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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 207, June 2021   
Don't Call It WineDon't Call It Wine  Contents 
Issue 206, May 2021 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 208, Summer 2021

Don't Call It Wine


 There doesn't seem to be a moment of rest and peace for wine. Apparently, the complicated period we are all experiencing – especially production activities, including those about wine – was not enough and legislators are trying to modify, not least, overturn, the concept and original definition of wine. The legislators of the European Union, in fact, seem to be particularly interested in the wine production sector, specifically, in the effects that this has, or could have, on health. It is news these days – and that has created quite a reaction from both producers and consumers – regarding the proposal of allowing the practice of dealcoholization of wine, that is, to lower its alcohol by volume. The practice of wine dealcoholization – that is, removing part of the alcohol produced by fermentation – is already allowed in other countries of the world and the result has already been available for years in those markets and, apparently, with a quite good response from consumers.


 

 The spreading of this news – needless to say – caused an ocean wave of words, all to point out indignation at the alleged production of watered-down wine. I want to clearly say the possibility of allowing the production of dealcoholised wine is not something that personally excites me, the thing that baffles me is the reaction this news has caused, underlining – at least – the lack of competence with which the fuss has risen. It must be said, in fact, that dealcoholization is not carried out by adding water – indeed, water is not used at all in this process – rather it is obtained mainly by reverse osmosis or evaporation by creating a vacuum. Therefore, dilution with water – the much evoked and horrifying watering down of wine – has nothing to do with the dealcoholization process. These are techniques used for decades for the removal of alcohol from liquids, some of them patented even over a century ago.

 The dealcoholization of wine, however, is a practice allowed in many countries of the world and – it seems – there is an important market made up of consumers who, for many reasons, do not want to drink alcohol. It should be noted, for example, the practice of dealcoholization is a consolidated practice, for years now, used for beer and it has become, over time, an accepted product even at a mass cultural level. In Italy, as well as in France, the possibility of dealcoholised wine production is seen as outrageous because of the millenary winemaking tradition that undeniably characterizes the two countries. Many have welcomed this news with the deepest indignation, a direct attack, not only to the immutable winemaking tradition and, you know, in Italy when you “touch” the tradition are unleashed the bloodiest wars under the banner of everything is immutable, nothing must change, although everything changes, it has already changed and inevitably changes.

 Many argue, in fact, the introduction on the market of this so-called “dealcoholised wine”, could cause an economic loss to the wine market, the one having alcohol, the real one, indisputably, undeniably, immutably and without a doubt the only one having the full right to be called “wine”. I do not believe, frankly speaking, dealcoholised wine can affect the sales of the real wine. Those who do not drink wine because of the fact it contains alcohol – regardless of the reason they do not want or cannot drink alcohol – do not buy or drink wine already. In my opinion, dealcoholised wine – just like “non-alcoholic” beer – would satisfy a market different from that of real wine, made up of consumers who, in any case, would not buy wine. Likewise, wine consumers – of the real and authentic one – would not be interested in dealcoholised wine as well. They are two different products with different markets and consumers.

 I'm speaking, of course, according to my personal point of view. I, without a shadow of a doubt, would not be interested in the consumption of dealcoholised wine exactly like I have never bought non-alcoholic beer in my life. And if the possibility of producing and marketing dealcoholised wine is to be confirmed, I would undoubtedly be among those not interested in this product, therefore, I would not buy it. That said, it would seem that my interest in wine depends exclusively on the presence of alcohol and that – for me – wine means consuming alcohol. Of course, I strongly reject this supposition because it is not like this in any way and, personally speaking, I neither agree nor commit the abuse of alcohol, a deplorable and reprehensible habit which does not belong to me and which certainly does not distinguish those who love wine. Those who drink wine because they are interested in alcohol, do not obviously pay attention to its quality – a wine is as good as another, as long as there is alcohol, the more it has, the better – something I would not do because, to me, quality in wine is everything. Quality is what primarily defines a wine and its pleasure. And wine is not only alcohol, although it is also and obviously alcohol.

 If we then consider the sensorial aspect of wine, alcohol is a fundamental and indispensable element, it is very important for the gustatory balance, taste and, no less important, for the perception and development of aromas. Of course, it can also become a negative sensorial element when it is present in high quantities and, in that case, it may become unpleasing if not properly balanced. What would the olfactory profile of a dealcoholised wine be? Certainly very different. Some aromas would no longer be perceived or however attenuated – because of the absence of the volatile vector of ethyl alcohol – while others would become more evident, because of the attenuation of others. Furthermore, from a gustatory point of view, alcohol contributes to the roundness of the wine, a fundamental element for the balance of both acidity and astringency. With the elimination of alcohol, therefore, this balance would no longer be created – which should therefore be obtained in different ways – and the olfactory and gustatory expressions would inevitably be different. It is not wine anymore.

 I am not questioning the fact a similar drink derived from wine cannot be pleasing: it will surely meet the favor of certain consumers. Certainly pleasing and very successful but, undeniably, it is not wine anymore. If the reason for this choice – as some argue – is aimed at fighting the abuse of alcohol, anyone wishing to abuse alcohol has endless alternatives to wine and certainly much more “effective” than it. If the dealcoholization of wine really aims to contrast the serious and certainly deplorable habit of alcohol abuse, I expect, for example, similar measures in favor of the possibility of producing dealcoholised spirits. Finally, if they want to favor the creation of a new market, with a product appreciated by certain consumers and which could increase the profits of wineries, therefore having the possibility of a new market in addition to the usual one, go ahead but, please, do not call it wine because it is not wine at all.

Antonello Biancalana



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  Editorial Issue 207, June 2021   
Don't Call It WineDon't Call It Wine  Contents 
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