With Dry January in full swing, many consumers are seeking non-alcoholic beverage choices, and fortunately the wine, beer, and spirits industry has been introducing many new options over the past two years. This makes sense, given that the category is one of the fastest growing in the past year, with a volume increase of 31.2% in 2023 compared to the previous year, according to NielsenIQ.
One winery that is making a big splash in the non-alcoholic category is Giesen. Based in New Zealand, Giesen has been making wine since 1981, but only started producing its zero alcohol wines in early 2020. Recently their head winemaker, Duncan Shouler, hosted an online tasting of six of their zero alcohol wines, and explained the special winemaking process used to maintain aromas and flavors while removing the alcohol.
‘High quality non-alcoholic wine depends on two factors – high-quality grapes and a process to delicately remove the alcohol,” stated Duncan Shouler, head winemaker for the Giesen-Zero wine portfolio. It turns out that the delicate process is similar to what the perfume industry uses to extract aromas.
To date Giesen has developed and released seven different varieties of non-alcoholic wine: sparkling brut, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, rosé, riesling, merlot, and a red blend. The wines are also low calorie and low carb – ranging from 19 to 33 calories and 4.5 to 9 carbs per 5-ounce serving. Suggested retail price points in the U.S. range from $16 to $19.99.
How Giesen Makes Non-Alcoholic Wines
#1) Start with Sustainably Grown Wine Grapes: Duncan explained that all of Giesen wines are certified sustainable by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand. This means all the grapes that go into the wines have been grown in a sustainable manner, which includes special soil, water, plant protection and people practices. The grapes that go into the zero alcohol wine are sourced from these vineyards
#2) Produce Wine in Same Fashion: The grapes are fermented in the same manner as traditional wine, usually in a stainless steel tank with yeast. Next the white and rosé wines are aged for several months in tank. The red wines are fermented and aged with oak chips and staves to provide a hint of toasty oak.
#3) Remove Aromas From Wine, Then Alcohol: There are several methods to remove alcohol from wine, but Duncan says they prefer to use the spinning cone technology.
“We use spinning cone technology, which is used in the perfume industry, because it is really good at extracting aroma. We do this first, and then slowly heat up the wine and remove the alcohol,” stated Duncan.
They do this in multiple passes so that it is a gentle process. “We have our own spinning cone, so we get to control the quality,” explained Duncan. (Other methods to remove alcohol from wine include vacuum distillation and reverse osmosis.)
#4) Blend All Components: The last step is to blend the aromas and the dealcoholized wine back together, along with a small amount of pure grape juice (no sugar is added to the wine). When bottling, they add a small amount of SO2 (around 30 ppm free) to protect the wine, as is common with traditional wines.
“The end result is wine that is 0.35 to 0.4% alcohol, similar to fruit juices. If you were to drink 20 bottles, you would still be fresh,” said Duncan.
So What Do Giesen Zero Alcohol Wines Taste Like?
In the past non-alcoholic wines have received a ‘bad rap’ because they either taste too thin or too sweet – like drinking grape juice. The good news is they are getting better, and some of the Giesen wine are a testament to this – especially if you like dry wines – which are quite popular in New Zealand and Australia.
Duncan led us through a tastings of six wines, and my personal favorites were the Giesen Pinot Grigio and Sparkling Brut, but all six wines are appealing for Dry January. Following are some brief notes on the wines, with calories and carbs calculated for a 5-ounce glass serving:
Giesen Zero Pinot Grigio = nose of pear with a hint of floral, with tart green apple and good texture on the palate. It ends with a surprisingly long and refreshing finish, and would pair well with salad, cheeses, and lighter fish dishes. 27 calories, 7 carbs, $16 (My personal favorite)
Giesen Zero Sparkling Brut = light fresh nose with ripe golden apple and lemon; frothy bubbles in the beginning that transition to a pleasant pétillance on palate. Very dry and refreshing with good acidity. Made with a blend of chardonnay, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc grapes. 21 calories, 6 carbs, $19.99
Giesen Zero Rosé = appealing salmon color, a hint of pear, tart strawberry and rhubarb on nose and palate, juicy acidity with dry finish. 19 calories, 4.5 carbs, $16.
Giesen Zero Riesling (semi-sweet) = A hint of classic diesel on nose, but brimming with peach, honey, and lime on palate. Nice texture with good acidity and decent length. Lingers on the palate in a pleasant manner. Would pair well with spicy cuisine. 33 calories, 9 carbs, $16
Giesen Zero Sauvignon Blanc – Classic gooseberry and grass on nose, which follows through on palate with strong lime and a hint of kiwi. Light bodied with high acid. 19 calories, 4.5 carbs, $16
Giesen Zero Red Blend – a surprisingly aromatic nose with ripe berries, spice and toasted oak. A bit thin on the mid-palate, but has an enjoyable finish with plum, cloves, oak and a pleasant tannin structure. A fine effort – given that producing dry red non-alcoholic wines is very challenging. This wine could even stand up to heartier dishes, such as pork with mushrooms and hard cheeses. It also pairs well with chocolate. 27 calories, 7 carbs, $16.
When asked, Duncan said the best sellers were the “sauvignon blanc, sparkling brut, pinot gris, and rosé, but the red blend is also gaining in popularity.”
Giesen Wine Mixology for Cocktails
Giesen has also developed an interesting database of wine cocktail recipes for their non-alcoholic wines. Many were developed by master mixologist, Pam Wiznitzer, and are available on their website. Examples include ‘The Ruby Slipper Fizz, The Gigi Spritz, and Minted Sunset Smash.”
Other Popular Non-Alcoholic Wines for Dry January
The number of non-alcoholic wine brands is growing, and some classic brands, such as Fre have just released some new varietals, such as their Fre Sauvignon Blanc. This zero-alcohol wine features the classic grassy, gooseberry nose, but bursts with melon and sweet ruby grapefruit on the palate. 37 calories, 9 carbs per 5 ounce serving.
Other popular brands include Arial, Wander+Found, Proxies Blanc Slate, Dr. Lo, and Leitz Einzs Zwei Zero, amongst others.