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Halal Wine Anyone?

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Halal Wine Anyone?

When I was growing up my parents always taught me, that we, as Muslims don't drink alcohol. It was very simple and on my part completely unquestionable. I didn't ask why, I just did as I was told. It was completely unthinkable that I would ever have a glass of wine. I didn't even want to, not once have I ever felt 'FOMO' (fear of missing out). The way I see it, many problems can stem from alcohol abuse-domestic violence, liver damage, and binge drinking to name a few. So why pick up that first drink? I have no problem with people drinking around me, its just personally I choose not to.

In a country like Britain where alcohol is drunk on most occasions, be it a wedding, funeral, party, football match, how hard is it to be a teetotaller? I've heard of people who have held a glass of wine in their hand at an important work do and not actually drunk it, in order to fit in. For those who struggle to fit in, there is now a solution.

Halal wine...say what? 'Halal' simply means permissible in Arabic. The word is generally used in the context of food but covers all aspects of life. Halal wine is simply de-alcoholised wine. Whilst at the Halal Food Festival a few weeks ago, I came across a company called 'Kevser Tabak' who have created a process (seven years in the making) of extracting wine from grapes and eliminating the alcohol completely. Their method is apparently very complicated and highly secretive as they are in the midst of patenting their special wine-making technique. Isn't it just like grape juice I hear you ask? I suppose it is but it's not as sweet as grape juice. It definitely looks the part, bottled in authentic wine bottles and retailing at about £15 it certainly isn't just your standard grape juice.

Although alcohol is clearly prohibited in the Quran, there is one verse in Surah 47 that translates as 'In paradise rivers of wine will flow', and this is where the company got its inspiration.

Non-alcoholic wine has been around for decades but there's always been at least 0.2 -0. 5% alcohol. This wine has 0.0% alcohol and certified by HQC -Halal Quality Control. Why would Muslims want to drink this though? Kevser Tabak say, now that Muslims don't just eat curries, they like fine dining and world cuisine so they need a drink to go with it. As wine is as much a part of a meal as dessert is, they felt that their wine solves all the problems. I was certainly happy to try a glass at La Sophia, which is one of the few restaurants that actually sells it and uses it in their cooking. I didn't really enjoy it but thought the whole concept was pretty innovative. I realised how much thought has gone behind this product when I met them exhibiting at the Halal Food Festival. These guys really believe in their paradoxical product. Now that I have had a few glasses it has grown on me - an acquired taste, like conventional wine. But it's not the taste I have a problem with, but more the concept. Sipping red wine from a wine glass just seems wrong.

When I asked an older member of my family, they wouldn't even try it and this is the problem with halal wine. It's a bit like halal sausages -as traditionally sausages are made from pork, people of my parent's generation were conditioned not to eat them. Then when halal beef and chicken sausages became available most British born Muslims welcomed them, but the older generation instantly took a dislike based on the concept. It's the same with this wine, whilst most Muslims like me who were born and bred in the UK would be willing to try halal wine in a restaurant; there are many who won't. They may try it someone's house but they may not buy a glass in a restaurant especially if it costs £5-£8 a glass.

Traditionally I've never had to pay more than a couple of pounds for a drink, but this is changing as now I drink mocktails (non-alcoholic cocktails), which seem to be on an upward trend. Most restaurants and bars that make cocktails are happy to make non-alcoholic versions which are much more exciting than an orange juice.

It would be incredible if every restaurant that has wine on the menu also has a non-alcoholic wine, but the question is will anybody actually order it? At least I know when I go to my favourite French restaurant, I have the choice if I don't fancy a diet coke, I can have a glass of Merlot or perhaps a Chardonnay, or even Champagne actually. Best of all I don't have to worry about getting a cab home, I can just drive myself.