable to drinking a German wine over an Italian one!
He also points out that high quality NA wines serve as great bases for NA cocktails. At Audrey, guests can order an NA mulled wine spritz, which calls for a base of Leitz Pinot Noir, as well as fresh apple juice, warmly spiced black cardamom syrup, a blend of NA amari, and soda.
Best nonalcoholic wine to pair with meat and hearty dishes: Proxies Red Ember
Brianda Gonzalez sells 70 wine alternatives, wine proxies and dealcoholized wines at her Los Angeles shop and online marketplace The New Bar,
A fan of big, full-bodied red wines, she says, “Proxies Red Ember never fails me.” Customers tend to love the brand, too. But Gonzalez always advises that “‘these won’t taste exactly like any wine you’ve ever tasted, so focus on the depth of the experience and the flavor profile, rather than measuring it up against an alcoholic cab you’ve had.’”
Nonetheless, this bottle, she says, made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with berries, verjus, black pepper, ginger, coffee, black tea, and french oak, still delivers the fruit, acidity, spice, and body of a decadent red wine. It’s a great match for heartier meals. “For the holidays, I recommend it with stews or brisket,” Gonzalez says. With fun packaging and branding, she adds, it also makes a great contribution to a dinner party or host gift.
Best nonalcoholic wine for a standalone pour: Lautus Savvy Red
Sam Bail, founder of Third Place Bar, a non-alcoholic pop-up bar in New York City, who also works at nonalcoholic bottle shop Minus Moonshine, says Lautus Savvy Red is her current favorite still NA wine. “This one surprised me with much more body and blackberry as well as black currant and woody notes that I hadn't found yet in the NA wines I've tasted.” (She’s found that most dealcoholized NA reds, in contrast, are fairly light and red fruit forward.)
“[It has] lots of tannins. It's definitely on the more acidic side like most dealcoholized reds, but it feels balanced.”
To Bail, many still NA reds are better with food pairings, but she says Lautus actually makes a great sippable wine that stands alone. Keep some handy for moments of downtime during the holidays, or a drinks-only event. If you do want to enjoy it alongside a bite she suggests pairing it with grilled red meat or aged cheeses.
Best nonalcoholic wine for natural wine lovers: Muri Nuala
“Muri, out of Copenhagen, has been our newest obsession,” says Sam Hart, executive chef and owner of Biblio and Counter-, restaurants in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Started by Murray Paterson, a mastermind of fermentation, Muri focuses on showcasing the depth and unique flavors of fermentation,” explains Hart.
At Counter-, Hart is currently pairing Muri’s Nuala bottle with a lobster and fermented tomato course. The Nuala is a fruity, light, tannic red-type beverage that uses currants, sourdough starters, yeast, and botanicals. The result? “A funky, yet fresh, flavor that beautifully intertwines the tomato's umami with the tender fattiness of the lobster.”
Best versatile pick for nonalcoholic wine: Thomson & Scott Noughty Non-Alcoholic Blanc
Gonzalez reaches for this dealcoholized South African wine because of its great acidity and bright notes of yellow apple, chamomile, and lime. “I prefer my wines dry, and this one, “definitely lives up to that.”
Made from a blend of Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, Noughty Blanc pairs nicely with creamy pastas, and seafood, especially lobster. Gonzalez says it would be great with roasted turkey, as well. She also keeps Thomson & Scott’s NA Syrah stocked at home, and uses their sparkling NA Chardonnay for festive holiday mimosas.
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