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There's a new item on the menu at many French wine bars: non-alcoholic wine


There's a new item on the menu at many French wine bars - nonalcoholic wine. This has Paris-based reporter Rebecca Rosman wondering if anyone is actually ordering it. I mean, France? Fake wine? Impossible. Here's what she found out.

REBECCA ROSMAN, BYLINE: Augustin Laborde quit drinking during the early stages of the pandemic two years ago.

AUGUSTIN LABORDE: (Speaking French).

ROSMAN: Meeting up with friends in bars quickly became a frustrating experience, he says. His only nonalcoholic options were drinks like soda or fruit juice. So Laborde, a lawyer with a passion for side projects, started doing some internet research.

LABORDE: (Speaking French).

ROSMAN: Turns out, he says, there was a whole range of alcohol-free beverages on the market. They just weren't on any menus. Then a lightbulb turned on.

LABORDE: (Speaking French).

ROSMAN: In April, Laborde opened Le Paon Quit Boit, or The Drinking Peacock. It's France's first nonalcoholic beverage shop, complete with a selection of more than 300 products, including zero-proof beers, gins, whiskies and wines.

LABORDE: (Speaking French).

ROSMAN: After going through the traditional fermentation process, Laborde says the alcohol in the wine is evaporated using a special filtration process. He also expects the taste to become more refined as techniques improve and the zero-proof market grows, which it is.

DAN METTYEAR: Yeah, this is definitely not a fad.

ROSMAN: Dan Mettyear with the consultancy group Wine Intelligence says consumption of nonalcoholic wines across the global market has grown by 24% in the last year alone.

METTYEAR: It's part of a kind of lifestyle choice and all connected to the kind of big wellness trends that we've seen across the world.

ROSMAN: But Mettyear says that, unsurprisingly, growth has been slower in France than the U.S. and much of Europe.

METTYEAR: Particularly in kind of, like, traditional wine markets, it's a bit of a harder sell. You know, people are kind of - have already well-established ideas about, you know, what wine is and what wine should taste like.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking French).

ROSMAN: Like here at Le Baron Rouge, a wine bar in Paris' 11th arrondissement that's about as traditionalist as it can get. Opened in 1979, this tiny establishment is famous for serving wine from colossal wooden barrels.

OLIVIER COLLIN: I don't understand why you want to drink wine without alcohol.

ROSMAN: That's sommelier Olivier Collin.

COLLIN: But it's also true for the meat. You know, there is some vegan meat. It's crazy. And I don't understand why we need to eat something equal to the meat or to the wine or to the beer.

ROSMAN: That's when I insist we do a tasting.

All right. I have two bottles here.

Bottles I've procured from Laborde's shop, including a white sauvignon and a zero-proof champagne.

COLLIN: (Speaking French). It's nice.

ROSMAN: But then he goes for a second swig and isn't as impressed.

COLLIN: And the third one? Yeah, even less.

ROSMAN: In other words, you won't be seeing any nonalcoholic wine here any time soon.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: (Speaking French).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: (Speaking French).

ROSMAN: Those at this outdoor tasting hosted by The Drinking Peacock disagree. Charles Vaubin says he's been trying to cut down on his alcohol consumption while his wife is pregnant.

CHARLES VAUBIN: In France, we always use the fact that wine is not about alcohol; it's about culture, about gastronomy. And it's interesting to have this aspect in nonalcoholic products.

ROSMAN: In other words, he says, wine traditionalists should realize they all have the same goal - to prove France is producing some of the world's best wines, with or without alcohol.

For NPR News, I'm Rebecca Rosman in Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Rosman