Review: Two Wines That Make a Case for Skipping the Booze
A plush orange wine and some bright bubbles mark a turning point for non-alcoholic vino
Years ago, non-alcoholic wines were, well, swill — undrinkable at worst and a sacrifice at best. And while the category is not new in any form, some new brands are making very good options that don’t feel like you’re skimping on taste.
Take Proxies, a non-alcoholic wine project from the Toronto-based Acid League, which recently teamed up with a string of sommeliers for some limited-edition collaborations. Andre Hueston Mack made a pinot noir(ish). Sean Brock made a crunchy, rich red from Appalachian ingredients, like paw-paws and pine.
Their newest release is a bright orange wine, dubbed Vinta, from Pinch Chinese’s Miguel de Leon, Michelin Guide’s recent Sommelier of the Year winner. It’s the first orange wine of its kind (read: you can drink a bottle and still feel bright and cheery), and a great one of that.
Null Wines, a relatively new player in the booze-free space that sources their sparkling Verdejo from a small winemaking collective — Diez Siglos — in Rueda, also launched a few new iterations this month. The first is a silky Garnacha and the second is a bright bottle of Spanish bubbles. I’d set the latter on the table at a dinner party, crack it for a toast, or use it to top up a vermouth spritz.
The Vinta and the sparkling Verdejo are delicious by any standards, not standards set for sans-alcohol wines. I’ve had my fair share of booze-free bottles, and these releases are particularly exciting — easily two of the best non-alc bottles I’ve cracked. (I recently opened my fridge, and found myself pouring the Vinta instead of an open bottle of Beaujolais I had kicking around.)
While both of these wines are non-alcoholic in nature, they are made in completely opposite methods. Null Wines takes standard wines from small producers and distills out the alcohol. Acid League takes ingredients and builds on them until it hits a wine-ish profile.
Our tasting notes:
- Null Wines Sparkling Verdejo: The sparkling Verdejo is a project made with Diez Siglos, a vineyard high up in Rueda. It’s one of the best places in the world to grow Verdejo because the stark climate and sandy soils give the wines wild richness and depth. Then add bubbles and you’re in for a treat. It’s clean and bright, with persistent fizziness, a lovely acidity, lush aromatics, and fresh notes of apple and lemon balm. Fresh, light, and celebratory.
- Proxies Vinta: To mimic the texture of a richer orange wine, de Leon built flavors from riesling juice, pineapple, orange marmalade, Nepal black tea, Pandan leaf and fennel bitters. In color, it’s a textbook skin contact wine — pumpkin-hued with a golden glow. Flavor-wise, it’s plain delicious. Aromatic, structured and grippy, but bright, lush and not overly extracted. This is a bottle that will pair particularly well with things like turkey and spicy noodles because the texture and tannins can stand up to richer flavors.
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