Bordeaux: Is a Non-Alcoholic Grand Cru on the Horizon?

In response to declining sales, several Bordeaux winemakers are adopting innovative, sober strategies. Meanwhile, France is engaged in a debate over regulations for partially de-alcoholized wines with protected geographical indications.

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Is the future of Saint-Émilion in the non-alcoholic sector? (Photo: jax/ – generated with AI)
Is the future of Saint-Émilion in the non-alcoholic sector? (Photo: jax/ – generated with AI)

The biodynamic Château Edmus from the AOP Saint-Émilion Grand Cru is launching an alcohol-free wine. As the Vitisphere portal reports, 1,200 bottles of "Zero by Edmus" were produced from the 2022 vintage - around a fifth of the total production of the 1.7-hectare estate. The retail price for this non-alcoholic wine is set at €45 per bottle, a notable figure in the alcohol-free sector.

Reverse osmosis was used to de-alcoholize the wine to 0.2% abv. The wine was stopped before fermentation with some residual sweetness, so that only 1.8 g/L sugar was added afterwards using 2023 must. Gum arabic was added for the mouthfeel. Due to existing EU regulations, the product cannot bear an organic label.

The use of the AOP label is also not possible. The regulatory bodies responsible for protected geographical indications or appellations may establish rules governing the use of these indications for partially de-alcoholized wines. However, fully de-alcoholized wines may not be included in this provision. They are classified at the lowest quality level and are only allowed to mention the country of origin, without any specific geographical indications (EU Official Journal L435/269).


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New degulations for partially de-alcoholized wines of origin?

Meanwhile, France is discussing indications of origin for partially de-alcoholized wines with more than 0.5% residual alcohol by volume, as Eric Paul, chairman of the national committee for IGP wines at the Institut National de l'Origine et de la Qualité (INAO), explained to Vitisphere. This topic is also under discussion at the OIV. It could lead to changes in European regulations and the specifications of appellations.

Proposals include allowing the blending of partially de-alcoholized and non-dealcoholized wines, prohibiting the addition of non-endogenous flavors (meaning only reintroducing flavors removed during production), and banning the sweetening with glycerin or sucrose.

Meanwhile, oenologist Antoine Gruau expresses concerns to Vitisphere about the often high sugar content in de-alcoholized wines and their susceptibility to microbiological deviations, which increases risks such as E. coli contamination. The risk is particularly high for de-alcoholized wines bottled in returnable bottles that are inadequately disinfected and controlled.

Bordeaux’s new driving force?

Other producers from Bordeaux, struggling with sales issues, are now increasingly focusing on alcohol-free wines. Château Clos de Boüard, from the Montagne Saint-Émilion appellation, is selling its de-alcoholized "Prince Oskar" for €25 a bottle – and it appears to be quite successful.

Winemaker Coralie de Boüard told La Revue du vin de France that orders have surged ever since the Qatari owners of the Paris Saint-Germain soccer club requested a non-alcoholic product – leading to the creation of Prince Oskar, which has since sold 50,000 bottles.

Bordeaux needs to evolve and adapt, says de Boüard. She prefers to "be in the locomotive that pulls the train rather than in the carriages." According to La Revue du vin de France, the Bordeaux Families cooperative is reported to have invested €2.5m in vacuum distillation facilities for producing (partially) de-alcoholized wines, aiming to market 500,000 bottles in this category by 2024. VM


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