Alcohol-free wines to try this Christmas, including fizz

John Wilson: Alcohol-free is among the drinks sector’s fastest-growing categories

“The key to matching your Christmas turkey, goose or beef is to have a drink that is not too sweet.”

“The key to matching your Christmas turkey, goose or beef is to have a drink that is not too sweet.”

 

Time was when the only people not consuming alcohol with their Christmas dinner were the children, elderly teetotal aunts, recovering alcoholics and designated drivers. Their options were limited to sweet fizzy drinks or water.

Thankfully those days are over; a great many people, young and old, now avoid alcohol for all sorts of reasons and the dry guest need no longer feel left out at Christmastime. As interest in alcohol-free drinks increases, so too does both the quality and range of available drinks. Alcohol-free beer, spirits and other drinks are among the fastest-growing categories in the drinks sector.

There are fewer wine options, but those available are certainly much better than before; both Torres (pioneers in this sector) and German producer Leitz make very enjoyable wines that have had the alcohol removed. Both are packaged to look like wine, and usually retain some wine-like fruit.

Get your Christmas celebrations started with an alcohol-free gin and tonic with Seedlip, Ceder’s or Silk Tree, the Irish alcohol-free gin. Alternatively, a glass of booze-free bubbly is a great way to add some fun to the proceedings. Most supermarkets will have a range on offer; my favourites include the Nosecco (€4-€6, Spar, Tesco), the Legero from the cava company Freixenet (below) and the Leitz sparkling Riesling (€11.99, independents).

If you are a cider or beer drinker there are now plenty of options. Heineken, Open Gate, BrewDog and others offer very decent no-alcohol beers. My favourite non-Irish ones are Erdinger, Beck’s Blue and Estrella. But why not go craft Irish this year, with Wicklow Wolf Moonlight or Dungarvan Main Sail, two very well-made alcohol-free beers? Or the excellent Highbank Organic Driver’s Cider. Aimsir restaurant uses it as a base in some of its cocktails, but it is great drunk solo.

The key to matching your Christmas turkey, goose or beef is to have a drink that is not too sweet. As with real wine, acidity works really well with food, improving both. I find alcohol-free red wines less enjoyable than white or rosé, so I would suggest going for the white or rosé below, although both Torres and Leitz also make red wines. The same wines will go perfectly with your starter too, and with flavour-laden stuffings and cranberry sauce.

If you are making your own alcohol-free cocktail, don’t be afraid to add a few drops of savoury pickling brine or vinegar to make a truly interesting grown-up drink. A base of kombucha (from Irish companies Synergy or Holo) or alcohol-free cider is always a good start, and fresh herbs really add a refreshing note. You are building flavours that will add complexity.

Highbank Driver's Cider

0%, €3.50-€4

A grown-up drink with lovely pure apple fruits, cleansing acidity and a finish that is not too sweet. This would go nicely with pork dishes, cheeses and even turkey.

From: highbankorchards.com; Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown, Dublin 18, whelehanswines.ie; Morton’s, Dublin 6, mortons.ie; SuperValu, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin

Torres Natureo Dealcoholised White Wine

0%, €7 

Made from Muscat grapes, this has good palate-cleansing acidity, with clean green fruits. Great with or without food; starters and turkey.

From: Most supermarkets and off-licences, including O’Briens, obrienswine.ie; La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow, latouchewines4u.ie; Bradleys off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; McHughs, Dublin 5, mchughs.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie; Worldwide Wines, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6; redmonds.ie

Freixenet Legero 0.0 per cent Sparkling Wine

0%, €8.99

A very attractive aromatic elegant drink with a fine mousse and juicy pear and peach fruits. As an aperitif, with starters or as a refreshing glass later in the evening.

From: Most supermarkets and off-licences, including O’Briens, obrienswine.ie; La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow, latouchewines4u.ie; Bradleys off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; McHughs, Dublin 5, mchughs.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie; Worldwide Wines, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6; redmonds.ie

Leitz Eins Zwei Zero Rosé

0%, €11.99

A very enjoyable crisp, dry Pinot Noir with lively acidity and delicate, pure red-cherry fruits. Perfect before and during your Christmas dinner. 

From: Redmonds, Dublin 6; redmonds.ie; Worldwide Wines, Waterford, worldwidewines.ie; wineonline.ie; Drinkstore, Dublin 7, drinkstore.ie; Swans, Naas, Co Kildare; Lotts & Co, D4, lottsandco.ie

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