On a crisp Fall morning, I, a certified WSET Level 3 wine writer, headed to taste through a lineup of nonalcoholic sparkling wines. Glorified grape juice, you might think, bubbly sugar water, a hype. I was skeptical, too.
I arrived at Soberish, a nonalcoholic (N.A.) bottle shop and cannabis boutique in Kirkwood, embellished with arched bookcases filled with rainbow-colored beverages and the feminine aesthetics of a Glossier store. I was handed a sampling of Odd Bird’s Sparkling Rosé from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. It had a salmon-pink hue, and there were bubbles. One swirl and sniff, and I could smell the rich breadiness a wine gets from lees aging, followed by fresh red fruit of raspberries. I could not believe these bubbles had no buzz.
New Year’s parties are all about popping that special bottle of bubbly. Whether it’s champagne, cava, or a pet nat sparkler from Portugal, the sound of the bottle go pop! is an unmatched, ceremonious welcome to the year ahead. But it doesn’t need to be limited to alcohol. The N.A. sparkling wines I sampled at Soberish were still accompanied by that joyous cork pop.
“People don’t want to feel like they’re not a part of the festivities,” says owner of Soberish, Mehrnush Saadat.
“It’s whatever sober means to you is the whole point. It could mean that you want to take a week off. It can mean that you want to mix these things with other things that you’re drinking. It could mean you’re pregnant or have religious reasons. It doesn’t matter.”
According to Gallup Trends, Millennial and Gen-Z Americans are drinking alcohol far less than in generations past. People are more sober-curious and health-conscious. Even celebrities are in on it—from Katy Perry’s “De Soi” aperitifs, Bella Hadid’s “Kin Euphorics” adaptogen drinks (made with herbs, roots, and plant matter that help our bodies manage stress), to Blake Lively’s “Betty Buzz” sparkling mixers.
N.A. wines going for imitation are made from regular wine, using grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. The trick is they are de-alcoholized. That means the alcohol is separated from the wine in multiple stages using methods like reverse osmosis and vacuum distillation. In the case of sparkling wine, bubbles are added using carbonization. Some wines are blended with fruit juices, teas, or botanicals.
N.A. wines, so far, cannot quite compete with regular wines because de-alcoholization takes away crucial aromas and tannins. But this is not to say that N.A. wines aren’t delicious in a category of their own. Inviting nondrinkers into the wine space and giving them the same ceremony of celebration—the pretty bottle, the cork pop, the gorgeous glassware, and bubbles—is downright awesome. Below, five N.A. wines to try for your New Year’s Eve party—or whatever your next celebration might be.
Odd Bird Blanc de Blanc $25
This sparkler from the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France is made in the traditional method and then de-alcoholized. Made from Chardonnay and Colombard grapes, it is aged with lees for 12 months, resulting in a rich body and notes of brioche and honey. The high-acid green apple, pear, and lemon notes make this wine a refreshing treat.
Odd Bird Rosé $25
Another offering from the same producer as above is a luscious rosé (my favorite from the lineup) with delicate red fruit aromas like strawberries and cranberries, paired with breadiness from lees aging. It is made with a blend of Chardonnay and Syrah. This would make for a lovely aperitif.
Kally Golden Sparkler $38
Served at Atlanta’s Michelin Guide Announcements Gala, this woman-owned brand out of California is a nod to the ever-popular pet nats. Along with grapes and apple juice, this NA wine is made with decaffeinated green and black tea extracts. It is citrus-forward on the palate, with floral notes of jasmine. The winemaker calls it, “champagne’s cool cousin.”
Château del ISH Sparkling White $25
A blend of Pinot Blanc and Silvaner, this wine has intense citrus and green apple notes. It has a slight sweetness and zesty acidity. It is fermented in stainless steel vats, so it is more akin to prosecco than champagne. Laser-focused fresh fruit on the palate, this wine would pair well with shellfish and Thai food.
Château del ISH Sparkling Rosé $25
This delicate wine is a blend of Merlot and Pinot Noir that is de-alcoholized over low temperatures. The stainless-steel fermentation gives this wine fresh red fruit flavors and a light body. It will pair well with light pasta or be made into a refreshing frosé.