If you’re off to the pub and want the taste and experience of wine without the alcohol units, you may want to stay clear of alcohol-free wines. That’s if you can find them in your local anyway…
We asked our panel of wine experts to blind taste test 10 non-alcoholic wines (less than 0.5%). Overall, they thought the drinks have a sticky texture ‘more like a breakfast juice’ and ‘really don’t taste like wine’.
As well as lacking the richness, body and complexity of wine, these alcohol-free wines were also pretty pricey. Costing between £2.99 and £5.99, they’re quite expensive when you compare them to other soft drinks. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to find any decent soft drinks in pubs, whether it’s pricey alcohol-free wines or not.
Soft drinks down the pub
On recent trips to the pub I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much choice you now have when choosing your tipple. It wasn’t that long ago when most pubs seemed to offer the same small choice of big brand lagers and bitters; cider drinkers could either have sweet Woodpecker or dry Strongbow; the stout would always be Guinness; and the wine would usually be undrinkable.
Now you can choose from an ever-changing range of local real ales and ciders, beers from around the world, and an enormous selection of wines. So why can’t you buy a decent soft drink?
For some reason, pubs think that if I choose not to drink alcohol then I want something that’s so sugary it makes my teeth feel furry. They also seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to rip me off – if you mix two drinks together, such as orange and bitter lemon, a pint can work out more expensive than a pint of beer. This may just be me, but something that has no other physical effect than giving me a sugar rush should be much cheaper than alcohol.
Alcohol-free beers wouldn’t go amiss
Unless the pub sells Fentiman’s Victorian lemonade, which I’m rather partial to, then I find cranberry and lime is OK. And soda and lime is also acceptable, especially because it’s cheap. But it would be really nice to peer over the bar to see a whole range of soft drinks suitable for an adult palate in the fridge.
And some alcohol-free beers wouldn’t go amiss, either. You can get a rather nice alcohol-free Becks at many supermarkets, but I can’t remember the last time I saw something like this available in a pub. Our expert tasters who rated the non-alcoholic wines recommended elderflower and ginger beer as a nice option.
There’s got to be a market for people who don’t want to drink alcohol, so why don’t pubs cater for the tastes of non-drinkers? And have you found a better soft drink, even an alcohol-free wine, you can recommend?