For over 20 years, Sagaponack’s Wölffer Estate has produced a viscous, sweet-tart verjus, a white beverage made from crushed, non-fermented grapes. This year, the winery will introduce a new drink to their non-alcoholic arsenal, the Petit Rosé Verjus spritzer. This inaugural beverage is made from 100 percent Pinot Meunier grapes (one of the three notable varietals used in Champagne production) and is finished off with carbon dioxide, giving it a frothy, bubbly finish.
“We’re really on the cutting edge of what people are looking for,” Wölffer Estate winemaker, Roman Roth, said. “A lot of people want to drink a little less. You might drink one glass of Champagne at dinner and then have to drive home. But you still want something sophisticated.”
This sophisticated bubbler is a teetotaler’s dream. It comes in packs of 12, and balances sweetness (there is residual sugar in this verjus) and acidity. Grapes for the Petit Rosé were picked the first week of September, 2018. Unripe grapes were pressed and the juice was kept at a barely-above-freezing 34 degrees for several days, while the juice was both cold-stabilized and filtered. Then water was added, to make the most balanced version of the drink. The winery produced a scant 3,500 cases this year.
As opposed to the traditional Wölffer Verjus, which is sold in 750 ml. bottles and requires some mixing (it’s unctuous, and does better as a mixer than on its own), the Petit Rosé comes in individual servings, with screw caps. “We decided, hey, why don’t we make it ready-made, so you just have to crack the screw cap?” Mr. Roth said. In the era of wine-in-a-can—which has found particularly hospitable clientele out east, where beach drinking is the name of the summer game—accessibility is just another selling point.
But what Mr. Roth recognized, too, was an expanded market, one dedicated not only to the alcohol imbibers of the world, but also to their non-drinking counterparts. “This is the fastest growing category in the drink industry, these flavored waters and non-alcoholic drinks,” he said. “And here we are with the Petit Rosé.” Mr. Roth may be onto something. In recent years, trends certainly have pointed to having the cocktail, minus the booze. Companies like Curious Elixirs, who make a line of alcohol-less bottled cocktails, have embraced the booze-free lifestyle as a call-to-arms. A series of recent articles profiling chefs who no longer drink have fueled even more interest. Is it possible to drink well without drinking alcohol? The forward-thinking industry obsessives, with their craft coffees, seltzers, and non-alcoholic cocktails say yes.
The Petit Rosé Verjus, then, is a play on rosé, a “wine” possessed of a “Sauvignon Blanc-ish character, with a little bit of sweetness,” as Mr. Roth notes. The sheer elegance of a poured taste—a foamy pink wave rising to the edge of a glass—speaks volumes about how far non-alcoholic drinks have come in the past few years. As for the taste? Lively. Refreshing. Ruthlessly charming. And if you drink the whole case (never say never), you’ll pay no consequences in the morning.