Cover A selection of non-alcoholic wines by Le Petit Beret (Photo: Le Petit Beret)

Whether or not alcohol is off the table for you, give these drinks a chance before completely writing them off

A specialist in halal gastronomy, Zeehan Zahari is the first person whose advice we sought for this feature. After all, the CEO of Copper and relationship manager at Dropee has long analysed the art of pairing food with non-alcoholic beverages. 

"I think people really need to explore drinks through a new lens," says Zahari. "Instead of focusing on how 'high' drinks can get you, why not look deeper, delving into their different characteristics? We should also look at how drinks can impact the dining experience."
So how do non-alcoholic beverages bring out the best in food?
"Similar to alcoholic beverages, the tannins in non-alcoholic drinks create a different mouthfeel, which will impact what comes next. It's just like if you have a lot of cream and eat more creamy things—it doesn't work," explains Zahari. According to her, a good non-alcoholic drink should provide a combination of sensations in your mouth and nose, which will impact the dining experience altogether.

Some may mock non-alcoholic beverages as being one and the same but there is a sharp skew between well-thought-out and poorly-made thirst quenchers.

"The thing about most non-alcoholic 'wines' is that they often have a very flat taste as well as an aftertaste," laments Zahari. "Most makers make their drinks super sweet as a substantial amount of sugar provides body. Otherwise, they come up with interesting flavours but end up with flat results. When it comes to non-alcoholic beverages, both producers and consumers need to be more attentive and creative, because without alcohol to provide a layering or a slow release of flavours, different mediums must fill that purpose."

At the end of the day, advices Zahari, just think of them all as drinks and what you'd look for in a glass. The following makers are Zahari's favourites, which are the "generally accepted and liked ones" during taste tests:

*Note that the following drinks may not be halal-approved in Malaysia, but are marketed as non-alcoholic beverages

1. Le Petit Beret

Based in Béziers, France, Le Petit Beret has been in the market for almost five years and is slowly expanding its presence in Asia.

"Le Petit Beret is interesting in that it was formulated with a French master sommelier but doesn't go through any form of fermentation, which is how a lot of non-alcoholic beverages are made," says Zahari. While she's partial towards their Pinot Noir and Muscat, we've sampled the Profil Cabernet Sauvignon; not only is the latter surprisingly dry, but it also boasts a well-rounded body.

In conclusion, we tip our hat to this French label for upending our impressions of what non-alcoholic 'wine' can be.


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2. 1688

If you're part of the 'rosé all day' fan club, look to 1688, which has received heaps of praise for producing an excellent sparkling rosé. Though not technically champagne, this fizzy beverage has fine bubbles and a floral perfume, and goes well with appetisers and light bites such as shrimp cocktail and foie gras.

"1688's non-alcoholic sparkling beverage is inspired by champagne making techniques minus the alcohol, additives and chemicals, making it 100 per cent guilt-free pleasure for a healthy and balanced lifestyle," comments Trina Chee, founder of Wine Tasting Malaysia and About Wine, which stocks a range of 1688 beverages on its webstore.


Explore About Wine's non-alcoholic wine selection

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3. Vintense

Zahari used to serve Vintense at Copper and highly recommends the Belgium brand's Chardonnay and Sparkling Rosé.

The brand's raison d'etre is to allow audiences to continue leading socially active lifestyles without compromising on health. When subjected to a blind taste test of non-alcoholic beverages, some 100 tasters favoured Vintense above the other contenders.


Seek out the label through overseas platforms such as Amazon.

Other worthy mentions:

Carl Jung: The eponymous business was founded by a German winemaker whose wife Maria wanted to provide an alternative beverage for their loyal customers diagnosed with health conditions; thus was born a patented de-alcoholisation process.

Vendôme Mademoiselle: Certified organic and vegan, Vendôme's drinks also rely on de-alcoholisation. Their sparkling and still varieties pair with a wide range of food, from seafood to wild game.

Maison Didier Goubet: This writer's first introduction to the world of non-alcoholic 'wines'. Bref by Darren Chin serves these artisanal nectars slow-pressed from premium wine grapes in Bordeaux, France. Even Alain Ducasse features them on his menus as an inclusive option.

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