Sacre Bleu! An Israeli Scientist Wants to Put New (Nonalcoholic) Wine in France's Old Bottles
Made from grape juice and the residue of distilled wine, Margalith's beverage (he hasn't named it) averages two percent alcohol, compared to the eight or nine percent minimum required for wine in most countries. Nobody would mistake the new drink for a 1970 Lafite-Rothschild, but the taste and bouquet are close enough to a respectable vin ordinaire to win praise from wine expert Pierre Escorsac of Toulouse. Although it lacks the "bouquet" and "personality" of a true wine, he says, it is "quite pleasant and would be extremely successful with a little added virtue."
Margalith, who emigrated to Israel in 1977 to marry his second wife, began his experiments in Toulouse. He was teaching oenology, the study of wine, at Paul Sabatier University and was well aware of the alcoholism problem in France. Its citizens consume a saturating 25 quarts per capita annually. "There are two million alcoholics in French hospitals," Margalith notes, "and 40,000 deaths last year were related to alcoholism. What is needed is a wine without alcohol that can leave Frenchmen their illusions. If you've ever tried Coca-Cola with cassoulet, you'll see the merits of a decent nonalcoholic wine."
German scientists have distilled real wine until the alcohol disappears, but that process is expensive. Margalith says his wine would cost only a third as much, and considerably less than a modest table wine. Part of the reason is that only six days are needed to produce (and ferment) the brew.
Thus far Margalith has produced only 2,000 sample bottles in four varieties: aperitif, dry white, semidry white and red. He believes his drink would be popular in Muslim countries, where liquor is forbidden by religious tenet, as well as with alcoholics and weight-watchers. Margalith doesn't want to mass-produce the stuff himself. Instead he has given all commercial rights to his product to Tel Aviv University. "I am not an industrialist or a salesman," the little old non-wine maker explains, "only a scientist."