This article was first published at The Australia Times.
Many people are partial to a glass of wine or two – whether it be to celebrate good news, unwind after a bad day at work, or simply because they love the taste of it.
But, what if you could enjoy a tipple, without any of the negative health effects – and maybe even some health benefits?
At Edenvale, that’s what Founder and Director, Michael Bright is all about. We chatted to him recently about his range of alcohol removed wine and what the future of the wine industry might look like.
Amy Foyster: What was your background in the wine industry?
Michael Bright: After high school, I was studying food technology and I got involved with a guy called Len Evans, who was quite a strong influence in my life and my future direction. Along with Len, my brother was involved in the wine industry, and I have been in the wine industry ever since.
I worked with Len for six years, importing both domestic and international product of the highest quality, so I saw some of the best wines in the world. It gave me a pretty good frame of reference for quality of wine and where it could go and how to make the best out of what you had. After I finished working with Len, I did wine appreciation courses and began working with wholesalers, so a lot of what I was doing was wine education.
I was brokering wine when I ended up as a partner in a retail group from about 1985 until 1996, and in that time, I had started developing some of my own labels. So, all of that kept me in the wine industry, and I had a vocation in research as well, so I was doing wholesale and wine education until 2006 when we started Edenvale.
AF: As a wine lover, how did you make the transition from wine into non-alcoholic wine?
MB: I suppose it was a love of the wine industry and a real category opportunity to further give some diversity to an industry that was struggling a bit at the time. While some of the people are incredibly inspirational and it’s an adaptable industry, there wasn’t a lot of real innovation happening, particularly in the Australian industry. It was an opportunity to create further diversity within the industry and then offer consumers a non-intoxicating, sophisticated, lifestyle beverage.
AF: What does alcohol removed wine actually mean?
MB: Great question as this is a really undefined space. This is a product that has come from alcohol and there are a lot of regulations around alcohol. For a product to be considered non-intoxicating, it needs to be below 0.5 per cent alcohol by volume.
When we did our first labelling in 2006, the product was called ‘non-alcoholic’. But, anything with traces of residual sugar will have trace amounts of alcohol, even if it’s only 0.001 – like a fresh fruit juice or the surface of meat. To put it in perspective, Coca-Cola would be in breach of regulations if they claimed it was non-alcoholic.
So, our wine was non-intoxicating, but because we made the statement non-alcoholic, we were told that terminology didn’t meet regulations. So, that’s where the alcohol removed thing came from. In the general terminology, we basically refer to the products as non-alcoholic, but on the strict labelling regulations we can’t.
AF: Why do you think people choose to drink alcohol removed wine?
MB: Based on the feedback we get on the website, people drink it because it still allows them to feel part of an occasion, even if they’re not consuming alcohol. It has the look and feel of wine, it’s a sophisticated lifestyle choice and it’s open to all.
Within that, you’ve got a number of things, people who are consuming Edenvale for health reasons, designated drivers, pregnant mums, people on call, religious groups, or, heaven forbid, recovering alcoholics.
We are undergoing some research with CSIRO about antioxidants in wine, and while there are antioxidants in all wines, you don’t necessarily absorb them all. When alcohol is present the antioxidants diminish much faster than when it isn’t, because alcohol scavenges free radicals. That’s part of the interesting thing for me, is the research we’re committed to doing for the continual product enhancement. In the next couple of years, we’ll have some really good nutritional research about the product to put out to the market.
AF: What are your most popular products and do you have a personal favourite?
MB: In Australia, it’s probably the Chardonnay or Shiraz – they’re the core ones. In New Zealand, they’re really big on our Sauvignon Blanc, and in Scandinavia the Sparkling Rosé and Shiraz are really big. It can be a bit seasonal, we’ve just seen a huge uplift in our Sparkling Cuvee over the Christmas period. So, it would be hard to pick just one.
I really like the new range we’re doing – the Pinot Noir and the Sparkling Shiraz, but if I had to pick a favourite I’d probably say the Chardonnay. I see it as the most complex product, it really overdelivers on a real-wine experience. We’re exporting to a few countries and we’re happy to have our products used as benchmarks.
AF: Any final comments?
MB: It’s a really great industry to be part of, there is a real pursuit of excellence and the Australian nature is very much to challenge the status quo. So, alcohol removed wine is an exciting space to be in. We will continue to look at further brand and product development and enhancements to the existing products to deliver a high quality of innovative beverages.
If you want to learn more, visit Edenvale’s website.
Hero image via https://edenvale.com.au/