My Not So Secret Diary

Wine Substitutes

Wine Substitues living alcohol free, writing for my blog My Not So Secret Diary by Claire Hatwell
For a long time after I stopped drinking I replaced my wine with alcohol removed wines. It is a controversial idea I know, and while some people seem to really like the idea of drinking something similar, others think it is just a substitute, a replacement which doesn’t really address a problem and may in fact make it worse. For many, the idea of drinking something so similar, even when the alcohol is removed is a trigger for those who no longer drink.

It seems alcohol free wines are made in the same way as a ‘normal’ wine, from fermented grapes. When fermentation occurs, it converts sugar into alcohol, while keeping the characteristics from the individual grapes and so retain a similar taste, regardless of the alcohol content. After the making of the wine, the alcohol is removed, leaving a product that doesn’t give you the after-effects of drinking, and has far less calories. The varieties come just as traditional wines do, to suit the mood or the foods you’re eating, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot.

A difficulty of nonalcoholic wines is that while the alcohol is removed, approximately less than 0.5% alcohol remains. Drinks with less than 1.2% ABV or alcoholic strength by volume are referred to as low-alcohol while those with an ABV of 0.05% or below are referred to as alcohol free. This ABV value refers to the amount of alcohol in a drink, so for example, a wine bottle that states 12% ABV means that 12% of the contents is pure alcohol. According to the producer
Fre, the amount of wine left in an alcohol removed wine is, “roughly equivalent to the alcohol content of orange juice left unrefrigerated overnight.” While it is marketed as a suitable choice for those who want to reduce their alcohol intake, I’ll be honest, seeing that there is a minuscule amount of alcohol in it makes me nervous. I can see where the trigger could be, and of course, drinking it might seem the same as drinking wine, but it doesn’t give the same feeling, and if we are chasing that, there seems little point.

So, if we are being literal, even in these low, or alcohol removed drinks, if they state 0.05%, then they are not completely free from alcohol. On the other hand, many foods contain a similar amount of alcohol. I’m not even talking about cooking with alcohol, because we don’t do that, but just those found naturally. A quick Google search tells me that that a very ripe banana can contain up to 0.4g per 100g (0.4% ABV). The measure of this amount of alcohol is tiny, and some have argued that it can’t accurately be measured at a lesser amount so these drinks have to be categorised in the lowest bracket. It is thought to be such a tiny amount that 0.5% is often considered alcohol-free in many countries, even though it technically isn’t. It’s a bit of a mine-field really if you ask me, but I suppose the biggest thing is the way it makes you feel. It is ultimately your choice, and there really is no right or wrong.

It is confusing as to how it’s marketed too. While many companies sell it as the ‘healthy alternative’ to wine, there are a lot of people like me, who want to replace their vice with something else. For me, walking down the wine aisle at the supermarket to buy something non-alcoholic was weird. I felt guilty that I was even on that aisle, and it was hard at times when I was so used to picking up ‘real’ wine. When grape juices and similar are found on the soft drink aisle, I find it strange that these drinks have to share the aisle with the stronger versions. Especially considering wine and beer make their way out onto the food aisles to be sold as part of a meal deal. It’s just an observation that confuses me a little.

Replacing my wine intake with alcohol removed versions did work for me, it allowed me to replace it with something less damaging, and change my thinking. But, after a year or so, I noticed the same thought patterns emerging as they had done with wine. I began to worry if it wasn’t in the house, or God forbid, if the shop ran out. It made me stress out, and to be honest, that isn’t a normal reaction. It was like I couldn’t see that I could drink other things, anything not in a wine glass was alien to me. It was a vast improvement on other things I had tried to replace alcohol with though, like soda water and lime. While it was nice, I still drank the same amount and it was too fizzy for that. So for me at least, it had a place in my recovery, although I understand it isn’t the same for everyone.

There’s still some bottles in the house actually. I haven’t thrown them away as it seems a waste, but I worry now that it feels like a backwards step to drink them. While I can reassure myself that it’s okay to drink them if I want to, strangely it would feel a bit like letting myself down, and even to get a wine glass out I think would feel a bit weird now. So I don’t, I was going to say maybe one day I will, but actually on reflection, I think that might be the start of a slippery slope and that isn’t somewhere I want to find myself. These things all have their places and I am glad for the part non-alcoholic wine played in my recovery, but I’m also glad that I am finally feeling free of the ties I had.

What’s your opinion on drinks like these?

Take care.
Claire x


These are two of the brands I used to enjoy, and Both were available in the supermarkets.