Chardonnay / Fre NA / <0.5%
We select the fruit for our alcohol-removed Chardonnay from California's finest marine-influenced vineyards, where cool breezes and fog allow the grapes to ripen slowly and evenly as they develop rich flavors and complexity. Our winemakers carefully craft this Chardonnay using traditional methods; then our exclusive spinning cone process gently removes the alcohol while preserving the wine's delicate aromas and flavors.
While a vast majority of wine drinkers are likely unaware of the brand Fre, this California-based company has made a name for themselves in the niche of dealcoholized wine. Whether you are looking to cut calories as part of a permanent lifestyle change or you are simply trying to lay off the booze for a while to get your health back in check, there are a number of tasty options out there on the market nowadays. And if you’ve done some browsing, chances are that you have come across Fre, as they are one of the most established winemakers in this space.
I have sampled some of the wines Fre has to offer in the past and came away quite impressed with the flavor profile they were able to deliver sans alcohol. The Chardonnay that I will be reviewing today also contains just 70 calories per eight-ounce serving, which is less than half that of a traditional wine of the same variety. With all of these benefits, as well as the others that always come from drinking wine, there aren’t many reasons not to dive in and give a winemaker like Fre a shot. But if you aren’t fully convinced regarding the concept of dealcoholized wine, I’ll try it first and let you know what to expect through this Fre Chardonnay review.
Fre Chardonnay Review
In the world of wine, even dealcoholized wine, packaging and presentation may not be paramount, but they are important. Fre’s bottle has the look of a high-quality traditional Chardonnay, aside from the red letters at the top of the label clearly signifying that this is an “Alcohol-Removed Wine.”
The front label is elegant overall, from floral design hints to flowing font. The back label contains quite a bit of nutritional information, as well as some tasting notes that I will be doing my best to ignore until I make up my mind on my own.
The liquid itself in the bottle, as well as poured into a glass, is a light golden hue with essentially no carbonation. The color is not as bright as I would like it to be and evokes some watery thoughts, but that cannot be judged strictly on appearance.
The biggest note that I get on the aroma is tart green apple. The good news is that the tartness is not overpowering, as I have found it to be in other dealcoholized wines. This tends to me a common note from my experience.
I also like that I am not overwhelmed with sweetness on the nose. I even get some dry floral hints that I hope follow through on the tongue. There are some additional citrus hints underlying that apple, but they are tough to put my finger on.
Overall I am pleased by all of the aromas present but I won’t be able to answer the question “Is Fre Chardonnay good?” until after I complete the tasting experience.
Is Fre Chardonnay Good?
After taking a few drinks, I can already tell that this question is going to be difficult to answer. Turns out something can taste just fine but still leave you wanting a lot more for what it is actually supposed to provide.
The tart apple that I found on the nose is very present upfront on the tongue. Again, it is not an overwhelming tartness but does enough to wake up the taste buds. The tart flavor that is there then begins to dissipate into a bit of a dry mouthfeel. There is nothing wrong with any of this. The problem for me begins with the underlying grape juice base that persists throughout the tasting process.
There are some other subdued fruit notes running underneath everything, perhaps some banana and a bit of melon. There is also a little bit of smokiness that surprised me as it hit the back of my throat.
I will say that they avoided any sort of watery quality. This Chardonnay is rather refreshing throughout, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who is offended by the flavor profile if you didn’t tell them what it was they were actually supposed to be drinking. But they would probably guess it is Welch’s, not wine.
The finish is where those juice characteristics really sit on the tongue and remind you that this wine is dealcoholized. There is no crispness at all to the finish, which is what I personally prefer.
I feel like I must reiterate that the fruit flavors I do find are nothing short of pleasant. They just don’t add up to something that tastes like a traditional wine all the way through. This makes coming up with a Fre Chardonnay rating a bit more difficult than normal.
Fre Chardonnay Rating
I don’t find anything about this wine particularly off-putting, but perhaps the biggest negative that it has working against it is all of the grape juice qualities. When the alcohol is removed from wine, it always runs the risk of losing the things that make it what it is and transforming into a bottle of juice. Not many people will disagree that a bottle of quality grape juice tastes good, but it isn’t what anyone is looking for when they crack open a bottle of wine, dealcoholized or not. That said, this Fre Chardonnay is not even close to the worst offender I have found in this regard. It has some real characteristics of a decent Chardonnay, particularly the aromas and the upfront texture on the tongue. But the lingering juicy flavor that persists throughout the tasting experience is the aspect that will stick in my mind.
For this reason, I am compelled to wrap up this Fre Chardonnay review by giving it just 2 out of 5 stars. It’s unfortunate, because I didn’t find the tasting experience unpleasant, but it simply doesn’t remind me enough of a traditional wine, which is the essential goal of a dealcoholized version. If that isn’t what you are looking for, and you just want something drinkable and refreshing, then feel free to pick up a bottle of this Chardonnay.