Even if Dry January is asking too much you can always sort your wine rack and glass cabinet

So how is the diet going?

As the combined excesses of the festive season fade into distant memories the evidence remains spread around the midriffs of many including me. January is generally regarded as the month for abstinence. Not only are we wrestling with the challenge of those perennial New Year resolutions but also endeavouring to exercise more, eat less and in many cases drink a lot less.

‘Dry January’ is a popular option for many people, especially those in the drinks trade who perhaps need to prove to themselves and to their loved ones that they can do without a regular pre-prandial snifter followed by a glass or two of wine with their dinner. The medical evidence is that a break from alcohol consumption is good for the liver, allowing it a chance to recover from the negative effects of drinking.

With several family birthdays in January, including my own, I have never been a fan of a completely dry January so I have adopted a more steady regime of having several ‘dry’ nights a week, which over the year add up to a great deal more than the 31 days of January. With luck, that gives my liver sufficient rest and recuperation time.

Whether you give up alcohol or carbs, you resolve to eat more fruit and veg or you just to walk up stairs instead of taking the lift, this is the time of year to review life in general. It is time to clear out the clutter and take a fresh look at everyday life, and since the wine rack might have suffered some serious damage over the last few weeks, this is the place to start.

Wine storage

In an ideal world we would all have a below-ground cellar, maintained at a constant temperature, equipped with brick bins and stuffed with fabulous wines. Reality means that most of us live in modern houses where the boiler and various radiators belt out heat into all the usual places where wine might be stored. Under the stairs provides only limited storage space and usually has to share space with cleaning materials and coats. Garages are generally unsuitable since the temperature ricochets between winter and summer while kitchens provide only a few pigeon holes for wine, often alongside the oven.

For everyday drinking wine, any of these places is fine. A bottle will not come to any harm if stored for a month or two in these conditions. It is only if you spend serious money on wine and keep it for 6 months or more that you need to review your storage arrangements. A back bedroom, away from sunlight might just fit the bill. Alternatively, talk to you local wine merchant who may have a storage facility. House of Townend has a fabulous air-conditioned warehouse where you wine is labelled with your name – just so there is no mistake about ownership and they will even let you know when it is approaching its drinking window. Similarly, The Wine Society will store your age-worthy wines wine. Most merchants will only store wine that you have bought from them, but it is always worth asking the question.

Wine Rack contents

Good guests always bring a bottle when they come to visit, but sometimes that bottle may not be entirely to your taste. You can either leave it in the wine rack, skimming over it every time you are looking for something to go with dinner or you bring it out, place it in a prominent position to be opened, tasted and either drunk or poured into the gravy. If you are serious about a clear-out then school raffles and church bazaars are always delighted to receive cast-offs but make sure you dust them off before handing them over.

Most wine merchants will have sales soon so make sure you have room for a few new bottles.

Glasses

There are always a few casualties over Christmas when one glass is dropped and shatters into tiny shards that take residence under bookcases and sideboards. Now is the time to review your glassware and make sure you have enough similar-shaped glasses to entertain friends in the future. One key change in recent years is the move from Champagne flutes to tulip-shaped glasses. Those tall, narrow flutes are elegant and show off bubbles to perfection as they rise to the surface but there is very little nose space to capture the aroma. A tulip-shaped glass – such as Riedel’s Prestige (John Lewis, £45 for 2) is better for more substantial, aged champagnes where the aromas are complex and developed. Alternatively, use a tulip-shaped wine glass, but just don’t fill more than one-third full.

The way forward

The wine world is constantly changing, and fashions come and go. 2018 will probably see more organic and biodynamic wines on the shelves, as well as more talk about sustainability. Essentially grape growers and winemakers are farmers and they want to look after the land and hand it on in good condition. ‘Sustainable’ is a fairly woolly description of farming techniques but it is not just a marketing tool. It is a genuine attempt to cut down on chemicals and treatments and is a first step to organic certification.

Don’t expect everyone to get a horse to plough their vineyards, but more cover crops, more open vine training to allow better air flow and natural predators to combat vineyard pests is definitely the way forward,

There will probably be more ‘natural’ wines, made with low or even no sulphur additions and providing a new deeper, more complex range of flavours.

 

While we all go through this period of clearing out the clutter and resolving to drink less alcohol for a few weeks, here are a couple of suggestions.

 

The Doctor’s Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough New Zealand, 9.5%, Waitrose £8.99

No special tricks have been used to make this a lower-alcohol version of Sauvignon Blanc. Shaded grapes, early picking and careful fermentation means that this has all the right zippy fresh flavours with under 10% alcohol.

Torres Natureo Muscat, Spain, 0.5%, Waitrose down from £5.99 to £4.79 until 23 January

Proper wine, spun round so fast that the alcohol separates like cream off the milk. Only 0.5% alcohol, and it tastes like wine.

 

 

About The Author

Christine Austin

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

Let us know what you think

comments