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In recent years, there has been growing concern within the viticulture industry and among health professionals regarding the increasing alcohol content in wines. This issue is influenced by both evolving consumer preferences and climate change. Wines, particularly those from warmer regions, tend to have higher alcohol levels due to earlier ripening and increased sugar content in grapes. This trend is problematic because higher alcohol consumption is linked to various adverse health effects, including an increased risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, wines with elevated alcohol content can experience altered sensory profiles, potentially affecting consumer satisfaction and economic stability of wineries. Therefore, reducing the alcohol content in wines has become a priority, driven by public health interests and the need to adapt to climate change-induced challenges in viticulture.

The Market for Nonalcoholic Wine

The global market for nonalcoholic wine production has seen a significant increase in demand. It is expected to grow at an annual rate of 10% between 2023 and 2033, potentially reaching USD 5.2 billion by 2033. This surge is fueled by health concerns related to alcohol consumption and a broader trend toward healthier lifestyles. Technological advancements have facilitated the production of nonalcoholic wines that retain the sensory qualities of traditional wines. However, the acceptance of nonalcoholic wines faces hurdles, including consumer reluctance to try these products and pricing structures that do not meet consumer expectations.

Health Benefits and Challenges

While nonalcoholic wines are gaining popularity, some studies have suggested that the health benefits associated with moderate red wine consumption, such as improved endothelial function and cardiovascular health, may not extend to their nonalcoholic counterparts. Additionally, the presence of trace amounts of ethanol in “nonalcoholic” beverages poses minimal health risks according to current physiological and psychocultural knowledge. Therefore, the study of low-alcohol and nonalcoholic wine production is crucial because of its increasing market demand and potential health benefits. Understanding consumer behavior, technological challenges, and the health implications of low-alcohol wine consumption is vital for the beverage industry and policymakers.

Enhancing Communication with Illustrations

To enhance the effectiveness of this review as a communication tool, I incorporated illustrations that are reminiscent of comic strips. Comics and illustrations play a crucial role in narrative reviews because of their historical significance, educational value, and unique narrative structure. They serve as a hybrid art form that can express complex ideas and emotions, while being accessible and engaging with a wide audience. The interplay between visual and textual elements in comics provides a rich and immersive experience, making them an important subject of academic study and cultural appreciation.

The Best Methods to Reduce Alcohol Content in Wine

Reducing the alcohol content in wine is crucial for addressing health concerns and adapting to the changing climate conditions that affect grape ripening and sugar accumulation. Various strategies can be employed at different stages of wine production to achieve this goal, each with its own benefits and challenges. Below, I discuss several key methods and techniques used to reduce the alcohol content in wine.

Pre-Fermentation Strategies

Leaf Area Reduction

Leaf area reduction is an effective strategy for managing the alcohol content of wine by influencing the sugar accumulation in grape berries. By pruning or trimming leaves, winemakers can limit the capacity of vines for photosynthesis, thereby controlling grape sugar levels and ultimately producing wines with lower alcohol content. This technique requires careful timing and methods to slow down sugar accumulation without adversely affecting other important grape characteristics such as flavor, tannins, and acids. Studies have shown that apical defoliation and mechanical leaf removal after veraison can effectively reduce the sugar content in grapes, resulting in wines with lower alcohol levels while maintaining their characteristic flavor profiles.

Early Grape Harvest

Managing the harvest date is another pre-fermentation strategy to reduce the alcohol content in wine. Early harvesting or blending of mature grapes with those harvested early can significantly lower the ethanol concentration in wine. The double-harvest approach, which involves two separate harvests timed precisely, can lower alcohol content by approximately 3% v/v. However, early harvesting can result in wines with underdeveloped organoleptic properties and higher acidity levels. Studies have demonstrated that early harvesting can effectively reduce alcohol content while maintaining an optimal aromatic profile in wines, such as Barbera and Pinot Noir.

Grape Must Dilution

Grapes must be diluted by adding water to the grapes to reduce their sugar concentrations. This practice is regulated in many wine-producing regions and can lower alcohol concentration by approximately 1% v/v. While this method impacts sugar and ethanol levels, it also affects other critical wine parameters, such as total acidity, color, tannins, and the overall flavor profile. Therefore, careful management of water is essential to maintain the desired quality and characteristics of wine.

Filtration of Grape Juice

Using membrane techniques to decrease the sugar content in musts can effectively reduce the alcohol content of wine. The REDUX® process, which combines ultrafiltration (UF) and nanofiltration (NF), is a commercialized method that can reduce the alcohol content by 1–2% v/v. This dual-stage membrane process is preferred over single-step NF treatment as it alleviates osmotic pressure and reduces the content of macromolecules, facilitating more efficient sugar concentration by NF and minimizing volume loss. Studies have shown varying effects on wine properties depending on the method used; however, generally, these techniques can reduce alcohol content with minimal impact on sensory characteristics.

Addition of Glucose Oxidase

Glucose oxidase (Gox) catalyzes the conversion of glucose to gluconic acid in grapes, reducing the sugar available for alcohol production and influencing the final alcohol content of wine. Biotechnological advancements have enhanced Gox production, making it a reliable method for reducing the alcohol content. The use of commercial Gox products has been observed to modestly decrease ethanol content while impacting other characteristics of wine, such as acidity and sensory properties.

Fermentation Strategies

Non-Saccharomyces Yeasts

Different yeast strains, including non-Saccharomyces (NS) yeasts, can effectively reduce alcohol levels in wine. These yeasts ferment sugars differently or divert carbon metabolism into pathways that produce less ethanol. NS yeasts not only help to modestly reduce ethanol content but also enhance the fermentation process and contribute to the wine’s sensory complexity.

Genetically Engineered Yeasts

Metabolic engineering techniques, such as gene editing and adaptive evolution, can be used to create yeast strains capable of reducing ethanol levels during fermentation. However, genetically modified organisms for food and beverage production are subject to consumer hesitancy. Non-genetic methods, such as adaptive evolution and selection of naturally lower ethanol-yielding yeasts, are also employed, potentially reducing wine alcohol content by up to 3% (v/v) without sacrificing quality.

Yeast Nutrition Management

Intentionally limiting yeast nutrition, primarily by managing the availability of yeast-assimilable nitrogen (YAN), can naturally slow or stop fermentation and reduce the alcohol content. This method must be carefully managed to ensure wine quality, particularly in terms of balancing the residual sugars and developing a desirable aroma profile.

Post-Fermentation Strategies

Nanofiltration and Reverse Osmosis

Advanced membrane technologies such as NF and RO offer effective solutions for removing ethanol while preserving the essential components and bioactive compounds of wine. RO, often paired with column distillation, can reduce ethanol content with minimal impact on wine composition and sensory attributes. NF membranes have higher permeate fluxes and can effectively reject smaller molecules, making them suitable for ethanol rejection and the removal of aroma compounds.

Osmotic Distillation

Osmotic distillation (OD) selectively extracts water and other solvents from aqueous solutions by using a hydrophobic polymeric membrane. This technique can reduce alcohol levels by up to 6% while preserving the essential aromatic and flavor components of wine. However, OD requires careful management to balance ethanol removal while preserving the sensory quality.


Pervaporation (PV) uses organophilic membranes to efficiently transport ethanol molecules, while restricting water molecules. This method is particularly effective in systems such as wine, in which ethanol is a minor component compared to water. PV can significantly reduce the alcohol content while maintaining the organoleptic properties of wine. Innovative applications of PV can extract aroma compounds before dealcoholization, thereby enhancing the original aromatic profile of wine.

Spinning Cone Column

The Spinning Cone Column (SCC) is efficient for modifying the alcohol content while preserving or enhancing the aromatic and flavor profiles of wines. SCC features a rotating vertical shaft with vertically arranged cones that operate as falling-film contactors. This two-stage process captures volatile wine aromas and removes alcohol under controlled vacuum conditions, resulting in dealcoholized wine with preserved aromatic quality.

Vacuum Distillation

Vacuum distillation (VD) operates under vacuum conditions to facilitate evaporation, distillation, and condensation at low temperatures, minimizing the loss of volatile compounds that are crucial for the flavor and aroma of wine. VD can effectively enhance certain volatile compounds, although it may lead to a reduction in esters, alcohols, and terpenes, which are vital for the wine’s aromatic complexity.

Multi-Stage Membrane-Based Systems

Multi-stage membrane-based systems combine the strengths of multiple processes to maintain the integrity of the flavor and aroma profiles. For example, a combination of PV and distillation units can produce low-alcohol beverages while recovering and reincorporating aromatic compounds. These sophisticated systems effectively balance ethanol removal while preserving the sensory quality.

How Do Dealcoholization Techniques Influence Wine Composition?

The process of dealcoholizing wine affects its composition in several significant ways, primarily affecting phenolic compounds and volatile aromas, which in turn influence the sensory characteristics and potential health benefits of the wine. This section explores how different dealcoholization techniques influence these aspects of the wine composition.

Pre-Fermentation Strategies

Leaf Area Reduction

Leaf removal affects the quality of grapes and the characteristics of the resulting wine by altering its phenolic composition and volatile compounds. The timing and method of leaf removal, as well as the local climatic conditions, play crucial roles. For example, defoliation has been shown to increase the concentration of anthocyanins, which are essential for wine color and sensory properties. Studies have demonstrated varying results: mechanical defoliation can enhance certain aroma compounds and manage vine health, whereas manual defoliation might lead to significant differences in wine aroma. The effects of phenolic compounds such as gallic acid, catechin, and malvidin-3-glucoside are not consistent across all studies, emphasizing the need for tailored vineyard practices based on local conditions and grape variety.

Early Grape Harvest

Harvest timing is critical for determining the phenolic composition and sensory profile of wines. Early harvesting typically results in wines with fewer desirable aromatic compounds and increased herbaceous flavor. The double harvest technique can lower alcohol content without significantly affecting essential quality aspects, such as color intensity and total phenols, although sensory attributes, such as a pronounced green taste, might appear in certain years.

Grape Must Dilution

Diluting grape must with water can reduce alcohol content but also impacts the non-volatile and volatile characteristics of wine. Studies on Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon have shown that dilution can decrease color stability and tannin levels, thereby affecting aging potential and astringency. Significant changes in volatile profiles, particularly fermentative aromas, have been observed with higher water addition rates, highlighting the need for careful management to maintain wine quality.

Addition of Glucose Oxidase

Glucose oxidase reduces the ethanol content by converting glucose into gluconic acid, which can negatively affect taste by diminishing fruity aromas. The efficacy of this method depends on the pH optimization and aeration during the enzymatic process. While it can significantly reduce alcohol content, the resulting increase in acidity and potential taste alterations necessitate further deacidification or sweetening to maintain wine quality.

Fermentation Strategies

Non-Saccharomyces Yeasts

Non-Saccharomyces yeasts contribute to the aroma and flavor of wine by producing volatile aromatic compounds and modifying its phenolic profile. They enhance the complexity and aromatic quality of wine, but have limited fermentative power compared to Saccharomyces cerevisiae, leading to variations in ethanol and acid contents. Mixed fermentation with non-Saccharomyces and Saccharomyces yeasts can result in wines with improved aroma and flavor profiles.

Nutrient Limitation

Managing the fermentation processes through nutrient limitation and temperature control can influence the phenolic composition and sensory attributes of wine. Low-temperature maceration can increase phenolic content, while variations in ethanol and acid contents affect sensory attributes such as astringency and aroma. These strategies must be carefully balanced to ensure quality.

Post-Fermentation Strategies

Nanofiltration and Reverse Osmosis

Nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO) are effective in reducing alcohol content but can also alter phenolic and volatile compounds. NF can enhance the phenolic composition and increase anthocyanin and resveratrol concentrations. RO, on the other hand, can lead to a slight loss of aroma compounds, but generally maintains phenolic compounds and color intensity. The extent of these changes depends on the specific conditions and the type of filter used.

Osmotic Distillation and Evaporative Perstraction

These techniques selectively remove ethanol while preserving the phenolic compounds. OD/EP can significantly reduce total monomeric anthocyanins in some wines, but generally maintains or enhances the total phenolic content and color intensity. The impact varies across different wine varieties, emphasizing the need for customized dealcoholization processes to preserve or enhance the sensory and quality attributes.


Pervaporation effectively reduces alcohol content but can lead to significant loss of volatile aroma compounds, affecting the sensory profile. The extent of these changes depends on the membrane used and the operational conditions. For instance, the pervaporation of Tokaji Hárslevelű and Cabernet Sauvignon wines resulted in substantial aroma losses while enhancing the fruit aroma.

Spinning Cone Column Distillation

SCC is efficient in reducing alcohol content while preserving volatile compounds. It can increase the content of phenolic compounds and enhance the health benefits and sensory attributes. However, it can also reduce fusel alcohols and volatile compounds, thereby affecting the aroma recovery. The high cost of this method is a notable drawback, but its ability to maintain phenolic content makes it a viable option for producing low-alcohol wines.

Vacuum Distillation

VD can significantly reduce alcohol content while altering phenolic compounds and volatile aromas. This often leads to a reduction in volatile alcohols, acids, and esters, impacting aroma and taste. The extent of these changes varies with wine type and initial aromatic content. Careful control of VD is necessary to balance alcohol reduction while preserving sensory characteristics.

Multi-Stage Membrane-Based Systems

Combining methods such as RO, OD, and EP can effectively reduce alcohol content while influencing the phenolic composition and color attributes. These systems can enhance phenolic concentrations and color intensity, which are crucial for sensory attributes. However, they also lead to the loss of some aroma compounds, requiring careful calibration to maintain the wine’s unique character and appeal.

Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Low-Alcohol and Nonalcoholic Wines Compared to Alcoholic Wines

Cardiovascular Benefits of Moderate Alcohol Consumption

Chronic moderate alcohol consumption is associated with several positive cardiovascular effects. These include improvements in blood lipid profiles, platelet function, and fibrinolytic activity, all of which together contribute to a reduced risk of acute coronary events. Key findings include:

  • Blood Lipid Profile and Clotting Factors: Moderate alcohol consumption can lead to favorable changes in blood lipids and clotting factors, contributing to a lower risk of coronary artery disease.
  • Oxidative Stress and Insulin Sensitivity: Light-to-moderate alcohol intake reduces oxidative stress, improves insulin sensitivity, and enhances endothelium-dependent vasodilator response.
  • Myocardial Blood Flow: Ethanol improves cardiovascular risk profiles and increases myocardial blood flow through nitric oxide (NO) generation and transient receptor potential vanilloid 1 activation.
  • Cardioprotective Proteins: Alcohol consumption stimulates the expression of cardioprotective proteins such as nitric oxide synthase (NOS), heat shock proteins, and superoxide dismutase, leading to increased cell survival and reduced post-ischemic cell death.

Low-Alcohol and Nonalcoholic Wines: Health Benefits and Mechanisms

While moderate alcohol consumption has known cardiovascular benefits, the potential of low-alcohol and nonalcoholic wines to offer similar or enhanced benefits has been the subject of recent research.

Phenolic Compounds and Antioxidants

Nonalcoholic and low-alcohol wines retain high levels of phenolic compounds and antioxidants, which are crucial for cardiovascular health. Polyphenols, particularly those in red wine, have been shown to

  • Block endothelial cell adhesion molecules.
  • Stimulates NO production.
  • Exhibit antiplatelet effects.

These compounds can reduce plaque formation in arteries and improve endothelial function, which is critical for preventing atherosclerosis and maintaining cardiovascular health.

Clinical and Preclinical Studies

  • Animal Studies: Research on hypercholesterolemic rabbits demonstrated that both alcoholic and nonalcoholic red wines significantly reduced plaque formation on the aortic surface, despite increases in LDL cholesterol levels. This suggests that polyphenols and other antioxidants in wine contribute to cardiovascular protection independent of ethanol.
  • Human Studies: Clinical studies have shown that while alcohol causes temporary vasodilation and decreases in blood pressure, it also leads to subsequent increases in blood pressure, indicating a biphasic effect. For instance, a study by Barden et al. (2013) found that red wine consumption initially decreased blood pressure but led to a smaller decrease in 20-HETE levels and a subsequent increase in blood pressure.

Comparison of Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic Wines

The cardiovascular benefits of wine may stem from a combination of alcohol and other bioactive components such as polyphenols and antioxidants. Nonalcoholic wines, which retain these compounds without ethanol, could offer cardiovascular benefits without the risks associated with alcohol consumption.

  • Synergistic Effects: The interaction between alcohol and other wine components such as polyphenols may produce synergistic effects that enhance cardiovascular health. Understanding these interactions is crucial for determining the full potential of nonalcoholic and low-alcohol wines.
  • Potential Benefits Beyond Alcohol: Studies suggest that the cardiovascular benefits attributed to wine may not be solely due to its alcohol content. Components such as polyphenols and antioxidants play significant roles in promoting heart health.

The Economic Impact of the Growing Nonalcoholic Wine Market

Rising Demand and Market Expansion

The nonalcoholic wine market is experiencing significant growth driven by health considerations and a shift toward healthier lifestyles. This growth is supported by advancements in winemaking technologies, which have expanded the range and quality of nonalcoholic wine offerings. The key factors contributing to this market expansion include the following.

  • Health Considerations: Increasing awareness of the health risks associated with alcohol consumption and a growing preference for healthier alternatives are major drivers of the nonalcoholic wine market.
  • Technological Advancements: Innovations in dealcoholization techniques have improved the quality and taste of nonalcoholic wines, making them more appealing to consumers.
  • Market Projections: The global market for nonalcoholic wines is projected to grow at an annual rate of 10% from 2023 to 2033, with market valuations expected to rise from USD 2 billion to USD 5.2 billion during this period.

Economic Opportunities and Challenges

Industrial Expansion and Market Demand

  • Growth in Production: Countries like Germany have seen dynamic development in the nonalcoholic wine market segment, reflecting broader global trends. This expansion provides a substantial opportunity for wine producers to diversify their product offerings and tap into a growing consumer base.
  • Global Trends: The broader market for dealcoholized beverages is also expanding, with an annual volume increase of 8% forecast between 2022 and 2025.

Sustainability Considerations

  • Resource Use: The production of nonalcoholic wines involves additional resource use during the alcohol removal process, raising concerns about sustainability. Balancing economic growth with environmental impact is a critical consideration for producers.
  • Technological Challenges: The production of nonalcoholic wines requires sophisticated technologies to maintain the flavor and quality of wine while removing the alcohol. These technological demands can pose challenges to producers in terms of cost and implementation.

Consumer Perception and Acceptance

  • Market Acceptance: Consumer acceptance of nonalcoholic wines varies and is influenced by factors such as regional preferences and perceptions of quality. Overcoming skepticism and establishing a strong market presence requires effective marketing and consumer education.
  • Labeling and Regulation: The European Commission’s mandate for ingredient and nutritional labeling of alcoholic beverages could influence consumer perceptions and quality assessments of wines, including nonalcoholic variants.

Policy and Regulatory Impacts

European Policy Landscape

  • Regulatory Harmonization: The European Parliament’s measures to regulate alcohol consumption and the WHO European Alcohol Action Plan reflect a trend toward harmonization of alcohol-related policies within the EU. These policies could impact the production and marketing of nonalcoholic wines, providing both opportunities and challenges for producers.
  • Trade vs. Health Priorities: The implementation of WHO policy priorities varies across Europe, with trade considerations often taking precedence over health concerns. This variability affects the effectiveness of policies aimed at promoting nonalcoholic wine production and consumption.

Economic Viability and Strategic Fit

Diversification and Health Trends

  • Product Diversification: Encouraging the production of nonalcoholic wines allows wine producers to diversify their product lines and cater to health-conscious consumers. This strategy aligns with current consumer trends and can enhance the economic viability of the wine business.
  • Regional and Competitive Challenges: Regional industry challenges and competitive priorities must be considered to ensure the strategic fit of nonalcoholic wine production for individual producers. Navigating these challenges involves understanding local market dynamics and consumer preferences.


The longstanding emphasis on producing alcoholic wines is increasingly supplemented by the emergence of nonalcoholic alternatives, driven by health, economic, and social considerations that are pivotal in the current market. There is growing consumer interest in healthier lifestyles, as evidenced by the rising demand for low-alcohol and nonalcoholic wine options. The health benefits of these alternatives, particularly regarding cardiovascular health, are gaining recognition, offering winemakers an opportunity to cater to health-conscious demographics. By diversifying their product lines to include low-alcohol options, winemakers can extend their customer base and positively contribute to public health.

From a production standpoint, winemakers now have access to advanced techniques, such as vacuum distillation, spinning cone column, reverse osmosis, osmotic distillation, and pervaporation, which enable them to reduce the alcohol content of their wines without compromising sensory and quality attributes. Additionally, implementing pre-fermentation and fermentation strategies, such as leaf area reduction, can naturally decrease alcohol levels, enhancing both the chemical and sensory qualities of wine. The expansion of winemaking techniques has been crucial in enabling producers to meet the growing demand for lower alcohol wines without sacrificing quality.

Economically, the low-alcohol and nonalcoholic wine markets are poised for significant growth. This presents winemakers with the opportunity to diversify their revenue streams and mitigate the risks associated with volatility in the alcoholic beverage market. The development of these technologies also allows for the production of high-quality low-alcohol and nonalcoholic wines that can command premium prices, thereby enhancing profitability.

Furthermore, the regulatory landscape, particularly in Europe, is evolving, with an increasing emphasis on transparency in alcohol labeling and nutritional information. This shift reflects a broader societal push for clearer consumer information, and can help winemakers align their products with new consumer preferences and regulatory standards. Given these compelling health, economic, and social reasons, it is prudent for winemakers to consider incorporating low-alcohol and/or nonalcoholic wines into their portfolios. This strategic expansion not only enhances competitiveness, but also ensures relevance in a rapidly changing beverage market. While this transition may involve overcoming initial challenges in production and marketing, its long-term benefits make it a worthwhile and strategic move for forward-thinking winemakers.

Read all at: Silva, P.. (2024). Low-Alcohol and Nonalcoholic Wines: From Production to Cardiovascular Health, along with Their Economic Effects. Beverages10(3), 49. https://doi.org/10.3390/beverages1003004

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