Adelaide’s Polka Unveil A Non-Alcoholic Red

It took two years to create a non-alcoholic red wine with hints of vanilla, oak and Tasmanian Pepperberry, yet for Polka co-founders and life partners Emma and Ben Mellows, the end result is knowing their wine doesn’t compromise on flavour.

The duo, originally from Adelaide and living in Sydney prior to the pandemic, moved back to South Australia and took the leap of faith to move into the non-alcoholic market.

Since 2021, they’ve released a sparkling cuvee with wild harvested native Lilly Pilly, a sparkling rose made from native botanical Davidson Plum, a summery Blood Orange Italian aperitif and a Pink Grapefruit botanical spirit.

Their latest to market is a dry red which sees them begin with a cool climate Shiraz from South Australia, that undergoes low temperature distillation to remove the alcohol.

Ben Mellows, who also runs Frank Simple – a supplement business that manufactures green and collagen powders, put his food tech hat on when approaching his non-alc venture.

“Our red was truly a labour of love. I got lots of grey hair working on this one over a few years,” says 36-year-old Ben Mellows.

“Our finished product tastes like red wine and that was always the goal,” he adds.

“We worked on it with the assistance of wine makers in South Australia and persevered with the process because the option to have a table red wine as a non-alcoholic variety is something we wanted to arrive at,” he says.

According to Mellows, Polka’s premium red is comparable to drinking a glass of gamay.

“Our de-alc wine is ultimately a lighter red. It doesn’t have the heavy SA shiraz characteristics, but it’s a nice red wine for those who want to go alcohol-free,” says Mellows.

Alcohol consumption is at its lowest level in more than 50 years in Australia, with those aged 18-44 twice as likely to consume zero- and low-strength alcohol compared with those aged over 45. In general, young Australian drinkers were more likely to drink no and low alcohol alternative drinks.

It’s a statistic that resonates with Polka and their ambitions to expand their offering. Perhaps it’s also a sign of the times too – with Polka now servicing the South Australian Parliament with its non-alcoholic options at the bar.

“It ultimately comes down to giving drinkers a choice,” says Mellows who is also a non-drinker.

“The rise in non-alcoholic beverages reflects the population’s desire to take care of our health, get better sleep and perhaps get up the next morning and be able to go to the gym,” he says.

“And who doesn’t like the idea of knowing you can still drink a bottle of red [non-alc] and know it won’t make a difference to how you feel the next day.”


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