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Are you in the middle of “dry January”, busy driving, pregnant or just curious? After the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian countries, France in turn multiplies non-alcoholic gastronomic experiences, worthy of great wines.
Zero-alcohol rosé champagne served in a luxury lingerie boutique in Paris, “virgin” cocktails developed for the launch of trendy restaurants and hotels… The “nolo” trend of drinks without alcohol (“no”) or with little of alcohol (“low”) is gaining ground even in starred restaurants.
“It is a trend that is growing in France after the Anglo-Saxon countries which are always one step ahead of us“, told AFP Yann Daniel, mixologist of the Alchimiste group, one of the leaders of the movement.
This fall, he has developed a range of light cocktails by working “spices, herbs, roots and teas” for the hotel of the Australian chain Tribe in Paris.
With more than 20 years of experience at the bar of palaces, he admits to having been “quite skeptical” at first, but “we realize that with these cocktails, people enjoy more, appreciate and recommend”.
“We go further”
Alchimiste’s other mixologist, Matthias Giroud, published the book “No Low” (Gründ) in October with 60 cocktail recipes. An approach hailed in the preface by multi-starred chef Pierre Gagnaire for his “real creativity on virgin territory“which allows you to have fun”without depriving yourself of a second glass“.
At David Toutain, two Michelin stars, we start the meal with an effervescent drink made from bergamot and buckwheat. The lobster is served with an infusion of fir buds, the apple juice with fennel vinegar will accompany the eel, the beet-carrot nectar the pigeon…
“It took me years to put it all together“, tells AFP the chef who has been offering agreements with non-alcoholic drinks alongside those with wines since November.
“We go further in the experience“, he assures. “A winegrower is not going to make a wine to accompany a dish, the sommelier chooses it in relation to his palate. This is my universe“.
Hélène Pietrini, director of the gastronomic classification La Liste, confides to AFP “to adore” the agreements without alcohol, “a way of tasting from abroad” who “completely changes the aromatic profile of dishes and multiplies the means of expression“.
In French haute cuisine, it is the most starred chef in the world Anne-Sophie Pic and her sommelier, the Argentinean Paz Levinson, who were the pioneers of nolo.
“When I was pregnant, it was scary to go to a restaurant and stay in the water all evening. I wanted to create something exceptional“so that all customers who do not drink alcohol can enjoy their “social life,” Paz Levinson told AFP.
“Today, things are slowing down a bit, everyone is getting into it“, says Anne-Sophie Pic. In her three-star restaurant in Valence, lukewarm brewed Brazilian coffee is served in a large wine glass to accompany a fillet of venison.
Wine under threat?
Faced with the “frustration” of customers who only find non-alcoholic drinks from large retailers on the restaurant menu, sommelier Benoît d’Onofrio has developed alcohol-free pairings for the ephemeral restaurant of chef Manon Fleury in inspired by the techniques of winegrowers (maceration, extraction of aromas). “Listening to the feedback, I am comforted in the idea that the nolo has a bright future ahead of it.“.
Three-star chef Guy Savoy thinks this trend is legitimate in countries that don’t produce wine and need to adapt, but not in France. “In the first country of great wines, I do not judge, but I do not adhere“.
The German gastronomic critic Jörg Zipprick, co-founder of the List, believes that the health discourse tends towards “the alcohol devil”, which will discourage the consumption of wine.
David Toutain, he plays down.
“We are in love with wine, champagne and we claim it. We just offer a different shooting window“.