It’s no secret that alcohol consumption habits are declining in the UK, with many Brits now favouring no and low alcohol alternatives that are taking the market by storm – and the rationale as to why is broad and varied. In fact, research from Walnut Unlimited ahead of Christmas 2019 demonstrated that a fifth of our pub-loving nation did not drink alcohol, while a quarter of our drinkers were actively attempting to reduce their alcohol consumption. With this in mind, a surge of low and no alcohol products have hit the shelves and the trend has not slowed since.
The rise of the alternatives entering the market in response to this shift means non-drinkers, and those drinking less, need not miss out on the experience of indulging in a bottle of fizz. Research shows that consumers are genuinely intrigued by the taste of low and no-alcohol drinks, with a third of the UK’s drinkers reporting they are interested in low and non-alcoholic drinks that really do taste as good as the alcoholic versions.
As a sensory scientist, Dr. Debbie Parker can detect, recognize, accurately identify and rate intensities of individual flavours. Her sensory work at Walnut Unlimited has helped leading food and beverage brands and those across the alcohol sector to produce, test and optimise recipes, ensuring brands undertake a quality-driven approach to product and recipe development.
But with a multitude of low and no alcohol options available on supermarket shelves, it’s hard to know which product is the one that ticks the right boxes for optimum sensory experience. So, we’ve conducted some sensory research of seven sparkling wine alternatives. Below are our expert descriptions of the different tipples based on their sensory properties. So, what can you expect from the leading low/no alcohol proseccos on the market?
Rawson’s Retreat 0.5% (Tesco)
With the loudest ‘pop’ ever, this yellow effervescent wine with its aroma of Chardonnay-like vanilla and grape was full of promise. The taste for me, however, was a little too sharp and acidic and gave a very dry finish. If you like hardly any sweetness in your wines and sour lemon, gooseberry and grapefruit tartness, then this wine is for you!
Sainsbury’s Fresh & Fruity
Pale yellow and fresh and fruity, this wine adheres somewhat to what it says on the bottle. Slight eggy sulphur soon flashes off to give a fruity, sweet drinkable wine with moderate acidity. A bruised apple and grape juice flavour and slightly earthy notes give this jovial wine an ok flavour.
Eisberg Alcohol-free Sparkling Blanc: 0.0% ABV (Waitrose)
This German classic wine is very pale coloured with a good fizz and is very effervescence in the glass. A light aroma with a touch of initial sulphur that flashes off to give sweet, grapefruit notes. The taste is sweet and fruity, with grape & apple flavours, low acidity and a syrupy sweet finish. This cheerful wine is a bit too sweet for my palate but pleasant enough.
Tesco Low Alcohol 0.5%
Very good bubbles accompanied this pale yellow and effervescent wine which smelled like Sauvignon Blanc. Ebullient effervescence gave a ‘bite’ to this wine with pleasantly sweet lemon, grape & apple flavours and light acidity led to a pleasant enough, enthusiastic & drinkable wine.
Benjamin Truffer (M&S)
With an enthusiastic ‘pop’ and sweet, honeyed aroma of toffee apple, this wine also has a sweet, cooked apple crumble flavour and sweet, honey taste from the Muscat grape. With good acidity and fuller body, this is a balanced and pleasant wine to drink anytime.
Nonsecco Spumante: DA Angelo Taurini: Less than 0.5% Vol (Sainsbury’s)
This French Edizione Speciale Spumante looks a little pale but certainly sounds the part with an expressive pop and effusive bubbles. A sweet elderflower and lemon citrus aroma lead to a sherbet lemon taste with grape and apple sweetness and refreshing tart acidity. A pleasant, lively and sweet/acidic balanced offering that I would be happy to drink anytime.
Freixenet 0.0% (Tesco)
If you want bubbles, then this classic will provide! Another well-known brand giving a massive explosion when uncorked and very much looking how you would want a sparkling wine to be. A pale colour gives a champagne-like appearance and the wine also has a more wine-like aroma and flavour. Sweetness from the grape is combined with vanilla and almost toffee notes and is balanced with sharper gooseberry notes, (reminiscent of Sauvignon grape). The wine also had some yeasty notes which provided depth of flavour. All round a fuller, medium sweet, balanced acidity, bright & fruity wine which I found very drinkable and didn’t miss the alcohol at all.
Our summary, you’ll be spoiled for viable choices! Depending on the sensory characteristics that best suit your palate, there is an option for all to enjoy.
Dr. Debbie Parker is Head of Sensory at Walnut Unlimited, the human understanding agency. She is a sensory scientist with an honours’ degree in biochemistry, a post graduate certificate in sensory science and a doctorate in brewing science. She leads sensory panels in the assessment of all food, beverage and non-food projects to use sensory science to provide a complete understanding of brands. Debbie is also a certified trainer, a regular lecturer and presenter and one of the UK’s few female beer sommeliers.
Using these skills, Debbie judges regularly at The Quality Awards and The Great British Beer Festival, and has led tutored tastings at the British Embassy in Stockholm and the European Parliament. Debbie has provided expert opinion for Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped programme, BBC Radio’s 4 Food programme and the World Service. It is safe to say that Debbie knows her flavours!