Photo by James Griffin of Edgeline Photography

The winners of what is thought to be Australia’s first wine show dedicated to non-alcoholic wines were announced on Wednesday night, June 16.

At an awards ceremony hosted at The KittyHawk in Sydney, winners were announced for four categories, accompanied by Best Winemaker and an overall Best Wine trophy.

Major winners were Ara Zero Sauvignon Blanc NV, which picked the gong for Best Wine overall, while a fellow Kiwi producer, the Giesen Group, was awarded Best Winemaker.

In total, 49 different wines were judged by of industry experts, comprising of: Chairman and leading winemaker, PJ Charteris; winemaking consultant Mike DeGaris; Winepilot Publisher Angus Hughson; Solotel Group Beverage Manager Annette Lacey MW; Group Wine Ambassador Matt Dunne; and wine writer and judge Tony Love.

The tasting and judging itself took place in May. Entrants represented the majority of zero-alcohol wines available in the Australian market today.

The Shout spoke to organiser and Winepilot Publisher, Angus Hughson, to hear why he felt the time was right for non-alcoholic wines to be recognised with their own show.

“[The category] is at the Hockey Stick part of the curve.”

“Two years ago, I put my finger up to the wind and I said, ‘I reckon 10 per cent of volume sales in Australia will be low and zero alcohol,’” Hughson explained.

“Now, I’m talking to the people who are involved in this, and they say ‘Angus that was a pretty good guess in 2020, but it’s going to be more than that’ – we’re talking 12 per cent potentially on volume, one-in-eight bottles.”

Hughson also placed the awards within the Australian tradition of wine shows.

“Wine shows have been set up to – and it’s a bit of an old fashioned term – but to ‘improve the breed.’”

“It gives winemakers something to aim for, and that is very good. It’s always about building the breed – about showing winemakers and consumers what some judges think is the best product in a certain style.”

Hughson also explained that certain wine styles and grape varietals seem to be naturally better suited to the non-alcoholic presentation.

“Aromatics and chillable red wines are probably best suited, and it’s harder for full bodied tannic reds.”

“Some things that might not work in a standard setting, for example, sparkling Riesling – the winner of the sparkling wine class was a sparkling Riesling – and it was fresh in acidity, had a little bit of sweetness and it all came together,” Hughson added.

“Whereas when you’ve got the alcohol on top of the aromatics, it becomes too much with a sparkling wine.”

“Potentially the most exciting part is that winemakers will get to be a little more creative and break some old rules. I think with zero and low alc, the rules are out the window,” Hughson continued.

With this in mind, Hughson suggested that awards like these reflect the specific skills required to produce these wines, acknowledging that different technology and viticultural techniques are required.

And addressing winemakers on this point, Hughson said: “Don’t look at this as something you have to do to fill a category, actually use this as an opportunity to be creative. Bend the classic rules, and find what will be the category killing wines. I have no doubt that they’re out there.”

Hughson also acknowledged that bigger brand producers did dominate at the awards, but that this was merely a reflection of the reality of the state of play in the non-alc wine industry.

“Some people will look at the results and go ‘all big companies!’ – Well, yes it is big companies, and I guarantee that’s because big companies have had teams working on this for a significant period of time, they’ve invested in understanding the technology and they’ve put good people in there.”

“They know where this category is going. And for mainstream brands with some premium wines, it is worth seriously considering getting into that category, because someone is going to make a pile of money.”

A full list of winners can be found below:

  • Trophy for Best Wine – Ara Zero Sauvignon Blanc NV
  • Trophy for Best Winemaker – Giesen Group Ltd
  • Trophy for Best Sparkling Wine – Jacob’s Creek Unvined Sparkling NV
  • Trophy for Best White Wine – Ara Zero Sauvignon Blanc NV
  • Trophy for Best Chillable Red Wine – Sobriety Society Shiraz Tempranillo 2021
  • Trophy for Best Red Wine – Wolf Blass Zero Shiraz 2021

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