The Unconfirmed Miracle of “Wine Essence Water”

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The Unconfirmed Miracle of “Wine Essence Water”

I’m fine with admitting that the idea of “enhanced water” tries my patience. The recycling footprint alone can give me the heebie-jeebies, and that’s before you get into the gimmicks and snake oil and shenanigans around the stuff folks enhance it with. Although I will happily drink all the LaCroix in your fridge (unless it’s the coconut flavor, that one gives me the creepies), I tend to feel that in mine, plain old H2O, with or without the addition of some CO2, is sufficient. I have no need to make water weird, expensive, catastrophically overpackaged, or laden with expectations about what extra health-enhancement mission it purports to be on.

But what can I say? If you write about beverages, folks will send you crazy things to sample. And sometimes you get kind of surprised.

Galil Mountain Winery, in Israel’s Upper Galilee Mountains, has developed a patent-pending process for upcycling the valuable, nutrient-rich grape skins and seeds discarded in the winemaking process, infusing them into water both with and without added carbonation. They call it “wine essence water,” and there are still and sparkling versions of both red (from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Syrah grapes) and white (from Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer). It’s non-alcoholic, low-calorie (it’s about 15 calories per serving and has something around 4g of sugars, for you Keto-people), Kosher, and free of chemical additives. It captures important, health-preserving antioxidant compounds present in the skins and seeds of wine grapes, notably but not solely resveratrol and caffeic acid. It comes in sturdy, heavy-in-the-hand glass bottles so it feels substantial and more importantly, doesn’t add to your probably-catastrophic plastic footprint. All good, but as with everything else in the beverage aisle, meaningless if what’s inside the bottle tastes bad.

I’m not a good liar, so I’ll come out and say it: my expectations were low when I tried this stuff. Kitch-water. For “lifestyle” people. One more addition to an already deafening multitude of basically identical products. All of that. Annnnnd … I was wrong. This stuff is refreshing, tasty and doesn’t feel fake or silly. It’s not non-alcoholic wine and it isn’t trying to be (which is fine with me). It’s a grown-up infused water with above-average sustainability creds. (For me in California it certainly has a long-distance shipping issue, but so does every bottled water brand other than arguably Calistoga.) I love the look and the heft of the bottles; they feel expensive-and they are. A pack of 12 of them sells for $70 on Beverageuniverse.com, so I’d mentally put it on the “adult-grade mocktail” shelf and not the “water” one. If you’re thinking “yes but is it worth it?” I’d say it probably depends on what you’re looking for. For people who struggle with their relationship to alcohol, or people who are prone to feeling deprived and resentful when everyone else is drinking and they’re not, I’d say absolutely.

Because here’s the thing: O. Vine did something I would have told you was impossible. It duped my reptile-brain completely. As in, it felt like I was drinking a glass of wine and short-circuited the freaky little dopamine loop that makes people feel left out and anxious when they’re watching everyone else enjoy a drink. It completely satisfied my need for an adult beverage. It’s closer to a wine spritzer than it is to a LaCroix, but it’s completely without alcohol. I’d happily keep a stash of this stuff in my fridge full-time, and for people who need to chill out and renegotiate their relationship with wine, it might just be the equivalent of a nicotine patch.

Jesus of Nazareth’s first public miracle, according to the Gospel of John, was turning water into wine at a wedding feast in Cana. Not far away from there, Galil Mountain Winery is now pretty much turning wine into water. It’s probably overly cheeky to call it a miracle, but it’s certainly a smart thing to do with winemaking waste. Even if you’re not specifically looking for a sober alternative to wine, it’s a tasty drink to be enjoyed any time. If you are specifically looking to de-escalate your consumption, I honestly think O. Vine is a great option.

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