Could Tamlyn have found the holy grail?
From £8.99, HK$95, €10.73, NZ$19.99, AU$19.99, $14.99
To find this wine, see the list at the end of the article.
Recently, in The highs and lows of alcohol, Jancis wrote, ‘Developing a no-alcohol wine that tastes good is regarded as the holy grail by the world’s biggest wine companies but in my experience they are yet to find it.’
Perhaps it’s the small companies who are going to get there first.
Amanda Thomson, above, left her career as arts journalist with the BBC to study for a diploma in wine at Le Cordon Bleu, Paris. In 2013 she founded Thomson & Scott with the sole aim of creating organic, vegan-friendly, low- and no-alcohol wines that were lower in sugar and calories than the options that were on the market at the time. The Scott half of the name remains a mystery which Amanda wouldn't reveal when I asked...
Recently, she launched an alcohol-free organic sparkling wine and a sample landed on my desk. Like Jancis, I’ve tasted some pretty awful alcohol-free wines (although the Leitz Eins Zwei Zero Riesling, £6.99 and widely available in the UK and Europe, is probably the best no-alcohol still white I’ve tasted so far) so my expectations were pretty low.
It didn’t smell brilliant, to be blunt. Like a dry (not wet) cardboard box that had been, at some point in its lifecycle, used to store apples. We were not off to a good start.
But then, to my great surprise, it actually tasted good! Dry, with decent, crunchy, ripe-apple fruit. It was very frothy when poured, but the bubbles were fine and lively and it wasn’t uncomfortably frothy in the mouth.
Obviously, this is not where you’re looking for length or complexity, but I would happily drink this if I was the designated driver or taking a break from alcohol. It is, hands down, the best alcohol-free sparkling wine I have ever tasted, and one of the best alcohol-free wines I've tasted overall.
Made from 100% Chardonnay grown on sandy and calcareous vineyards located in southern Spain, it’s fermented in stainless-steel tanks and then de-alcoholised by vacuum distillation*. The wine is then lightly carbonated. Alcohol is 0.05%, residual sugar is 2.9 g/l, and calories are 14 per 100 ml. Certified organic, vegan and halal. To add to the halo shine, any wine bought directly from Thomson & Scott comes in 100% recyclable packaging (I can attest to that, as I bought a case after I’d tasted it – the first time I’ve ever bought a case of alcohol-free wine!). The company is B Corp-certified.
As for the nose, I was told that ‘the process of vacuum distillation to remove the alcohol also takes away some of the aromatic compounds. When this technique is used, there’s an option to add artificial aromas afterwards, but we decided against this because we are opposed to the use of adjuncts and flavourings.’ I can live with that.
It’s widely available in the UK (where the best price of £8.99 is available direct from Thomson & Scott or Amazon), and you can buy it in the Netherlands, Italy and Portugal, shortly to be launched in Spain. Outside Europe, it’s sold in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and is about to be sold by Central Market in their outlets across Texas. It’s also likely to be available in Poland, Mexico, UAE, South Africa and Mauritius by the end of the year.
Thomson & Scott provided me with the following list of retailers and RRPs around the world, but if you can't find the wine, contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
UK – £8.99
Thomson & Scott
Amazon, BoroughBox, Fenwick, Harvey Nichols, Holland & Barrett, Ocado, Planet Organic, Selfridges, Zeroholic
Ireland – €12–15
Pembroke Wines, all Avoca Handweavers shops; Whelehan's Wines; Gibney's Off-Licence; The Grape & Grain; DSix Liquor; Wicklow Wines
Hong Kong – HK$95
Sipfree (launching August 2020)
Spain – €10.73
The Blue Dolphin Store (to be launched in the next couple of months)
Netherlands – €11.95
New Zealand – NZ$19.99
Red & White Cellar
Australia – AU$19.99
USA (Texas) – $14.99
Central Market (launching shortly in all outlets across Texas)
Jersey – £8.99
Portugal – €18 (free countrywide shipping for 12 bottles upwards)
Six Senses Douro Valley Bottle Shop
Italy – €22
Locanda Al Colle
* Vacuum distillation is a two-stage process: the first involves transferring the wine through a distillation column and extracting the highly volatile compounds (aromas) in a small alcohol fraction at 30 °C; the second stage is to transfer the wine through the column a second time in order to remove the alcohol.