A palace revolution. Faced with a complicated market, Bordeaux châteaux and cooperatives are banking on the booming dealcoholized wine market to attract new customers. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, individuals who do not drink during the week or for medical or religious reasons (athletes, drivers, halal grocery stores, etc.), the target clientele is large and often young.
At Château Clos de Bouärd, alongside the great classified growths of the hillsides of Saint-Émilion, orders “are on fire” in the middle of Dry January, operation encouraging people not to drink alcohol during the month of January.
Until the owners of PSG
Its owner Coralie de Bouärd, a pioneer in Bordeaux, created her vintage three years ago. Prince Oscar – at the request of the Qatari management of Paris Saint-Germain – obtained by the same fermentation and aging in barrels “as its highest vintage”. The wine is then distilled under vacuum “cold” (32 degrees). “Beyond that, we cook the aromas and attack the raw material,” she says.
“We managed to keep all the markers of the wine and we rebalance the absence of alcohol by adding concentrated must from the property: it restores the deliciousness, the fat, the generosity to the wine,” underlines the winemaker. With a high price: 25 euros per bottle.
30% of French people interested
Faced with purists who are not always kind, particularly on the lack of length in the mouth, she claims to make “wine for everyone”. In 2023, according to the SOWINE barometer, 15% of French people said they did not consume alcohol, and 30% of respondents said they had tasted “No/Low” drinks (without alcohol or with little alcohol).
“I prefer to be in the locomotive than in the wagons. We must move forward with the generations and Bordeaux must adapt,” argues Coralie de Bouärd, who plans to de-alcoholize 18,000 bottles by the beginning of February. In a difficult Bordeaux context, between overproduction and closure of export markets, the sale of 50,000 bottles of its latest de-alcoholized vintage is a “lifeline” that “keeps afloat” its property.
“It’s a different product”
There remains the question of taste. “The better the starting wine, the better the alcohol-free wine will be,” believes Laurent David, owner of Château Edmus, a micro-estate in Saint-Émilion. Launched at the beginning of January, its first 1,200 bottles obtained from its grand cru, using a filtration method, quickly found buyers.
“There are some barriers to break down because it is a different product,” underlines the neo-winemaker, president of WineTech after a career at Apple. “Offered by the glass in restaurants, it has a lot of future,” he assures. Like the success of alcohol-free beers (around 10% of the market), its promoters anticipate “exponential” growth in alcohol-free wines: 10.5% per year in value, in the world and in France, of here in 2032 according to the American company Fact.MR.
“In the current context, we now need to know how to control the drop in degrees,” agrees Philippe Cazaux, director of the Bordeaux Families cooperative (wines and crémants), which aims for a range of zero to 9 degrees of alcohol, compared to 12 to 14 for current classic vintages. The latter invested 2.5 million euros in a vacuum distillation installation in the heart of Entre-Deux-Mers. Around 500,000 bottles will be sold this year.
“We are only in the early stages of technology”
In the South-West, the Grands Chais de France group has a dealcoholization unit and the specialized start-up Moderato will create, in the spring, a development center in the Gers vineyards with the Vivadour cooperative group. “We are only in the early stages of the technology, inevitably there will be failures,” delays Julien Lavenu, associate oenologist at Derenoncourt Consultants, who supports Château Edmus. “You have to think about alcohol-free wine from the vineyard to succeed in de-alcoholization, anticipate to have as few interventions as possible: extract little, keep sugar to add less afterwards,” adds the specialist.
For the moment, the process does not express the depth or intensity of a terroir and the products obtained lack complexity. But “the 0% wine of the future will not be an ersatz,” says Sébastien Thomas, president of the No/Low Wine Collective and co-founder of Moderato.