Nightshade Ultimate Review Cover Photo

Acid League Wine Proxy - Nightshade Review

In this Review you will learn:

Sometimes, after a long day of work you want to unwind with some wine but you don't want to go too crazy on a week night -- or even a Friday night. As I've gotten older, my body has not been able to process the alcohol as well as it could have when I was in my twenties. So my hope was that these wine proxies are could be one of these weeknight treats when I am craving a big juicy red to go along with that weeknight ribeye. Sometimes that's just the treat you need!

Acid League Wine Proxies Bottles

So what is a wine proxy anyway?

A wine proxy is a type of drycraft drink that was made from fruit juices, teas, and herbs to resemble wine. They typically come in a wine bottle or smaller tastings and have a more elevated experience.

One big distinction is that these are not de-alcoholized like our favorite Noughty Rosé. The Noughty wines are produced using quality grapes and fermented as normal wine and then go through a process to remove the alcohol. So they typically taste more like wine than Wine Proxies.

Acid League’s Wine Proxies are sometimes made using their living vinegars too. So they don’t age quite like regular wine. They are also “living” meaning Acid League does not use heat to process their beverages and kill off microorganisms. Instead, they rely on the acid from the vinegars they use to produce their wine proxies to fight off bad bacteria. Since these products are fermented, they can still contain trace amounts of alcohol. To help with preservation, they do add sulfites to make sure that the proxy is somewhat preserved.

Acid League's Wine Proxies always fall below 0.5% alcohol by volume (the threshold to be classified as non-alcoholic according to the FDA and other regulatory agencies). They recommend that their wine proxies be consumed within 3 months.

That being said, Wine Proxies could be complex, juicy, full bodied and full of tannins. The Drycraft varietals we make are just that - and have functional benefits too! Make sure you sign up for the waitlist to get access to the Drycraft Speakeasy.

Why Drink Non-Alcoholic Wine?

Whether you're sober-curious, in recovery, or just want to have a few healthier options—there are a multitude of reasons to choose Non-Alcoholic Wine! Today, there are many non-alcoholic wine are more than just juice. They are a whole experience, that can give you the romance and glamor of wine—especially with beautifully designed packaging.

For me, choosing non-alcoholic wine allows me to enjoy the flavor and not miss out on actually tasting my food. One of the challenges I have with tasting menus that are served with wine pairings, is that 3 glasses in, I can't taste the food anymore and the room may or may not be spinning. With non-alcholic wine, you can still get the variety of flavor profiles to complement the food and after 3 glasses, you still know exactly what you're eating.

Non-alcoholic wine also many times has less sugar. So that means you're definitely not going to feel guilty about it after or even the next morning!

About the Producer: Acid League

Wine proxies have come a long way in the last few years, and Acid League is one of the innovators in this category. This little known brand started showing up on my instagram about a year ago and there weren't any reviews to be found online! So I dug into their website to learn more. It turns out Wine Proxies are one of their experimental product lines and their real bread and butter are their living vinegars.

Acid League was started in Toronto by co-founders food scientists, Cole Pearsall and Allan Mai, as well as serial entrepreneur, Scott Friedmann. They launched Acid League because they asked the question “Why aren’t there more alternative vinegars in interesting flavors, when you can make vinegar out of almost anything?”

They started experimenting and have made over 500 different types of vinegars. Since staring the experiment, the brand launched in August 2020 with living vinegars in fun flavors like Mango Jalapeno and Strawberry Rosé. While the vinegars can be found on the shelves at Whole Foods and some specialty stores, the Wine Proxies are only available online.

I kept getting re-targeted with their Wine Proxy ads, so I decided to purchase a sample pack of their most popular flavors.

Acid League shipping box

Unboxing the Wine Proxies

I purchased a tasting trio directly from Acid League on Black Friday with their 15% off promotion. I paid $68 for four bottles of different flavors and qualified for free shipping since my total was over $45!

Since this is a small brand that just recently launched, I was a little worried about how the packaging was going to turn out. It turns out they used a method similar to how online wine clubs ship their products. If you haven’t ordered wine online before, that means they use cardboard inserts that keep the wine bottles firmly in place, eliminating the worry that they might break—even if the box was a little beat up like mine was.

Shipping score: 5.0

Acid League Nightshade Flavor Profile Wheel

Acid League Nightshade Tasting Notes

If you were expecting this product to taste like wine, you would be sorely disappointed. Frankly, it’s not even close to tasting like a de-alcoholized wine, but that’s not the intention of the product. It’s intended to be a category of its own, which makes the name of the product—wine proxy—all the more confusing because it sets the wrong expectation.

The experience of opening the bottle is interesting as well. They’ve sealed the top with a thick wax, which makes it pretty, but difficult to open. At first, I tried sawing at it with the little knife on my corkscrew, but it barely made a dent. So I decided to just screw through the wax into the cork. That went well, but I was afraid there would be wax in my wine. Thankfully there wasn’t.

Pouring it, it has a deep crimson color—just like a bold red. So I was getting excited, but ultimately I was a bit disappointed.

With the Nightshade, what you get is essentially a more complex and less sweet fruit juice. Since it’s made with Cherry and Cranberry juice—I’m assuming starting with unsweetened because that’s what I use in my own products—it has a very tart flavor. These two flavors dominate the flavor profile and the other ingredients, like Sun Dried Tomato, Bay leaf, Kombu, and Olive Leaf are really quite subtle. Honestly, the only one i could detect was the Sun Dried tomato, which came through after swirling it around in the wine glass and really focusing on the nose. Otherwise, it’s just super faint on the palate.

What was enjoyable about the Nightshade was the amount of tannins. It has that mouthfeel that makes you want to pucker in the way that some reds make you feel. As a result, I think if you drink it straight as is, it could go well with a well marbled steak, like a ribeye. The acidity and the tannins will cut through the fat.

How to drink the Acid League Nightshade Wine Proxy

Even though I wasn’t impressed with the first sip, I wanted to see if the flavor profile would change after letting it breathe some. So kept it in the fridge overnight, and in the morning I gave it a try. Honestly, it barely mellowed out. Perhaps it would be different if you aerated it in a decanter, but I don’t have one.

Instead of waiting, I wanted to try a few other ways to modify the drink to make it better suited to my preferences. I prefer full bodied wines that don’t have too much acidity and aren’t to sweet. So to adjust it, I decided to add a few things:

  • 1 oz Nightshade
  • 1/4 oz elderberry juice (not syrup)
  • 1/8 oz Ghia OG Bitter
  • 1/4 seltzer water

The elderberry adds earthiness and its subtle sweetness balances the tartness of the Nightshade. It also has a deep purple color, so it won’t dilute the red wine experience. The tiny splash of Ghia helps to add some bitterness and other aromatics to what is otherwise a pretty flat beverage—again all the other notes of the Nightshade don’t really come through. And the seltzer helps to lift it a little by diluting. After these adjustments, the Nightshade became something that I could see myself enjoying even more with a bowl of papardelle bolognese or a ribeye. It extends the flavor profile to appeal to a broader audience, in my opinion.

My Overall Recommendation For the Acid League Nightshade Wine Proxy

I personally would not buy the Nightshade again. I think the product is lacking identity. If you buy it with the intention of mixing with something else, I would honestly suggest just picking up some unsweetened cranberry or cherry juice and mixing that with another ready to drink product.

That being said, I’m still looking forward to trying the other Acid League products. Some of the other flavors seem really fun and interesting—and nothing like a wine. So perhaps if I reset my expectations, then I might enjoy them more.

Acid League Ingredient Call Outs

  • Vegan
  • Gluten Free
  • Contains Sulfites
  • Low in sugars (roughly 7 grams depending on the flavor)

Where can I buy Acid League Wine Proxies?

You can buy directly via Acid League for the best prices on the individual but they don’t provide free shipping. So I did the research for you! You can buy the same products and save money on shipping! Shipping is free for all orders over $125, and for orders under $125, shipping is a flat rate $7.50.

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