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Dry January Dispatch 01: Non Alcoholic Wine

Words: Jessica Sweetman
Artwork: Paul Smith

Jessica Sweetman dives into the muddy non-alcoholic waters of Dry January so you don’t have to. Each week we’ll be posting a Dry January dispatch that will check in with our guinea pig and provide an objective and scientifically impeccable study of a non-alcoholic beverage. Up first, McGuigan’s Non Alcoholic Shiraz.

Doing a Dry January this year is outright offensive. I know that and I’m sorry. Between rinse and repeat lockdowns, sub-zero temperatures and whatever the hell is going on in America, this is not the time for pious resolutions and self-flagellation. So why am I staring into a glass of McGuigan’s Zero Shiraz? Maybe, it’s because instead of sourdough making or natural dyeing I took up drinking as my lockdown hobby of choice or maybe it’s down to good old-fashioned masochism. But, here we are, just me and my wine-impostor cosying up on a Friday night. 

I’ll admit I’ve always been a bit of an asshole when it comes to Dry January. It conjures images of Karenesque ‘break in case of emergency’ gin bottles and parent’s Whatsapp group jokes; ‘the secret to surviving dry January is daydreaming about a soaking wet February’. But there’s only so much hiding to be done behind cynicism and subconsciously I was probably just afraid I couldn’t actually stick to it. 

So why am I staring into a glass of McGuigan’s Zero Shiraz? Maybe, it’s because instead of sourdough making or natural dyeing I took up drinking as my lockdown hobby of choice or maybe it’s down to good old-fashioned masochism.

To be perfectly honest, I can count the number of alcohol-free nights I’ve had since last March on one bottle-clenching hand. Maybe it’s time to test the ‘I could give up if I wanted to’ theory. The good news is that marketing tells me it’s cool to be straight edge now, in fact it’s the fastest growing market in the drinks industry. So it should be easy to trick myself into swapping beer, wine and spirits for their less fun alter-egos. For the next few weeks I’ll be reviewing the best and the worst non-alcoholic drinks so you don’t have to. 

First up is McGuigan’s Zero Shiraz from Buronga Hill winery in New South Wales. Purchased from an eye-rolling check-out guy (fair) in Tesco for €4.80. 

McGuigans Zero wines are made using ‘spinning cone’ technology which in human speak means removing the alcohol after the fermentation process. It’s supposed to keep the wine’s delicate flavour. Spoiler alert: it failed. And I’m no wine snob, everything from a fancy French boy to Lidl’s table red is fine by me, but nothing about this resembles wine. It looks and smells like a dodgy kombucha, which in fairness I could work with. It’s the taste though that’s overwhelmingly disappointing. They’ve somehow managed to make grapes taste fake and also bad, like Robinsons but mouldy. If it was rebranded as ‘red juice’ and I could pick up a bottle for a Euro, I probably still wouldn’t but I’d be less offended. In the interest of science I threw in a few ice-cubes and a bit of orange peel, better but still a far cry from ‘sweet blackcurrants with a rounded finish’. Don’t do it people, pick up a bottle of Shloer or Ame instead, heck grab a Ribena. The world might be ready for alcohol free wine but alcohol free wine is not ready for the world. 

What do the delusional Aussies at McGuigan say?

“Our ambition is to make McGuigan Zero the most successful alcohol-free wine brand in the UK and Ireland which we’re confident we can achieve over the next year.”

Godspeed lads. Godspeed.