Wed | Jun 16, 2021

Un-Wine for Lent!

Published:Thursday | March 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Marilyn W. Bennett
A selection of locally available non-alcoholic wines. - Rudolph Brown/Freelance Photographer

Wine Quote:

"One not only drinks wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it and - one talks about it."

 - King Edward VII of England

Marilyn W. Bennett, Contributor

A number of my friends, colleagues and those kind enough to send feedback about this column, have asked about a stylish, social option for persons who can't or won't consume alcohol. This may be because they have given up alcohol for Lent; they are temporarily or permanently on special medication; have made a lifestyle commitment to avoid alcohol; are pregnant or breastfeeding; or for religious, sporting or medical reasons. It may even be that perhaps they do not enjoy any alcoholic drinks at all.

Some of the reasons for giving up alcohol I can understand, especially if it concerns one's health or safety - think designated driver - but I just cannot see that it is necessary to give up (of all things) drinking wine for Lent. Would the good Lord not have turned water into wine if the wedding was held during the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Monday?

This subject came up recently when in conversation about the benefits of Lenten abstentions, a friend imperiously intoned "... Marilyn, YOU should consider giving up wine drinking for Lent ... ." Eventually I agreed that this was worth thinking about.

Today, we will take a look beyond tea, coffee, fruit juices, mineral water and the usual menu of non-alcoholic offerings, to identify the fun, safe and available alternatives to wine. Perhaps we will also continue in a subsequent article to look at the surprising benefits to consumers.

De-alcoholised or non-alcoholic Wine - What's in a name?

On the one hand, the legal definition of an alcohol-free drink is that it must contain less than one half of one per cent of alcohol. Conversely, we know that wine is fermented grape juice and that the fermentation process produces alcohol when the sugars in the grape juice are converted by yeast into alcohol, carbon dioxide and other by-products. It is also accepted that while it is physically impossible to remove all of the alcohol from wines, the designation will apply once the drink meets the alcohol-free legal standard.

Increasingly the accepted name for this alcohol-free, grape-based or grape and fruit-based beverage is non-alcoholic wine, although the wine industry prefers the term 'de-alcoholised wine'. These wines enjoy high acceptance by consumers who want the social experience of wine consumption, in stemware of course, without the obvious highball glass of a 'soft' drink or the so-not-chic rock glass of mineral water or club soda.

Non-alcoholic wines are enjoying new focus and attention from wine houses and winemakers and they have benefited from new production techniques. The best non-alcoholic wines are made from the same premium grapes as other fine wines. Some are fermented and aged in barrels and undergo much the same winemaking methods as their alcoholic counterparts. The alcohol is usually filtered out just prior to the wines being bottled.

Persons desiring non-alcoholic wines will be happy to know that these wines are made - as red, white rose` and sparkling wines - even a range of varietals, exhibiting varied berry or tropical-fruit characters, subtle oak influences from barrel ageing, tannins and other 'wine' attributes. Producers of these non-alcoholic wines claim that some have ageing potential and will continue to develop complexity over time. Non-alcoholic wines are available as:

  • Chardonnay
  • White Zinfandel
  • Merlot
  • Brut Sparkling

The non-alcoholic or alcohol-free sparkling fruit juices available here in Jamaica are mainly imported from France and Spain. Popular choices are Bel Normande, Chamdor, Keror, May and Eva with the excellent Challand brand reportedly set to be in stores in a few weeks.

(More on non-alcoholic wines in the next Grape Connections).

What I am drinking!

Truthfully, I have not had any non-alcoholic wine in recent months but will endeavour to try out a few and share these experiences with you as we conclude our look at the non-alcoholic segment of the wine industry.

Wishing you, as usual, more vino and a grape month!

Marilyn W. Bennett is a wine enthusiast. She has participated in wine courses at the Culinary Institute of America Rudd Centre for Wines Studies in St Helena, California, and is an advanced level student of the UK-based WSET (Wines and Spirits Education Trust) programme. Send your comments or questions to