New Year wines: drink less, drink better
New year resolutions in relation to booze almost always involve self-denial, but let me suggest an alternative: drink less but better. The problem with giving up for an extended period is that at some point you have to adjust to drinking again. Having just one drink a day in January (my preferred strategy), or taking two to three days off a week (and maybe even four, at least for this month), creates a more healthy drinking pattern. Combine that with an emphasis on quality over quantity, and it becomes a sustainable lifestyle.
You may quite reasonably point out that you haven’t got cash to splash at this time of year, but I’m not advocating increasing your booze budget, rather reallocating it. Add up what you spend on alcohol in the average week (average perhaps not being the run-up to Christmas), and spend it on something better – you could pick up a more than decent bottle for the cost of a couple of cocktails, for example. Plus, you should still be able to take advantage of Christmas offers this weekend, as well as bin-end and sale reductions during the coming month.
Drinking better doesn’t just mean spending more, however; it also means drinking with a spirit of adventure. Explore a new country, wine region or grape variety each month. Overcome your prejudices. I’ve never been much of a fan of vouvray, for example, which I generally find too sweet, but I recently had a glass of Huet’s 2016 Demi-Sec at Noble Rot in London and was blown away by it. (Incidentally, Noble Rot’s list is available in cutback-friendly 75ml glasses.)
You could also think of buying your wine in alternative formats – half-bottles, say, or even cans. (The Banks Brothers’ canned wine range from South Africa, fronted by chef Tommy Banks and his brother James, is an unusually good one.) Buying in bigger quantities such as wine boxes, meanwhile, may seem counterintuitive, but if you’ve got the self-discipline to pour yourself just one small glass, a box could last the best part of a month.
Wine boxes aside, there is also the issue of how to keep your wine fresh if you don’t drink the whole bottle. Air is the enemy of wine, so once a bottle is only half full, decant it into a smaller bottle and keep it in the fridge. There’s also a nifty little gadget called Sayv (£4.95 slurp.co.uk) that sprays a layer of argon gas over the wine to keep it fresh, which is especially useful when you want to open more than one bottle at once.
Five bottles to save your units for
Yerevan 782 BC Kangun Rkatsiteli 2019 £8 (on offer until 2 January when it reverts to £9.50) Armenia Wine Co, 12.5%. Deliciously fresh, floral, almost summery Armenian white: would go with canapes or meze.
Wildeberg ‘Wonder Horse’ Palomino 2020 £14.50 The Wine Society, 12.5%. Really interesting, South African dry white made from the same grape as sherry but bright, fresh and fruity. Utterly delicious.
Specially Selected Lebanese Red 2019 £7.99 Aldi, 14.5%. Wonderfully warming blend of cabernet sauvignon, cinsault, syrah and carignan from the Bekaa Valley. Perfect January drinking.
Viento de Invierno Mencia 2020 £8.25 selected Co-ops, 13.5%. If you’re a beaujolais fan, you’ll love Spanish mencia – this one’s a lovely, bright, juicy red.
RedHeads Coco Rôtie 2019 £13.99 (or £12.59 for 12) Averys or Laithwaites, 14.5%. This gloriously lush shiraz/viognier is a tribute to côte rôtie. Well worth the extra over what you might normally pay for an Australian red.