Non-alcoholic alternatives, a surplus of California grapes and the world’s largest bottle of red ceases to be.

Two striking headlines appeared in the world of wine this week - both enough to send shudders down the spines of wine lovers everywhere.

Firstly, it was reported in FoodMag that within the next seven years the the non-alcoholic wine sector will grow at a compound annual growth rate of around 7% as consumers continue to seek out non-alcoholic alternatives. Having just got over yet another ‘Dry January’ this is probably the last thing publicans want to hear, but for retail counterparts the segment offers an interesting additional revenue stream where Europe appears to be leading for the moment. 

Vive la révolution

With already established markets on the continent, Italy and France are perhaps surprisingly driving that revolution with the highest per capita consumption of 35 litres per person per year. However, analysts expect North America to fast become the most important market in the world, aided by the adoption of these products as a form of sports drinks (yes, you read that right). That, in turn, has again rather surprisingly been pushing growth among athletes.

Could this be the reason for wine consumption dipping in the US for the first time in 25 years to account for just 11% of the US total alcoholic drinks market? Perhaps. But of course, with every cloud comes a silver lining. A surplus of California grapes is also expected to push the price of wine down to its lowest levels in five years. Put that together with a decreasing demand for vino and you get a scenario where drinkers should get better value with cheaper prices perhaps lasting for up to three years, says CNN.

The other eye-catching headline arrived courtesy of Luke Fater in Atlas Obscura who reported rather sorrowfully that the world’s largest bottle of red had ceased to be. Measuring nearly 10 feet tall with a 40-inch diameter, this behemoth of the wine world weighed in more than a whopping 815 pounds and took three years to build.

Back in 2017 the bottle had been filled with 1,590 liters of Keringer Wineries’ award-winning ‘100 Days Zweigelt” before being sealed with a one-foot-thick cork and layer of wax, having been presented at the re-opening of Engl Wang Fu, a Chinese restaurant in Lustenau, Austria.

With pride of place it was then housed in a ‘custom-made, climate-controlled glass chamber’ in the centre of the dining room until fate intervened and a power cut to said glass chamber saw the wine expand and start gushing up and out of its giant cork. That pressure change saw the equivalent of 306 bottles of red unceremoniously pumped onto the restaurant floor. But the drama didn't end there. Having spotted a suspected crack, firemen then had to buttress the glass chamber with sandbags and wooden panels to prevent further damage to the restaurant. 

Once secure, explains Collin Dreizen in Wine Spectator, firefighters were then able to drill a hole in the bottle's 30cm-thick cork using 'an industrial-duty spiral auger drill' to save 1,360 litres of the remaining Zweigelt. 

The good news is that thanks to a local dairy farm they were able to pump the wine through food-safe hoses and into storage barrels pressurised with nitrogen. This means that the remaining wine will be individually bottled and auctioned off for charity at a later date.