We spoke to Sara Sanabria, International Marketing Director of Familia Torres, about what led an iconic Spanish wine brand to enter the non-alcoholic wine space, and how they produce their delicious de-alcoholised wines.
It’s not often a premium European wine brand that’s over 100 years old turns their hand to non-alcoholic wines; so when Familia Torres did, in 2007, the world sat up and paid attention. One of the largest wine producers in Spain, and possibly the most recognised name in Spanish wine, Familia Torres was founded in 1870 in the historical wine growing area of Penedès, near Barcelona. Since then, their wines have grown hugely popular among wine drinkers, and they’ve been repeatedly voted ‘World’s Most Admired Wine Brand’ by industry professionals. Nowadays, the company is headed up by Miguel Torres, a fifth-generation family member, and sells products in over 150 countries under more than 50 different brand lines.
Familia Torres’s philosophy has always been about creating high-quality wines for all to enjoy. Around 20 years ago, they realised they weren’t quite meeting their mission, with a section of the market having to miss out on drinking their wine – the ones abstaining from alcohol, for one reason or another.
“We saw a trend towards ‘responsible drinking’ in many of our mature markets, with some consumers choosing to go alcohol free," says Sara. "So, we started to experiment with different dealcoholisation techniques. We worked for more than three years on the project before presenting our first non-alcoholic wine.”
That wine was Natureo 0.5% White, made from moscatel (muscatel) grapes, and after positive feedback, a non-alcoholic red and rosé soon followed. To achieve de-alcoholised wine that meets their high standards for quality and taste, the Natureo label uses the Spinning Cone Column (SCC) method, which involves a distillation column that works with steam, under vacuum. This is a physical way of removing the alcohol from wine, making it the most natural way to do it.
“In the case of de-alcoholised wine, the equipment is extremely important because by reducing the alcohol in wine, the aroma balance is profoundly altered," says Sara. "People sometimes forget that ethanol is the second most important component in wine after water. In our experimentation, we tested several dealcoholisation methods and SCC was the one that retained the most of the original organoleptic characteristics [the things that make up the sensory experience]. It gave us the best result in the end, particularly with its balance on the nose and on the palate.”
Not only does this innovative alcohol extraction system ensure the de-alcoholised wines taste up to par, it also allows them to retain the powerful antioxidants, vitamins and mineral salts found in standard wine, which adds another layer of benefits to Natureo wine.
When it comes to choosing the base wines that will be transformed into the non-alcoholic wines, it’s not as simple as using classic wine produced by a different Familia Torres brand line.
“Ideally, the best de-alcoholised wines are those where the ‘initial’ wine has been made with the idea already in mind that it will be de-alcoholised – that way you can control the acidity and the residual sugar right from the beginning," says Sara.
Discussing their place in the beverage space, Sara made it clear that they don’t necessarily see their Natureo products as competing with their classic, alcoholic wines, or any other alcoholic beverages, for that matter.
“Being Mediterranean, we consider wine the perfect companion with food – and we don’t want consumers to have to give up on that combination just because of the alcohol. So we see our de-alcoholised wine as competing with the other non-alcoholic options you often have, when you can’t drink a classic wine. For example, sometimes your choices are water, juice or soft drinks, and these alternatives aren't always ideal to match with food.”
Natureo solves this problem by giving everyone the opportunity to enjoy food and wine together, no matter their circumstances or lifestyle choices. And the cherry on top? Familia Torres have run the 'Torres & Earth Program' since 2008, with the twin goals of adapting their activity to climate change and reducing their carbon footprint. In the decade that's followed, they've reduced their CO2 emissions by 30% and continue to push further, aiming to reduce those emissions a further 15% by 2045, a further 35% by 2045, and eventually becoming a global, carbon-neutral operation. Now that's something we'll drink (and eat) to!
Shop our range of Natureo's premium de-alcoholised wines here.