Article by Subhash Arora of The Indian Wine Academy

I have heard of Kosher wines and even vegetarian wines where the producer certifies that no animal product has been used in making a wine but I have just learnt about a couple of Spanish producers who claim to make Halal wines certified by the Halal Institute of the Islamic Board. These wines have zero alcohol and are targeted at the Muslim customers and those who do not consume alcohol. I suggest the government of India should treat these wines at par with imported non-alcoholic juices and should charge duties accordingly.

I was surprised and amused to receive an email a couple of days ago from a Spanish company Dismark S.L, a manufacturer and distributor of beverage and food claiming to sell Halal Lussory Wines with absolutely zero percent alcohol. Till the recent past, it had been very difficult to make a wine with less than 0.5%. I had met a Spanish producer at a wine show in Mumbai about 3 years ago who claimed to have developed technology for an absolute alcohol-free wine. Although I could not taste the wine as the samples had been stopped by the Mumbai customs due to some paperwork deficiency and he was twiddling thumbs in his stand. Therefore, this mail made me alert to that fact that Spain was trying to reach level zero. But a Halal certified wine got me to sharpen my finger-nails and do some quick research on Google.

The first known patent of wine without alcohol was registered in 1908; however the Halal wines have been introduced in the market apparently recently. The problem with previous de-alcoholized wine was that they were not fully de-alcoholized. Most contained about 0.5% alcohol. The Natureo white from Torres is one such example, though their red claims to have even down to 0.29% ABV. Unfortunately certain religions prohibit consumption of even such wines. There is also a risk of losing certain flavours in this process as I found tasting the Natureo white.

There is another company called Halal Wines dedicated to the production and distribution of alcohol-free wines, absolutely 0.0% alcohol and Halal certified. This Spanish company aims to become the main source of non-alcoholic wines in the international market, specifically catering to the Muslims, who are not allowed to touch alcohol.

They claim to have been developed  using an advanced development of the process known as vacuum distillation at low temperature, which is the most traditional and less aggressive of any alcohol-extraction methods. Both the companies claim that with this “deconstruction” the risk of losing flavor components in the wine is minimized. They are de-alcoholized just before bottling thus preserving their organoleptic properties, only losing alcohol.

The second company, called Halal Wines is dedicated to the production and distribution of alcohol-free wines, (absolutely 0.0% alcohol) and Halal certified. This company-also a Spanish one, aims to become the main source of non-alcoholic wines in the international markets, specifically catering to the Muslims in these countries.

All three Vincero labels come from the second company comes from La Mancha. The description by both on the Net is so similar that it is not unlikely that they belong to same people or associates. But the fact is that they claim to be certified by the religious bodies.

Both the wineries claim that after strictly controlling the meticulous process by including technical and religious audits, they have achieved HALAL certification granted by the Halal Institute of the Islamic Board. For details visit www.lussorywines.com and http://www.halal-wine.com

This could be a very interesting development for more than one reason. Without getting into the religious sensitivities and sensibilities, one can assume that if a body similar to the Halal Institute of Islamic Board in Spain, can certify these wines objectively here in India, there would be a huge market for these zero alcohol wines. There is no reason why the domestic producers can’t  then take this path for market expansion. If these bodies approve of these wines they can put immense pressure on the government to allow such wines to be imported and produced in India.

In any case, it would be a boon to the people who do not drink because of religion, social mores, driving constraints or pregnant women, if the government accepts my premise.

Another reason would be to test the governmental apathy and hypocrisy. There is no reason why they can ban such wine in Gujarat where prohibition has been there from decades since there is no alcohol. There would be no reason why the wines would be treated as alcohol from the point of view of duties and excise duties which would have to be in line with the fruit juices and other non-alcoholic beverages being currently imported.

Zero Alcohol Wines for Cats

Zero percent wine is good for people following religious diktats, pregnant women, drivers and those with social taboos-we know that. But it is apparently good for cats as well-at least the Japanese cats.

According to the Drinks Business, B & H Lives, a Japanese company has come out with Nyan Nyan Nouveau- a wine made for cats with an initial run of 1000 bottles of 180 mL capacity. It doesn’t contain any alcohol and is made with the juice of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, besides having traces of catnip and vitamin C. Just like Beaujolais Nouveau which is extremely popular in Japan and is released on the third Thursday of November, the new ‘vintage’ for Nyan Nyan is also released at the Nouveau release time. This wine is the result of several requests from pet owners for a drink their cats can enjoy on special occasions to start with At 399 Yens ($4) for a 180 mL bottle, it is not exactly cheap but pet owners are known to indulge their ‘family’. It comes in screw-capped bottles and is recommended to be consumed within a year of purchase.

So if you would like to have such wine in India, please follow up with a potential importer or your local Member of Parliament.