Forget alcohol-free wine. Now the makers of Riesling, Chardonnay and Merlot are bottling vintage juices. SUDI PIGOTT tests . . . The new Grape Expectations

  • No-alcohol grape juice has many of the same heart-healthy benefits as red wine
  • Juices are made with characteristic aroma, palate and finish of much-loved wine
  • Sudi Pigott gives verdict on a selection of the best no alcohol grape juice 

Those of us who want to drink without drinking at this time of year — perhaps in anticipation of a boozier Christmas — have long scoured the shelves for something that doesn’t taste anaemic, sugary or weirdly artificial.

Yes, there’s more choice, but it’s frankly not much higher in quality.

Now comes the real thing — not no-alcohol wine, which is fermented, vinified and only then de-alcoholised, but no-alcohol grape juice, made with all the seriousness of a top vintage tipple.

These new uber-sophisticated juices are made with all your favourite varieties of grape to get the characteristic aroma, palate and finish of a much-loved wine — a Chardonnay, a Merlot, a Riesling — but without the fuzzy head in the morning.

Sudi Pigott gives verdict on a selection of the best non-alcohol grape juices – including Modal Wines Slobodne ‘Must’ Red Grape Juice 2020 (pictured)

The most refined of all come from highly-regarded wine producers and are made from the same single varietal grapes as their award-winning wines.

Best of all, grape juice has many of the same heart-healthy benefits as red wine, helping to decrease cholesterol.

Intrigued? We were — so we poured, swilled and savoured. Here’s the verdict.

SWANKY SLOVAKIAN RED

Modal Wines Slobodne ‘Must’ Red Grape Juice 2020 (£10 for 1litre, shop.modalwines.com)

WHAT IS IT? The juice is made from a 100 per cent organically grown, dark-skinned variety of grape called Blaufrankisch (which means blue Frankish in German). Top sommeliers at swanky London restaurants are now serving it too.

GRAPE TASTE: I am hit by a strong floral aroma with a little burst of spice and a fairly good balance of acidity and sweetness, plus added notes of rhubarb.

VERDICT: Enjoyably quaffable, though lacks the complexity and long finish I was expecting for the price. I added a spritz of lime juice for extra acidic zing. 4.5/5

CELEBRATORY ITALIAN SPRITZ

La Gioiosa Sparkling Alcohol Free (£3.50 for 750ml, groceries.morrisons.com)

Sudi said La Gioiosa Sparkling Alcohol Free (pictured) is remarkably good value and a well-made alternative to Prosecco 

WHAT IS IT? This sparkling white grape juice is made with Glera Prosecco grapes by third generation winemakers Moretti Polegato in the Veneto region of Italy.

GRAPE TASTE: The pale straw colour of a prosecco with tiny beads of fizz, it has delicate floral, apple and elderflower notes.

VERDICT: A remarkably good value, well-made alternative to Prosecco. Ideal for a baby shower with lots of pregnant Mums. 4/5

GUILT-FREE GERMAN RIESLING

Van Nahmen Riesling (£3.35 for 250ml, thecheeseand wineshop.co.uk)

Sudi said Van Nahmen Riesling (pictured) is a well-made no-alcohol juice for those who like a medium-dry wine

WHAT IS IT? These white Riesling grapes create a deep, buttery juice with a floral aroma. It has a beautiful label, which would sit happily on a festive table.

GRAPE TASTE: Flavours of white stone fruit and gooseberry, plus a subtle hint of grass.

VERDICT: Recognisably a Riesling, this is a well-made no-alcohol juice for those who like a medium-dry wine. I can imagine drinking this with some goat’s cheese. 3.5/5

UNSATISFYING SPARKLER

Sparkling Grape Juice (£6.50 for 750ml, shop.thenewtinsomerset.com)

Sudi said Sparkling Grape Juice (pictured) is pleasant for a party if one wants to appear to be drinking 

WHAT IS IT? This white grape juice is made from Semillon grapes grown in a vineyard in South Africa.

GRAPE TASTE: Don’t be put off by the startling aroma of wet leaves — it gives way to a pleasingly tart gooseberry and melon taste, though it barely develops.

VERDICT: Pleasant for a party if one wants to appear to be drinking, but unsatisfying on the palate. 2/5

SUPERBLY FESTIVE CHARDONNAY

Harvey Nichols Alcohol-Free Sparkling Chardonnay (£10, harveynichols.com)

Sudi said Harvey Nichols Alcohol-Free Sparkling Chardonnay (pictured) is the best champagne substitute for festivities with guests who don’t drink

WHAT IS IT: Developed from green Chardonnay grapes with the celebrated Australian foodie Maggie Beer, this is made from early harvested grapes to prevent over-sweetness.

GRAPE TASTE: An enticing aroma of melon and elderflower here — definitely the notes of a good Chardonnay. It fizzes like a proper, decent Champagne.

VERDICT: Superb. The best champagne substitute for festivities with guests who don’t drink. 5/5

JEWEL-LIKE FRENCH MERLOT

Alain Milliat Merlot Grape Juice (£13.15 for three 330ml bottles, finefoodspecialist.co.uk)

Sudi said Alain Milliat Merlot Grape Juice (pictured) pairs perfectly with a casserole or roast beef for non-drinkers 

WHAT IS IT: Harvested from French Merlot red grapes, this juice has a deep jewel-like hue, with loads of fruity berry aromas, and a little grassiness.

GRAPE TASTE: After a good shake, it’s smooth and really does resemble a young Merlot wine.

VERDICT: Much improved if sparkling water or tonic is added, though perfectly acceptable with a casserole or roast beef for non-drinkers. 3/5

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