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Why more alcohol-free drinks are now pouring at a venue near you

Article by Max Allen

The market is frothing for beverages containing little or no booze, a $14 billion business globally that’s attracting serious investment.

It’s a Wednesday in mid-May and I’m in a private lounge upstairs in Kittyhawk, a Sydney restaurant and cocktail bar.

The room is set up for a wine-tasting competition; five experienced judges – a winemaker, a consultant, a journalist, a sommelier, and a Master of Wine – are studiously tasting their way through 50 proseccos and rosés, pinot noirs, and pinot grigios, chardonnays and shirazes from Australia and New Zealand. Each judge is scribbling notes, assigning a score, and looking for the best entries to award with medals and trophies.

But this is like no other tasting competition I’ve been to because every single wine here is alcohol-free. (In Australia, to be called “zero alcohol” or “alcohol-free”, a drink must contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol.) Normally, wine judges have to spit out rather than swallow everything they taste to avoid a build-up of booze. Here, the judges could drink all 50 samples and still drive home.

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