If you enjoy a robust shiraz or a refreshing sav blanc with your meal, but health is high on your agenda, a new range of still wines made right here in Canberra offers a delicious, zero-alcohol alternative.
When Christina Delay had to give up alcohol for health reasons five years ago, she really missed the romance that surrounded choosing “the perfect red” and pairing it with a delicious meal.
And, with few alcohol-free options on restaurant menus, the Altina Drinks founder was determined to create a range of zero-proof, still wines that maintained their complexity and full flavour.
“I wanted to be able to drink alcohol-free wine that still tasted like fine wine,” she said.
“I loved nothing more than pairing a glass of wine with food, but there wasn’t anything out there that actually tasted good.
“Most alcohol-free wines have sugar added to compensate for the loss of flavour, or they’re topped up with grape juice. They can be very sweet and one-dimensional.
“I wanted to make a variety of alcohol-free wines that kept the flavour and the depth of good wine, and could be enjoyed with food at a restaurant or at home.”
Using her Bachelor of Chemical Biotechnology, together with a PhD in Plant Biology, Christina created the unique taste profile of Altina’s new Liberate Collection, which includes the Pepperberry Shiraz, Finger Lime Sauvignon Blanc and Kakadu Plum Rose.
Using challenging spinning-cone technology, she gently removes the alcohol from premium Australian wines to produce a series of beverages that retain their integrity.
“By using a unique blend of botanicals, we have replicated that experience you get when you pair food and wine,” Christina said.
“You get that complexity of flavour, and the taste changes from the first to the last sip.
“The shiraz starts out with pepperberry notes, then take a couple more sips and you get red berry, then the spice. It’s a journey of the palate.”
Christina and her husband Alan Tse founded Altina Drinks in 2018 and are thrilled to have finally perfected a still range to add to their popular sparkling collection.
Former Pialligo Estate sommelier and Dan Murphy’s wine merchant Freddie Raimbaud said more Canberrans were looking for quality non-alcoholic wines to enjoy at a dinner party or restaurant but, until now, the options had been limited.
“Alcohol-free wines have not had a good reputation,” she said.
“But I think Altina has really nailed it here.
“They’ve done a very good job in keeping the profile and characteristics of each grape variety. And using botanicals and fruit from Australia adds a surprise element.”
Freddie said being able to enjoy wine, with the alcohol removed, at an event made you “feel part of the team”.
“I’m French, so wine is a really important part of my culture,” she said.
“It’s great to be able to go out and drink something elegant that looks beautiful in the bottle – instead of drinking soda.”
Christina said Altina’s bold shiraz paired beautifully with hearty mains and pasta, and the fresh sauvignon blanc was perfect with seafood, salads and rice. The rose goes down beautifully with cheeses, charcuterie and lighter dishes.
“The result is the best non-alcoholic wine you’ll ever taste,” she added.
“I was a big shiraz drinker, and I love this, but I’ve found myself coming back to the sav blanc over and over again. It’s so perfect and fresh for the summer weather.”
Christina said the hospitality sector was “crying out for a quality zero-alcohol wine” to pair with food, and many Canberra restaurants had picked up the range, including Pialligo Estate, The Boat House, Walt & Burley, and The Alby.
“The team have been doing markets and we’ve been getting a lot of love around the hero botanical ingredients,” she said.
“The still-wine varieties have really been resonating with restaurateurs, as we thought they would.
“Nowadays, people expect to see good-quality alcohol-free wines on the menu – sparkling mineral water just doesn’t cut it.”
Not only are Altina’s wines alcohol-free, they’re vegan, gluten-free, have no sugar added, and the ingredients have been chosen for their health-giving qualities.
For example, Australian forestberry (Eucalyptus olida), featured in the Altina Le Blanc, adds a flavour and aroma of berries and passionfruit with a slightly warm and spicy aftertaste, but it is also super rich in antioxidants and has been used traditionally to soothe an upset stomach.
After giving up alcohol, Christina wants to inspire other Australians to “live life without the negative aspects of excessive alcohol consumption”.
“We want people to celebrate life and share unexpected, intriguing and satisfying drinking experiences without compromising their health. And our passion means we won’t compromise on quality,” she said.
The new Liberate Collection of still wines will be available for tasting at markets around Canberra and can be purchased online from the Altina Drinks website.