When I first quit drinking alcohol, the only thing about it that I feared I would miss were champagne toasts. I associate sparkling wine with Christmas, when my mother usually hosts a huge, festive feast. For years, one of my jobs as her co-host has been to make sure everyone got a glass of champagne as soon as they walked in the door, which meant I spent at least half an hour watching the animated bokeh effect of the bubbles as I made sure the red and clear Waterford cut crystal champagne flutes she uses only once a year didn’t overflow.
As Christmas rolled around the first year that I didn’t drink, nearly a decade ago now, I replaced champagne with sparkling cranberry cider, but it wasn’t the same. Even though I didn’t miss the effects of alcohol, I missed the taste and the fine, tickling bubbles of a decent sparkling wine. Luckily, non-alcoholic sparkling wine making has come a long way in the past ten years, and bubblies without the buzz have improved tremendously. Recently, I had the delightful task of tasting and reviewing over seventeen offerings that are available now for your holiday parties, New Year’s toasts, or whatever you might be celebrating all year long! Here are my recommendations:
Honied and aromatic, like sparkling riesling or moscato d’asti
Since non-alcoholic sparkling wine has likely been de-alcoholized and then carbonated to bring the bubbles back, it is not unusual for wine makers to add additional grape juice or grape must to bolster the flavor. The result is a wine with a sweet, perfumed aroma perfect for fans of sparkling riesling or moscato d’asti. Grüvi Dry Secco ($16.99 for 4-pack of 275 mL bottles) has a huge, aromatic sultana fragrance with a pure white grape flavor and a fun and flirty hint of residual sugar. Semblance Zero Alcohol Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Wine ($30) is a step down in sweetness, with a huge white grape bouquet, but higher acidity and a heavier mouthfeel befitting its California chardonnay grapes. Ein Zwei Zero Reisling ($22) has a honeyed, white raisin nose, and starts sweet on the palate with creamy, long lasting bubbles, but ends with a pleasantly dry, food friendly finish. Sovi Sparkling Rosé ($28 for 4-pack of 250 mL cans) is a deep, dark pink with concentrated red grape must rounded out by tart hibiscus and rosehip that recalls the unusual red moscato d’asti, and would be just as good for sunset picnics in June as midnight toasts on December 31st.
Crisp and tart, like Cava and non-vintage Champagne
High acidity and a ton of sour green apple define the two white sparklers from Vinada: Amazing Airén Gold ($20 for 750 mL; $10 for 200 mL) is intensely sweet-tart, with a sharp, grassy note similar to Sauvignon Blanc, while Crispy Chardonnay ($20 for 750 mL; $10 for 200 mL) is an oak barrel of Granny Smiths, with the familiar mouth-coating oakiness for lovers of Chardonnay. I personally preferred their rosé offering, Vinada Tinteling Tempranillo Rosé ($20 for 750 mL; $10 for 200 mL), a pale pink, lightly flavored blend of aromatic tropical fruits, like Alfonse mango, passion fruit, and fresh pineapple. Also big on green apple: Château delISH Sparkling White ($24), which has tangy sourdough and fresh peach notes to add complexity, and tight, creamy bubbles that are unusually long lasting for a non-alcoholic sparkling. Freixenet Alcohol-Free White ($9.99), made by one of the biggest Cava-makers in the world, is electric with bright lemon juice and zest, and makes a great option for zero proof French 75s.
Berry and bright, like pink Prosecco, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blends, and New World rosés
If you asked me my favorite style of sparkling wine I would tell you the drier the better, but my favorite of all the non-alcoholic bottles I tried was Freixenet Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Wine Rosé ($9.99). This jammy sparkler opens with concentrated raspberry and strawberry and closes with a luscious, mouth-watering finish. This is the rosé I truly could drink all day.
Château delISH Sparkling Rosé ($24) has a richer, dark red plum nose reminiscent of a good blancs de noir, with flavors of blackberry and hibiscus, and tiny, tongue-tickling bubbles. Grüvi Bubbly Rosé ($16.99 for 4-pack of 275 mL bottles) is a fun, non-traditional sparkling rosé, with whole fields of strawberries on each sip: sweet but not too sweet like the berry itself, with a touch of the green top and stem to add an interesting, herbal complexity. It’s almost like a ready-to-drink sparkling wine and strawberry puree mocktail. Noughty Sparkling Rosé ($19.99) is more conventional, with a juicy raspberry bouquet that progresses to tart cherry preserves on the palate
Sophisticated and dry or creamy, like méthode champenoise wines
While I have yet to discover a true replacement for the buttery shortbread flavor of a real Champagne or Crémant, there are a handful of less fruity, drier non-alcoholic sparklings with some of the flavors of American wines made in the Champagne style. The unique Surely Non-Alcoholic Sparkling White Wine ($24.99) has a cultured butter, slate, and coriander aroma, and a light, savory taste with a hint of Greek yogurt. Surely Non-Alcoholic Sparkling Rosé ($24.99) trades the yeasty, buttery flavors for a bit of strawberry, guava and cantaloupe on the nose, but is just as dry with a clean, mineral finish. The rich, honeyed bouquet of Noughty Alcohol-Free Sparkling Chardonnay ($19.99) gives way to subtle flavors of baguette and lemon curd: lactic and dry with a touch of citrus zip. The first sip of Ein Zwei Zero Rosé ($21.99) reveals damson plum and bosc pear wrapped in soft, fluffy bubbles, that evaporate to a velvety vanilla finish.
Abstaining from alcohol doesn’t mean you have to miss out on holiday toasts or the joy of popping a bottle at midnight as we roll into the new year. Whether you prefer fresh and fruity, tart and zingy, or sweet and creamy, there’s a booze-free bubbly for everyone this holiday season!
Have you tried any alcohol-free sparkling wines before? Let us know your favorites in the comments below!