To write about wine water, you first have to get the Jesus jokes out of the way. I know, they were on the tip of your tongue as soon as you read “wine water.” So, here goes:
It’s like Jesus was turning the water into wine but didn’t quite get the job done!
Or maybe it was his practice batch!
He made it for the designated drivers at the marriage at Cana!
Now, we can proceed. Yes, wine water is a thing, and no, it’s not just watered-down wine. Wine water is water infused with the flavor from discarded grape skins used in winemaking. Purveyors claim it has the antioxidants of a glass of red wine, but fewer calories. None of them contain any alcohol.
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Yet, they try to mimic the flavor of wine, and even reference several varietals. The brand Napa Hills offers four flavors: lemon chardonnay, pinot berry, cherry rosé and peach grigio. O. Vine, an Israeli brand, has cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and a red and white blend. And the companies try to treat it almost like wine: Napa Hills offers pairing suggestions for its cherry rosé, which it says would be perfect with shrimp or ham, curiously. The lemon chardonnay “pairs perfectly with light, delicate foods.”
The effect is sort of like what happens if you put ice cubes in your wine—but like, lots of them. Raise a glass of O. Vine to your nose, and you’ll catch a whiff of the unmistakable fermented smell of wine. But when you drink it, it’s more like a lightly flavored water—less Chateau Lafite Rothschild, more LaCroix. O. Vine is lightly sweetened with agave syrup, and has a more neutral flavor—it would pair well with a wide variety of food at a dinner party and would be a gracious thing for a host to offer to nondrinkers.
The Napa Hills wine water is sweeter and bolder. It’s sweetened with stevia—a divisive flavor, for sure—and its taste edges a little closer to juice territory, even though marketing materials for the drink say that it is not a juice. On the water-to-juice spectrum, it falls at about the same level as VitaminWater. It is fruity and popsicle-sweet, despite having less than one gram of sugar and zero calories. Maybe it could sub in for a dessert wine.
Now that sober-curiosity is a thing, mocktails and grown-up alternatives to booze are becoming more and more necessary. No one wants to drink a boring club soda with lime when their friends are drinking wine or cocktails, so innovative beverages such as Seedlip have stepped up. Slot wine water into the same category—it’s a little funkier than that Martinelli’s sparkling grape juice served at the kids’ table on Thanksgiving, and much more grown-up for people who are choosing sobriety, or are pregnant.
O. Vine, with its beautifully designed glass bottles, seems appropriately celebratory for a dinner party or a special occasion. And Napa Hills is the kind of drink you could have at brunch, when everyone else is drinking mimosas. Make all the Jesus jokes you want, but for nondrinkers, wine water could be a tiny miracle.