Alcohol-free wine doesn’t taste as good because it doesn’t trigger the same reaction from your saliva, Professor Luke O’Neill has said.
Market research firm Fact.MR has calculated that the global wine industry is worth over €400 billion and within that demand for alcohol-free brands is growing; €1.5 billion of non-alcoholic wine was sold in 2021 and that figure should double by 2031.
On The Pat Kenny Show, Professor O’Neill said scientists have still yet to come up with a way of making non-alcoholic brands taste like regular wine.
‘Nobody’s quite cracked it’
“They haven’t cracked it, have they?” he said. “One reason for that is it’s not completely the same.
“The flavour will be slightly different because the alcohol enhances flavour sensing in your mouth and they’ve shown a reactive protein in your saliva… enhances the flavour.
“So, low alcohol means anyway the taste is slightly different.
“That is especially important in wine because it is about 10%, 15% alcohol and if you bring that right down, those extra flavours that are in wine cannot be sensed anymore and that’s why it doesn’t taste quite so good.
“I suspect [with] the sugary ones, the sugar cuts through you see and you don’t need the alcohol to enhance the tasting of sugar but those other ones it doesn’t really quite work.
“So, nobody has quite cracked yet a way to make low-alcohol wine as good.”
By contrast, chemists have worked out how to make non-alcoholic beer taste very similar to regular beer.
“They’ve a way of retaining the flavour,” Professor O’Neill said.
“If you lower the pressure, things boil off at a lower temperature.
“You might remember, if you ever go hiking up the mountains, water boils at a lower temperature.
“So, it’s all about pressure - this ultra-low pressure to boil off the alcohol - and that was the big advance that they made.
“It wasn’t there in the olden days; they didn’t do that and that’s why the non-alcoholic beer didn’t taste so good.”
The market for non-alcoholic beers in Ireland tripled between 2017 and 2021 from 0.4% to 1.5%.