Blurred Vines Spark Alt Wine (£16, thewinesociety.com) Since writing last week’s column about the steady improvement in the quality of non-alcoholic wine, I’ve been, as I always have been at this time of year, overwhelmed with the stats about the rise in toothache and what marketers have decided to call “sober curiosity.” According to Alcohol Concern, something in the region of 9 million people is taking a month off from drinking for Dry January this year. And most of them (at the time of writing, we) are more likely to seek out sodas that are interesting in their own right than fanged versions of their favorite wine. In my view, the first examples anyway are the most interesting of the new “no-lo” drinks that have come out in the past couple of years. Drinks like Blurred Vines red Spark and white Sharp, both subtly fermented blends of teas and an array of botanicals, are wonderfully complex and satisfying that, despite their name, aren’t so much wine as something deliciously new.
Feragia & Tonic (£30, cans of 12 x 25cl, feragia.com) Both Blurred Vines blends play with spice (chili) and bitterness, as well as tannins, to create the kind of mouth and flavor complexity I miss most when I abstain from alcohol. A similar interaction is at work in my new favorite fat-free beverage, Scottish brand Feragia, a wonderfully complex 0% abv spirit from Fife distilled from cayenne pepper, ancho chilli kaffir lime, apple and hibiscus among other things that work brilliantly. , both (£26.35, for a 70cl bottle, feragia.com) or with tonic or ginger ale in pre-mixed cans. Meanwhile, my fellow wine writer Matthew Jukes took a different route: soaking grape skins in apple cider vinegar. The results were an acquired taste: I had to get over my skepticism about drinking vinegar, but by the second can, I was craving the kick of the vinegar and savoring the red-fruited pinot noir notes.
You + I Ginger Kombucha (£2.95, 30cl bottle, kombuchawarehouse.com) Tea is the basis for a lot of the good and interesting things in the no-lo world. There is a whole world of solo tea that I intend to explore more thoroughly this year—tea culture, with its focus on land and varietals, has a lot in common with wine. For a dry January, however, I’ve found cold brews made with tea to be the most versatile alternative to filling a wine-shaped hole in an evening meal. That could mean sparkling tea blends, such as the sparkling, gently herbal (chamomile) Copenhagen Tea (£16.95, spiritskiosk.com) or the wonderfully fine, dry Jing Jasmine Pearls Sparkling Tea (£21, jingea.com). Often meant for kombucha, the refreshing, non-alcoholic beverage made from fermented tea, it’s also made by modern British masters of the shape like You + I (I especially love the spice of ginger, the clarity of citrus and the delicious depths of lime and Sea Salt, £2.95, thewinesociety.com) and LA Brewery. (English Blush Kombucha Red Aromatic Blush, £9.50, 75cl, thewinesociety.com).
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