From Grapes to Glass - The Art and Science Behind Dealcoholized wine

“Wine is the only artwork you can drink”

Luis Fernando Oliverri

People have enjoyed traditional wine, wine with alcohol, since prehistoric times. We drink wine on special occasions, to celebrate, or to socialize. Wine without alcohol, on the other hand, is a more recent phenomenon, although not as recent as one may think. Non-alcoholic wine was invented in 1907 by Carl Jung Jr, the son of a family who owned a vineyard in the quality region for wine in Germany, Rheingau. After many years of selling their own wines, the family realized that more and more customers stopped ordering because their doctors advised them to consume less alcohol. Carl’s mother Maria, then proposed that the family find a way to dealcoholize the family’s wine. Young Carl began experimenting with his father’s equipment to find a way to make non-alcoholic wine and in 1908 Carl Jung Jr. filed a patent for his gentle dealcoholization process, known today as the vacuum distillation method, one of the most commonly used methods to remove alcohol and other impurities from alcoholic beverages. 

More than 100 years later, no- and low wines are now booming, and as consumers are reevaluating their relationship with alcohol and switching to healthier options, the craft of dealcoholization creating no- and low alcohol wines continues to evolve. Winemakers are using growing and fermenting techniques to minimize alcohol, strategically blending the wine to balance the flavors, and continuing to improve on their methods for removing alcohol. As the craft improves, it will be easier than ever to enjoy the taste of wine without consuming alcohol.


How non-alcoholic wine is produced

Often, people assume that non-alcoholic wine is just pasteurized grape juice, but that’s not the case. Grape juice is pasteurized immediately after the grapes are crushed so that it won’t ferment and become wine. Non-alcoholic wine, on the other hand, follows the same steps as traditional wine, only at the end of the process, after the fermentation, the alcohol is removed or reduced from the wine while preserving the flavor and aroma. Dealcoholized wine therefore has similar flavor profiles, varieties, and substance as the traditional wines, only without the alcohol. You can also use wine without alcohol in all the same ways as wine with alcohol - it just won’t intoxicate you. But let’s start at the vineyard, this is where the story of wine begins - on the vine.



Just like traditional wine, the process begins with the careful selection of high-quality grapes when they are ready to be harvested. Besides the quality of the grapes, the choice of grape variety significantly influences the flavor profile of the final non-alcoholic wine. Also, the moment of picking the grapes plays an important role in determining how acidic and sweet the final product will taste. After harvest, the grapes are sorted in bunches and damaged, rotten and unsuitable grapes that could affect the quality of the future wine are separated out. Then, stems are removed by using a machine called destemmer.


Crushing and Pressing

Crushing is the first step in turning grapes into wine.The grapes are crushed to extract the juice. As grape skins are broken - by feet or other methods - their sweet juices come into contact with grape skins, absorbing the flavor, colors, and tannins crucial for fine wines. The juice is then pressed to separate it from the grape solids, skins, and seeds to make a “must”.



Just like wine with alcohol, non-alcoholic wines go through fermentation. Alcoholic fermentation is the natural process of yeast converting sugar into ethanol. So for wine, that means the conversion of grape sugars into alcohol, which then results in wine. Yeast must be present in order for fermentation to occur. The yeast feeds on the grape sugars, then digests it, and excretes it out as alcohol. The fermentation process is what gives each wine its distinctive flavor profile and complex flavors. Therefore it is after the fermentation process that the alcohol is removed in non-alcoholic wine.



While the next step in making wine with alcohol is maturation and clarification, the non-alcoholic wine first has to go through the dealcoholization step. The dealcoholization is a critical step in making non-alcoholic wine. The two primary methods used to remove alcohol from wines are vacuum distillation and reverse osmosis.

Vacuum distillation is a method whereby the pure alcohol is gently extracted from carefully selected wines in a vacuum at temperatures under 30 degrees Celsius. The technique is used to remove or reduce the alcohol content from wine while preserving its essential flavors and aromas. In traditional distillation, heat is applied to the liquid to evaporate the alcohol, which is then collected and condensed. Vacuum distillation, on the other hand, takes place under reduced atmospheric pressure. By lowering the pressure, the boiling point of the liquid is decreased, allowing for the evaporation of alcohol at lower temperatures. 

The other method for removing alcohol from wine is reverse osmosis, also called filtration. During this process, winemakers use high pressure to force wine through a membrane. This creates two solutions. One is a very concentrated wine, and the other is a combination of water and alcohol. Rather than discarding the water/alcohol solution, winemakers heat it to remove the alcohol. This water gets reincorporated into the wine concentrate. To finish it off, they add even more water so the final alcohol-free wine has the appropriate volume.


Flavor Adjustment

Removing alcohol alters the taste and aroma of the wine. Therefore, winemakers may reintroduce certain flavors or adjust the composition to ensure the non-alcoholic wine maintains the desired characteristics after being dealcoholized.



Non-alcoholic wines may be made from a single grape variety or a blend of different varieties. Winemakers carefully blend different batches to achieve the desired flavor profile, complexity, and balance.



Like traditional wines, non-alcoholic wines may undergo a maturation or aging process. This can take place in stainless steel tanks, oak barrels, or a combination of both, contributing to the development of flavors and aromas.


Filtration and Stabilization

All wines undergo filtration to remove any remaining solids and ensure clarity. Stabilization processes may be applied to prevent any unwanted changes in the wine's composition over time.



Once the desired flavor and characteristics are achieved, the non-alcoholic wine is ready for packaging. The wine is bottled, corked, or sealed, and then labeled for distribution.

Carl Jung Jr was apparently on to something back then in the early 20th century, when he pursued the question whether wine can be enjoyed without alcohol. He was convinced that good wine doesn’t necessarily need alcohol, it needs taste. And many of us are inclined to agree. 

Check out our dealcoholized wines from Oddbird – you'll love them!
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