The European Commission is launching the diffusion of non-alcoholic wine, debates and new paths are opening for the future of wine. Here are all the proposals and comments from trade associations.
NON-ALCOHOL PROCESS: what it is and how to do it
Non-alcohol process is a process by which it is possible to extract alcohol from alcoholic beverages, including wine. It can be practiced by partial evaporation, distillation or by osmosis, at very delicate pressure and temperature conditions.
The greatest risk is to make the drink lose its natural organoleptic properties. However, over time, the techniques and machinery have improved, making it possible to carry out less harsh and invasive interventions, which affect only ethanol, but not the typical tastes and aromas of wine.
Meanwhile, Spain is funding scientific research to obtain a drink similar to wine, but without alcohol, against neurodegenerative diseases. As many as two research centres together with three farms will take care of extracting antioxidants from grapes of different varieties and creating the non-alcoholic beverage that should have preventive effects for degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The proposal of the EU COMMISION
A few months ago, the European Commission presented its proposal to amend regulation no. 1308/2013, the terms “dealcoholized wine” (with alcohol content not exceeding 0.5% vol.) and “partially de-alcoholised wine” (with an alcoholic strength between 0.5% and 9%).
However, we should wait for the next European elections (end of May) to find out if the proposal will be approved.
This is the first attempt to harmonize this type of product at European level. At the moment, it is the individual national laws that admit it or not. For example, Spain and Germany did it, even though the practice did not have much success. At the last CIA forum – Italian Farmers, the Portuguese Joao Onofre Antas Goncalves (head of the Alcoholic, Spirits and Horticultural Products Unit at the EU Commission), introduced alcohol free wine as one of the routes along which to move to intercept new and new markets consumers.
REGULATIONS: necessary or useless?
For Unione Italiana Vini “regulation is never bad news. Harmonizing the rules means defining an area in which moving and the inclusion of alcohol-free wines in the single CMO wine regulation package (Common Organization of the Wine Market) would make it possible to keep them close to the type of wine and, therefore, exercise control over them. The problem would occur if these products, included in the food industry and not in the wine industry, became competitors of the wine.”
DEMAND is growing
There is a growing demand for wines, and more generally for beverages, with a low alcohol content, although it is still difficult to quantify at the moment, precisely because there is no single regulation. Beers and cocktails were the forerunners, not only in those markets with religious limitations, but also towards the so-called healthy countries, such as New Zealand, Australia and Northern Europe, especially Sweden. On the other hand, the least receptive countries would be Portugal and Japan.
ALCOHOL FREE WINE: the positives
Even the other association, Federvini, does not seem to be against the arrival of wine without alcohol: “nothing against these products“, says general director Ottavio Cagiano de Azevedo, “but there are many doubts about the use of the term wine, for the risk of confusion that can generate in the mind of the consumer.”
Still according to Mr. Cagiano, therefore, the regulation would not be wrong: “it is the natural location, because raw materials and techniques are the same. Indeed, it would be proof that the wine legislation is the most advanced and comprehensive of all nuances. Without considering that entering this package, it would mean, even for alcohol free wine producers, to become subject to controls, to the electronic register and to all the other obligations of the sector.”
The question of the name is a different one, continues Federvini’s director: “alcohol free wine is a term that informs and disinforms at the same time; it would be more correct to refer to a drink made from grapes.
The word wine presupposes a series of constraints, conditioning and productive and cultural inheritances, where the alcohol content depends, first of all, on the territory and the harvest. Deciding in a laboratory the gradation you want to achieve is a somewhat different practice.”
WINE WITHOUT ALCOHOL: the opposites
European Federation of Denomination Wines (EFOW) finds the proposal of the EU Commission “an aberration; accepting alcohol free wine means going towards the cracking of wine and its re-composition in the laboratory.”
FIVI (Italian Federation of Independent Winegrowers) is also included in the list of opposites: “alcohol free wine?”, Vice president Gaetano Morella asks, “we believe that a manipulated product cannot be called that. Wine is another thing: it is an agricultural product that tells the story of a territory. Dealcoholize means making a wine by recipe, which has nothing to do with agricultural practices.”
He adds: “We cannot go towards the industrialization of agriculture. Having a trade opportunity cannot always justify everything. It is perfectly fine that a market is opened for this product, but please don’t call it wine.”
ALCOHOL FREE WINE: the producers
Among the alcohol-free wine producers, there are Bosca and Iris Vigneti (which at its first harvest, in 2017, had the Venetian governor Luca Zaia as an exceptional testimonial), but also one of the largest realities in the Conegliano area – Valdobbiadene, Astoria Vini. The company of Polegato brothers in 2010 created its first low-alcohol sparkling wine, 9.5 Cold Wine (as the name says, a wine that has just over 9 degrees).