Tuesday, 3 February 2015

REVIEW: Eisberg Alcohol-Free Wines

Regular readers of this blog will know I am a wine lover through and through. I adore the stuff. I love to try new varietals, visit new wineries and talk about wine at every opportunity. I love the fact that with wine, as with so much, the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing. So it's fair to say that I was intrigued but also a little apprehensive when Eisberg approached me to see if I would like to try one of their wines.

I couldn't help but think it's like a Katie Price biography. It looks like a book, it feels like a book. You could read it and you know somebody, somewhere is enjoying it, but what's the point? Well, I have vowed to leave no path untrodden on my wine journey, so I could not make an exception in this case.

And let's face it. Christmas has come and gone with all its festive cheer and socialising. For me, January has been the month of semi-hibernation, going out only when absolutely necessary and relishing nights in front of the fire enjoying a film with The Boy. And for me, all of these things often involve a cheeky glass of red. I cannot argue with taking some time off the booze and for this experiment I have already had a few days off, saving the wine until I really fancied a glass. The Boy has got a (boozy) beer on and so after dinner I cracked and poured myself a glass of Eisberg Cabernet Sauvignon.

It has a great colour, deep and inviting, but of course no legs to speak of! I was happy to see on the bottle that it is only 26 calories per small glass - about 100 less, depending on strength, than a standard wine. That's definitely better on the waistline and so tonight I am feeling virtuous as well as adventurous. Interestingly, scientific studies seem to suggest that red wine with the alcohol removed may have the same, or slightly better, heart health benefits than alcoholic wine. It will be interesting to see the conclusions of further testing in this regard.

The first thing that surprised me about the wine was the aroma. It is extremely light on the nose, without the evaporation of alcohol from the surface acting as a carrier for subtle smell notes. However, once I'd really got my nose in I found that it was fruity and almost sweet smelling. A hint of sour cherry mixed with strawberry - all out in the sun to release the sugary scents. As a big, full-bodied, tannin heavy wine fan, this was not to my taste, but certainly not unpleasant. Straight away you could tell that this was not just another grape juice, it was more complex than that.

In the mouth, again the Eisberg was light on body, but despite this surprisingly big on flavour. It had that mix of soft red fruit again - this time a hint of a juicy plum in there, but for me it was overwhelmingly the strawberry sweetness that came through most strongly. I detected ever such a slight tang of grape skins, but no real tannins to speak of. I suspect it would be much better to drink on a summer's evening than wrapped up away from the minus degree grip of bleak midwinter.

It almost disappears on the palette as soon as you swallow, leaving just a hint of fruit flavour in the mouth, like the footsteps of a butterfly. No element of the experience is unpleasant, but it just isn't quite wine.

I don't think I drink wine to get the alcohol effect, but I do enjoy the complexity and interest that the vast swathes of different grapes, strengths and production methods bring. I feel that some of the enjoyment of this experience is lost with the Eisberg Alcohol Free wine. Does this taste like a regular Cabernet Sauvignon? A bit. Well, sort of. Is it pleasing to drink? Yes, it's fine.

Would I choose to drink it again?

Well, actually I think I might. Having drunk a glass as I type this, I do not have an overwhelming urge to ransack the kitchen for a glass of rioja. I'm enjoying trying something new and I think, weirdly, it gets better as you drink it (and not because you're getting too ratted to notice). I'm happily going to have another glass and be happy that I'll have ingested less calories than a custard cream.

I can see that if you weren't able to drink for medical reasons, were trying to cut alcohol calories out of your diet or were pregnant, Eisberg could definitely have a place in your life. It's not as complex as regular wine, but it's not a sickly sweet fruit juice either. It has flavour and enough interest that I think it is a genuine alternative if you have reason to take a break from the booze.

In my local supermarket, Eisberg is £3.49 a bottle, so it's easier on the pocket than your standard plonk too. Probably worth a punt and I have no doubt that for some people this will revolutionise the way you drink wine. But just not me. If it ever looks like I'm becoming a Mummy Blogger who knows, maybe we'll look at this one again.

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