Bullard Vines Spark Alt Wine (£16, thewinesociety.com) Since writing last week’s column on the steadily improving quality of non-alcoholic wines, I’ve been, as I do this time of year every year, in the stats about the rise of teetotalism and what marketers have decided to call it. I have been attacked. “Silent curiosity”. According to Alcohol Concern, this year’s Dry January saw nearly 9 million people refrain from drinking for his month. And in most cases (at the time of writing, we) tend to seek out soft drinks that are interesting in their own right, rather than the fanged versions of their favorite liquors. In my view, the former example is, in any case, the most interesting of the new “no-low” drinks that have appeared in the last few years. Drinks such as Bullard Vines Red Spark and White Sharp blend expertly fermented teas with a variety of botanicals for wonderfully complex and satisfying drinks.
Feragia & Tonic (£30, 12 x 25cl cans, feragia.com) Both Blurred Vines formulas combine spice (chili) and bitterness with tea tannins to create a complex mouthfeel and flavor that’s most lacking when abstaining from alcohol. Another of my favorite new no-low drinks, Scottish brand Feragia, has a similar interaction, with Fife’s highly complex 0% ABV distilled from cayenne pepper, ancho chile kaffir lime, apple, hibiscus and more. It’s in the spirit of % and works great. , both (£26.35, for a 70cl bottle, feragia.com) or tonic or ginger ale in pre-mixed cans. A foray into imitations, Jukes Sparkling Pinot Noir (£10.25, 4 x 25cl cans, Waitrose) takes a different route. I had to get over my skepticism about drinking vinegar, but by the second can, I was craving the vinegar kick and delighting in the red-fruit Pinot Noir notes.
You + I Ginger Kombucha (£2.95, 30cl bottle, kombuchawarehouse.com) Tea is at the root of many of the good and interesting things in the NoRo world. This year we want to explore more thoroughly the tea culture that has so much in common with wine, with an emphasis on terroir and varietal. But for Dry January, I’ve found that a cold drink with tea is the most versatile alternative to fill the wine-shaped hole at dinner. It could mean sparkling tea blends like (Chamomile) Copenhagen Sparkling Tea Blue (£16.95, spiritskiosk.com) or the subtly floral and wonderfully dry Gin Jasmine Pearl Sparkling Tea (£21, jingea.com) . Often it means kombucha, a zesty, non-alcoholic brew from fermented teas made by modern British masters such as You + I (I particularly like the spiciness of ginger and the citrus of lime). I like the clarity and depth of flavor.and Sea Salt, £2.95, thewinesociety.com) and LA Brewery (Aromatic Red Fruit Sparring English Blush Kombucha, £9.50, 75cl, thewinesociety.com).
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