Review: Ariel Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay Wine
There has never been a better time in history to start enjoying non-alcoholic wine.
The market has absolutely exploded with an amazing range of delicious non-alcoholic wines. White and red (and rosé, of course!). Still and sparkling. Startups everywhere are bringing new alcohol-free wines to market with incredible speed. And the best part? Each new entry brings us one step closer to non-alcoholic wine that looks, smells, and tastes just like their traditional wine counterparts.
But for all the buzz around the new entrants on the scene, there’s a California winery that’s been producing well-loved non-alcoholic wine for nearly 40 years: Ariel Vineyards Dealcoholized Wine.
40 Years of Non-Alcoholic Wine
Ariel Vineyards introduced their first bottle of non-alcoholic wine to market back in 1985. As you might imagine, the market for NA wine in the U.S. at the time was practically non-existent. Which is why it shocked the world when, that following year, Ariel Vineyard Blanc went up against a panel of traditional wines at the 1986 Los Angeles County Fair and won a gold medal.
But even with renown wine critics awarding Ariel for its quality and taste, most consumers we still skeptical about the idea of alcohol-free wine. Ariel continued to refine its winemaking techniques and introduce new products to market, but it wasn’t until the early-1990’s that the market for non-alcoholic wines would start to emerge.
Celebrity chef Graham Kerr, host of the hit cooking TV show The Galloping Gourmet, took notice of Ariel wines, calling them, “remarkable…a wine of our time.” And he was right. With the excess of the 80’s in the rearview, consumers became much more health conscious during the 1990’s. After years of refining their dealcoholized wine, it finally seemed like it was time for Ariel Vineyards to reach the masses.
But in order to attempt selling to the masses, you have to be sure your product is second to none.
How Ariel Non-Alcoholic Wine in Made
Since they first introduced their non-alcoholic wines in 1985, Ariel has been dedicated to refining the craft of winemaking. Because each bottle of Ariel begins its life just like any other bottle of traditional alcoholic wine.
Owned and operated by J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, Ariel has access to some of the finest winemakers and winemaking equipment in the world. Which is important, because crafting a delicious non-alcoholic wine is no easy feat. Each bottle of Ariel Non-Alcoholic wine begins as a grape on a vine in California’s Central Coast. This esteemed growing region is known to produce some of the best wine grapes in the entire world, with the J. Lohr team dedicating countless resources to cultivate, grow, and sustainably harvest each grape that will find its way into a bottle of Ariel.
Each bottle of Ariel starts on a California vine...
After harvesting choice grapes, Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon and Ariel Chardonnay are batched and fermented just like any other wine. The only difference is that once this wine ages to maturity, the process is just getting started…
Today, manufacturers have their choice of several highly-technical ways to remove the alcohol from wine. Having launched nearly 40 years ago, Ariel has spent decades perfecting the reverse osmosis method, which uses a pump to push their fresh wine through special membranes that separate the alcohol and water away from the wine. What’s left is a syrupy concentrate that contains all the flavors and essence of the original wine. Ariel then adds back fresh water to this concentrate, recreating the look, aroma, texture, and flavors of the original wine, just without the alcohol (less than 0.5% alcohol by volume, for those that are curious).
Of course, the process of making non-alcoholic wine doesn’t matter all that much unless it actually tastes good. Which means it’s time to finally uncork some bottles and review Ariel Non-Alcoholic Wine.
Review: Ariel Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon
Known as the original non-alcoholic red wine, and one of the most widely available for purchase at grocery and liquor stores across the U.S., Ariel Dealcoholized Cabernet Sauvignon is an oak-aged rich red wine that works hard to recreate that experience of enjoying a traditional California Cab.
When you first open a bottle of Ariel Non-Alcoholic Red Wine, the aroma is…well, interesting. While it doesn’t smell bad or off, it definitely doesn’t have that red wine aroma we’re used to. That said, it does pour a nice shade of ruby, appearing much less watery than a lot of other alcohol-free reds on the market.
On the tongue, Ariel checks many of the flavor boxes one would hope for when it comes to a California Cabernet Sauvignon. Black currant. Velvety chocolate. Dark cherries. All wrapped in a decent, dry finish. And because Ariel does not add juice back into its wine once dealcoholized, there isn’t that same residual sweetness you get with a lot of non-alcoholic reds.
The only major issue we had with this alcohol-free cabernet sauvignon was the lack of “bite” that the alcohol traditionally delivers. We know this is pretty much standard in the non-alcoholic wine industry, but each time we try and new bottle we’re always hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Of course, with the health benefits of skipping the alcohol, and a waist-friendly 52 calories per 8oz serving, there’s still a lot to love about Ariel Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon.
Review: Ariel Non-Alcoholic Chardonnay
After enjoying Ariel’s non-alcoholic red, it was time to move on to the other end of their spectrum, popping open a bottle of Ariel Non-Alcoholic Chardonnay.
California Chardonnay has a rich reputation, so our expectations were quite high as we poured our first glass. The color of this alcohol-free wine is absolutely beautiful, mirroring that same golden hue of the world’s most popular Sonoma Chardonnays. On the nose, there is a hint of sweetness, with some floral elements added into the mix. And these aromas carry over to the flavor profile as well, with hints of fresh-cut pear, apple, butterscotch, and French oak.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get that rich, buttery flavor profile we would have expected from a California Chardonnay. But that said, Ariel Non-Alcoholic Chardonnay is still quite tasty, and firmly holds a spot as one of the better non-alcoholic white wines we’ve tried to date. And similar to the Cab, Ariel Non-Alcoholic Chardonnay is super friendly to those watching their waistline, with just 45 calories per 8oz serving.
Final Thoughts: Ariel Non-Alcoholic Wine
As one of the original non-alcoholic wine innovators, there’s a lot to love about Ariel Vineyards Non-Alcoholic Wine. Their Cabernet Sauvignon boasts a tremendous color and flavor profile, and pairs beautifully with rich conversation over a rich meal. Ariel Chardonnay, while not the super buttery Sonoma white we’re used to, still does a tremendous job pulling together a complex bouquet of flavors that is refreshing, but not overly sweet.
In addition to the experience of drinking their wine, Ariel has some other value-adds too. Their wine is one of the most widely distributed and sold non-alcoholic wines on the market, meaning no matter where you are, chances are high that you’ll be able to find these bottles near you (which is not the case for many new non-alcoholic wine brands entering the market). In addition, at just $9-11 per bottle depending on where you buy, the price point of Ariel makes it an even more attractive purchase.
There is no doubt that Ariel Non-Alcoholic Cabernet Sauvignon and Ariel Non-Alcoholic Chardonnay benefit greatly from their nearly 40 years of constant improvement. From the company’s dedication to growing and cultivating the best grapes California has to offer, to its refined, high-tech dealcoholizing process, Ariel shows clear passion for quality (yet still affordable) non-alcoholic wines.
And this is a passion to which we are happy to raise our glass. Cheers!