"What's the point in non-alcoholic wine?," asked a Gleaner newsroom staffer when he heard we were looking at a story about non-alcoholic wines. "Just drink vinegar with some sugar in it if you don't want alcohol in your wine," he sneered.
Well, this chap from Down Under has obviously never bumped into a bottle of Bel Normande or Renee. True, they lack the power to slur your speech and send a rocket to your brain, but vinegar they are not.
Officially classified as sparkling fruit juices, these two popular brands are alcohol free. Sold in what look like wine bottles, they provide an alternative for people who don't want to, or can't drink, and to those designated to safely drive home the drinkers after the party. Plus, in flavours like California Chardonnay and California White Zinfandel (in the case of Renee) you at least get to pretend that you're sipping the real stuff.
With more than 10,000 cases sold each year in Jamaica, Bel Normande is a best-seller, says Wayne Kirkpatrick, General Manager of Wray and Nephew which distributes the product here. "Anybody who tastes it will like it," he said confidently. It's especially great when it's chilled, he said.
Made in France, Bel Normande is produced and bottled according to the traditional French wine techniques and has no preservatives, no added sugar or artificial colouring. The juice has been gently carbonated and is suitable for all occasions, said Mr. Kirkpatrick.
It costs $162 per bottle and comes in peach-grape, white grapes and apple, raspberry-grape.
Made in California's Napa Valley, a bottle of Renee runs at about $265 (plus GCT). Both varieties have a crisp and refreshing taste with, with the White Zinfandel hinting at strawberries and raspberries. The Sparkling Chardonnay on the other hand, suggests pineapple, luscious peaches and apples.
Renee is 100 per cent natural, 100 per cent Sulfite free, and has no sugar or artificial flavours added. It's also pasteurised to preserve freshness.
"They are an alternative to alcoholic wines," said Marilyn Bennett, Public Relations/Brand executive of Edwin Charley Jamaica Limited, the local distributors.
"(They allow non-drinkers to) join the festivity," she added. "They are refreshing, sparkling and they add a touch of festiveness to any occasion without the worry of alcohol content."
4 oz. passion fruit juice
1 dash cranberry juice
1 dash lemon juice
Combine juices in highball glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and stir. Add a cherry and a long straw.
Pineapple Citrus Punch are delightful.