HomeFood + WineThe dry revolution

The dry revolution

Ever slurped on a mocktail or sipped on a non-alcoholic beer?

Bar and restaurant drink menus these days are more likely to offer low or zero alcohol beverages, with their rising popularity spurring some Hills producers to dabble in the trend.

According to the leading source of data and analysis on the beverage alcohol market, the IWSR, the global market value of no/low alcohol products in 2022 surpassed $11 billion, up from $8 billion in 2018.

Consumption of low or zero alcohol products is expected to increase by a third by 2026, spearheaded by the growth in non-alcohol products.

Early in 2023, Sidewood Estate released the Adelaide Hills’ first zero alcohol sparkling wine, named Nearly Naked, made from its vineyard’s grapes and produced at the winery in Nairne.

Shortly afterwards came the Nearly Naked zero-alcohol sauvignon blanc.

Sidewood marketing manager Sam Evans says consumers’ response to the new products has been strong.

“We’ve had many ladies say they wish they had this when they were pregnant,” he says.

“It has led to a lot of good customer conversations as well.

“Social inclusion is one of the biggest factors.

“Customers don’t want to feel like they’re missing out on the party and people don’t want their friends to feel like they’re missing out either.

“I think it comes down to having a glass of wine that tastes and looks like a wine, having a bottle that actually looks good and from a brand that you actually know and trust.”

The winemaking process for the Nearly Naked wines begins in the vineyard, with good quality fruit picked, crushed and fermented.

The process to remove the alcohol involves a method that uses spinning cone technology, which Sam says causes up to a 30% loss in liquid volume.

“It’s quite expensive because you’re losing all that liquid,” he says.

“That’s generally the cost cutting thing companies try to do … buying cheaper fruit because they know it’s going to be lost in the process.

“But we’ve gone in the opposite direction and used more expensive fruit because we’d rather have a better end product.”

Sidewood was first inspired to attempt making a non-alcoholic wine when the company’s head of sales, Steve Dundon, sampled some zero alcohol varieties on the market during Dry July, an annual cancer fundraising campaign that challenges people to abstain from drinking alcohol for the month of July.

Sam says Steve brought a collection of the zero alcohol drops into the office, but they failed to impress.

“We thought, okay, there’s a real opportunity here,” Sam says. “We’re a premium sparkling producer from the Adelaide Hills and we have our own vineyard.

“It’s a really good opportunity for us to do a zero alcohol product.

“So we decided to give it a crack.”

Sidewood will soon welcome a third Nearly Naked wine to its non-alcoholic portfolio – a rosé set to launch in time for Dry July. Despite an uplift in demand for zero-alcohol drinks among consumers, the region’s wine association says the limited supply of non-alcoholic wines made by Adelaide Hills wineries is unlikely to make a significant dent.

“Due to the limited supply of (zero alcohol) wine being made from the Adelaide Hills, we don’t expect to see a significant shift towards wine with alcohol removed in the near future,” says Adelaide Hills Wine Region president Alex Trescowthick.

But Alex commends Sidewood on its innovation and focus on producing premium products.

“It aligns with what consumers have come to expect from the Adelaide Hills wine region,” he says.

“As a premium cool climate grape growing region, the Adelaide Hills is generally known for its lower alcohols, medium bodied wines and small wine producers.” The world of spirits is not immune to the zero alcohol trend.

Gary Sinton is behind Stirling label Artisan Distillers, creator of zero alcohol ‘counterfeit gin’ sold online, and in some bottle shops and Foodland stores, as well as various local bars and restaurants.

“Artisan Distillers was initially established to produce alcohol-based beverages, however, the damaging impact of alcohol on a number of friends and the worldwide trend towards a healthier lifestyle motivated us to shift our focus to non-alcoholic products,” Gary says.

The process to create zero alcohol spirits is generally the same as the production of alcoholic beverages except the alcohol is “burned off” at the end of the run

The range is currently limited to three gins: The Imposter, The Pretender and The Deceiver and a hazelnut and macadamia liqueur, The Charlatan.

Gary says the process to create zero alcohol spirits is generally the same as the production of alcoholic beverages except the alcohol is “burned off” at the end of the run.

“We distil each individual botanical and then blend them to ensure the same depth and complexity in every batch,” he says.

“Botanicals are a gift from nature and can often vary in their characteristics, so a lot of tasting has to happen.”

Gary says his customers show genuine curiosity when tasting the products and he believes society is becoming more accepting of those who abstain from alcohol.

“The ‘what’s wrong with you if you don’t want an alcoholic drink’ attitude has gone,” he says.

“There will always be a place for alcohol in our society, but the number of people that turn away from it is growing significantly.”

Artisan Distillers was recently named Most Innovative Alcohol-Free Spirit Distillery at the Australian Enterprise Awards.

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