Saying No to Vino

April 30, 2019

What the changing alcohol consumption patterns means to the wine world

More and more, young people are saying no to alcohol. In fact, the latest studies in England show that 25% of people aged 16-24 consider themselves non-drinkers. Reasons for this movement vary from celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kate Moss swearing off booze to a generation that is more mindful about their physical and mental health.

As Gen Z develops a different relationship with alcohol than their predecessors, new non-alcoholic products have been emerging to replace cocktails at bars, restaurants, and parties. Seedlip, whose slogan is “what to drink if you are not drinking,” makes non-alcoholic distilled herbal concoctions. Today it sells three types: Spice 94, Grove 42, and Garden 108 that can be found at swanky bars, restaurants, and hotels all over the world. Stryyk is another company creating “zero-proof spirits for the next generation of partygoers.” Its product selection includes Not Vodka, Not Rum, and Not Gin, which all can replace traditional spirits in cocktails.

But what does the rise in a sober lifestyle mean for wine? As a product with substantial and far-ranging cultural significance, wine is much more than an alcoholic beverage. From its beginning it has been a symbol of civilized society and savoir-vivre. As the 1989 mission-statement of Robert Mondavi Winery says, “Wine has been with us since the beginning of civilization. It is the temperate, civilized, sacred, romantic, mealtime beverage recommended in the Bible. Wine has been praised for centuries by statesmen, philosophers, poets and scholars. Wine in moderation is an integral part of our culture, heritage and the gracious way of life.” However, in its very essence, wine is fermented grape juice. It can’t be separated from its alcoholic content, which is why in 1991 the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms forbade Mondavi from printing this quote on its labels because it was vague about the effects of alcohol.

Twenty years later as people are becoming even more strict about their own alcohol consumption, wine producers are facing a new challenge. While people saying no to all alcohol isn’t positive for wine makers, it does create an opportunity to develop a new type of grape connoisseurship beyond a glass of wine. Producers can bring new generations of consumers like the health-conscious or sober into the wine world by creating a non-fermented grape juice product connected to the gastronomy, history and tradition of wine. A product like this wouldn’t just open up a new market, but could also facilitate a deeper appreciation of traditional wines by demonstrating how fermentation can enhance the taste and aroma complexity of the products.

There are already a few products like this on the market. O.Vine and Napa Hills have created grape-infused waters to offer the health benefits of wine without the alcohol. To further connect drinks like these to the wine world, it’s essential that they showcase the stories plus the tasting and nutritional qualities of a specific grape variety and terroir. In order to create something truly innovative, it’s not just about creating a drink that can replace wine, but a beverage experience that can embody everything that wine is.