An interview with Norah's Valley MD, Dennis Chiang

1) Why did you begin producing alcohol-free beverages? Is it response to lockdown bans, or was it always a plan?

Norah’s Valley was conceptualised by our aunt Sharon in 2018 (she is a Daoist, a vegan and does not consume alcohol). We are aware that the current statistics, in South Africa, indicate that 69% of consumers do not consume alcohol.

Our inspiration arose due to identifying a gap in this market - to produce premium de-alcoholised wines, that cater for non-drinkers and for those seeking a healthier alternative. We have created a great tasting beverage that retains all the health benefits of wine, that is to be enjoyed by all.     

Our first variant ~ Velvet Red ~ was produced in 2019 and we officially launched Norah’s Valley in February 2020. In September 2020, we launched the next two variants ~ Silk White and Satin Sparkling. During this time, we have also exported our premium de-alcoholised variants to the USA and Taiwan.

 2) For the wines - how do you retain the characteristics of a certain variety? I’ve heard some drinkers find the absence of aromas a stumbling block to their enjoyment.

Our premium, de-alcoholised wines are made from the highest export quality grapes. Our guarantee is that no additional flavours or additives have been used in the production to enhance the Norah’s Valley drinking experience. De-alcoholised wines will never have the same aromas as traditional wines as these flavours and aromas disappear when the alcohol is removed. The consumer should not compare wine directly with a de-alcoholised wine as they are two different beverages. The Norah's Valley slogan provides insight into what our de-alcoholised wine tastes like: "It’s not wine, it’s not grape juice, it's deliciously in between".  

3) Please tell me a bit about how your alcohol-free drinks are made?

Let’s first take a look at what the differences are between: alcohol free/non-alcoholic and de-alcoholised wines. 

  • Alcohol free wine is grape juice bottled in a wine bottle and contains no traces of alcohol in the beverage.
  • Non-alcoholic wine is a category of beverage that contains less than 0.5% alcohol.
  • De-alcoholised wines are beverages that were originally made with alcohol. The alcohol is removed either by reverse osmosis techniques or via spinning cone technologies. The alcohol is then removed from the beverage to reflect a 0.5%alc per 750ml bottle. 

Norah’s Valley is classified as a de-alcoholised wine and our products are made via spinning cone technology, which is done in the Cape.

4) What are your thoughts on the alcohol-free/low alcohol drinks market? As related to lockdown bans, and in general.

Global trends for the Alcohol free/low alcohol beverage market, have been on an upward trend for the past couple of years. Countries that are experiencing this movement are the USA, Europe, Australia, etc. As society evolves, so does the consumption of alcohol. Consumers are making a conscious move towards a healthier lifestyle which has a direct impact on alcohol sales. The healthier the person, the less alcohol is purchased and consumed. 

South African consumers are slowly moving towards this healthier lifestyle option and non-alcoholic/de-alcoholised beverage purchases are on the rise.

We have found that the lockdown has benefited our brand tremendously. We have had the opportunity to create awareness for our brand and have been able to educate the public about our de-alcoholised products. The bonus: we have been allowed to sell to the consumer regardless of bans. The challenge would have been greater if there wasn’t a ban on alcohol sales.

Norah’s Valley is in a unique position to offer a great tasting premium beverage that is a healthy alternative to alcohol (whilst retaining all health benefits), to a consumer that would like to continue having a good time…but without the effects of alcohol.

5) For those making alcoholic drinks as well, some comments on the addition of non-alcoholic to their range.

We believe that the more options there are for consumers, the better it will be for the industry as a whole. Consumers should not be limited to selecting and purchasing beverages that contain little to no health benefits, or, that contain high amounts of sugar - which has been proven to be unhealthy.

Order Norah's Valley sparkling wine here