With Christmas giving us the green-light to indulge without feeling the guilt-factor, come January it’s time to get the health back into our lives. In the past this might have involved giving up alcohol altogether, but these days such drastic measures just aren’t necessary, or appealing, says Rob Buckhaven.
The start of the New Year needn’t be relegated to a treat-free month of abstinence where chewing on a celery stick is the only highlight. There are lighter alcohol wines sitting on a shelf nearby, and the good news is that just because they’re lower in alcohol, doesn’t mean they’re lower in taste.
Grapes that are naturally alcohol-light give us the biggest flavour pay-out, as artificially de-alcoholised wines of around 0.5% are still a work in progress. Although some are better than others; worse-case they are off-dry shockers that taste more of elderflower cordial than wine.
The best way to keep in the celebratory spirit is to stick with sparkling. On the lip-smacking dry side, Prosecco is a lighter and more frugal alternative to Champagne, and when fridge-chilled is the palate’s version of a brisk walk in a bracing wind. Always opt for one with DOCG Superiore on the label, a guarantee of higher quality which is worth the slightly higher price tag.
Pull out all the stops for your white wine-loving friends by reaching for a Hunter Valley Semillon from Australia’s New South Wales when you next get together. They’ll be beside themselves – in a good way – when they realise this herbaceous and grapefruit-stuffed powerhouse is actually only around 10% alcohol.
If you like your whites super-dry, a light Portuguese number known as the ‘green wine’ or Vinho Verde comes in at a health-friendlier 9% alcohol. A sassy wine made from the Alvarinho (Albarino) grape, boasting a lemon sherbet style which pals up well with light fish dishes.
When it comes to the reds, for quaffing minus the dropping, it’s all about French Gamay’s, Pinot Noirs from Alsace and for something fun and frothy, Lambrusco. No longer the cheap, sweet and unfashionable wine of yesterday, Lambrusco now has a more complex, dry style. Found in supermarkets and top restaurants up and down the country, this cherry-stashed sparkling red makes a refreshing dram as thoughts turn towards springtime.
Presenter and author Rob Buckhaven is passionate about food and drink and appears regularly as a wine expert on TV and as a newspaper and magazine columnist. He can also be found hosting shows across the country, including the BBC Good Food Show, Taste and Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. Follow him on Twitter at @robbuckhaven.