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Why NoLo wine consumption is a rapidly growing trend

May 3, 2023

When I enjoy a glass of wine, I am not thinking about anything other than the flavours and aromas and how well they complement my taste buds and my meal. That’s the joy of enjoying something for its own sake. The considerations in drinking any alcohol-containing beverage rest on who you are, your history with it, and how you want to feel after you have imbibed. It’s definitely not the same set of considerations for everyone.

Whether it’s because we want to try alternatives to alcohol for health reasons, or we want to be part of social situations, or we really enjoy the flavours of alcoholic beverages but not how it makes us feel, the simple fact is that the number of people wanting something now termed NoLo (no alcohol, low alcohol) is growing exponentially.

Read Also: 6 tasty alcohol-free drinks for winning dry January and beyond

The growth in low and non-alcoholic beverages has skyrocketed over the past decade. Across the board there are new products entering the market going toe-to-toe with traditional drinks. As the number of studies on the health effects of alcohol increases, our understanding of the impact on our bodies also increases. The choices we make about what and how much to drink are strongly influenced by available information, our friends and family, and by our overall personal feelings towards alcohol.

NoLo Wines

Non-alcoholic wine made up 13.4% of all sales at over $52 million – an increase of more than 23% from the previous year.

Who can say if the move to NoLo wines is a trend that will last? You may recall the food trends of years past. The cookies that were going to change the way we enjoyed that sweet treat. No need to bake at home, simply stop by a store and select all your favorite flavours. The massive growth of café culture and the coffee shops that meant you didn’t have to make your coffee at home. How about the low calorie and no calorie alternatives to just about everything? While all of these fads of dietary fashion have had their own ebb and flow, the reality is they have occupied a space that is alongside the traditional food and drink fare. There is room for all of it. The marketplace is expanding to allow consumers to make more choices based on factors other than just price or convenience alone. Choices have become AND, not OR. This notion is driving an uptrend in the production and availability of NoLo wines.

What is no / low alcohol?

In wine production, grapes undergo fermentation to allow sugar to be converted to alcohol by yeast. Different alcohol by volume (ABV) makes wine that has a different flavour profile and effect on our bodies. There are also wine products that are made with near zero alcohol. I hesitate to call the latter wine because in a classical sense it is far from the wine made by the Romans, the Phoecians, and all human life since we understood the role of yeast in fermentation. They are, however, fermented products, just with a different endpoint. There are other ways of producing a wine product including allowing fermentation to go to completion and then distilling (heating) off the alcohol content. And there are even more products that incorporate grape juice into their mix along with herbs, spices and other ingredients to make a sparkling product with flavours intended to mimic those of traditional alcohol-containing wine.

The target market for NoLo products is the consumer wanting a healthier lifestyle.

Here’s an example of how the world of wine education ascribes a classification to wine alcohol levels: According to the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) low, medium, and high ABV wines are below 11 percent, 11-13.9 percent and 14 percent and above, respectively. It is even higher for fortified wines such as Port, Madeira and Sherry. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US classifies a product as not alcohol-containing if the ABV is less than 0.5 percent. Regulations in the UK and Australia/New Zealand classify products as non-alcoholic at 1.2 percent to 1.15 percent ABV, respectively. In India, to be non-alcoholic it must be 0.0 percent ABV. According to the FDA, wine is only considered to be alcohol free if it has 0.0 percent detectable alcohol. Production and labeling are different globally, and not surprisingly so is the consumer.

Product markets

NielsenIQ looked at worldwide regions across multiple sales channels and in October, 2022 published data showing that non-alcoholic wine made up 13.4 percent of all sales at over $52 million – an increase of more than 23 percent from the previous year. The expansion of the NoLo wine market is and will be heavily dependent on availability, distribution, and access. Another key variable is product placement. Will the option to choose a NoLo alcohol product be difficult because they are in a dark corner, or are they mingled in amongst all the classical wines from all over the globe? The current data are based on existing consumption patterns and since nobody has a crystal ball (if you do, let me know), we are looking into the future with very limited information.

What’s next?

In 1855, the Napoleonic Code changed inheritance laws to allow the children of the deceased to inherit property. This extended to vineyard ownership. The Burgundians decided to split up their properties physically, which is, in part, why the prices of Grand Crus wines are so high – the limited supply, quality, and historical significance. The Bordelaise chose to parse out shares so the properties remained mostly intact and the size and scope of the vineyards were larger than those of Burgundy. Lower prices reflect this.


While the idea of thousands of dollars a bottle for wine is alien to some, wine (alcohol containing) as an investment is likely not going away any time soon. In fact, there are any number of affluent customers willing to pay considerable sums of money for the unique and rare wine experiences amongst select company. So far, NOLO wines do not pretend to be investment vehicles, rather, they are ways to omit alcohol and still enable consumers to take part in everything else in any given setting. As long as alcohol-containing wines can be stored and brokered, they will remain a market for investors. In May, 2022, it was reported in the Financial Post that about US$4.5 billion of investment-grade wine is produced every year, which adds about one percent to the world’s total. It’s a small but not insignificant dollar percentage for the producers of that commodity.

The socioeconomics of wine has changed. When Cistercian Monks marked out land to grow the highest quality pinot noir and chardonnay in Burgundy, they assessed the land and the grapes. Their knowledge fed religious need and the social order. Nowadays, the latter has become the real driver for wine consumption with the desire to own and consume wine permeating all strata of society. The French, Spanish and Italian wine industries are all cashing in on wine tourism and New World wine production in the US, Canada, UK, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and China are counting on a growth in demand for traditional wines.

There are plenty of consumers (according to NielsenIQ, 82 percent) who purchase both alcohol-containing and non-alcoholic beverages. The target market for NoLo products is the consumer wanting a healthier lifestyle including a reduction in calories, sugar and alcohol consumption.

In the movement away from sweetness, FACT.MR posits that the growth trend will be ushered in along with emphasis on flavours that are “savoury, sour and bitter.” On the surface this may seem like an easy proposition, but there are plenty of government policies around key ingredients and labeling, meaning there are still lots of challenges facing the NoLo wine market. Not the least of which is consumer preference and the taste and quality of the products themselves. Despite that, changes are coming, so get a front row seat and some popcorn.

– Gillian Marks, PhD is a Contributing Editor for VineRoutes


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