January Wines to Try by The Motley Cru
After the rise must come the fall … yes, it’s January already and with it comes the dreaded detox: out go the rich meals, parties and booze, and in come the yoga, quinoa and lots of water.
We should all know by now that when it comes to giving up perceived vices, going “cold turkey” is never the right solution (excuse the seasonal pun). Whether it’s alcohol, cigarettes or sugar, simply stopping entirely has been proven to be significantly less effective than cutting down gradually.
Thankfully there has been a significant rise in recent years in the depth and breadth of low- and non-alcoholic wines and beers that have significantly assisted in starting – and keeping – our January promises to ourselves.
So below are a few of options to help ease the path to the new you you’ve promised yourself for 2015. A couple of the wines have reduced alcohol – i.e. 5.5% rather than the approximately 12%-14% of regular wine – while a couple others are “de-alcoholised”, in other words normal wine that has had the alcohol removed as much as is physically possible so that only a trace amount remains. This is usually half a percent, which is less alcohol than a slice of sherry trifle, a spoon of cough syrup or, I’m told, a glass of orange juice left out of the fridge overnight.
Ascheri Moscato d’Asti (5.5% ABV)
€14.49 from O’Brien’s Wines
The Moscato d’Asti style is still something of an unknown to Irish consumers, which is unusual as it’s not difficult to find; most good wine retailers seem to have at least one offering on their shelves.
Moscato d’Asti is a lightly sparkling (“frizzante”) wine style from Piedmont in north-western Italy, more famously the home of Barolo. Its production, which involves stopping the fermentation process early so that the yeast doesn’t fully convert the grape sugars into alcohol, means that it’s semi-sweet and usually only around 5%-6% ABV.
The style wasn’t created with health-conscious detoxers in mind – it’s just always been like that, so sip away knowing that you’re partaking in a very Italian tradition.
Expect fragrant floral and peach characteristics over a lightly fizzy palate. Though excellent served chilled on its own, it’s actually a style that’s great with light desserts also – if you haven’t given them up too, that is.
Widely regarded as the best-tasting de-alcoholised wine out there, this is 100% Moscatel, the same grape used in the Moscato d’Asti above but this Spain instead of Italy and without the fizz.
Again it’s really very floral with some elderflower notes, and is best served very chilled to keep it nice and crisp. I’ve actually served this to friends who believed it to be a ‘regular’ wine, a testament to its quality. Remember you’re safe to drive after a few glasses of this, too, so it’s perfect for designated drivers at any time.
Black Tower has undergone something of a retro renaissance of late, a fact not lost on its German owners Reh Kendermann who have refreshed the brand’s image in recent years and also released this low-alcohol, low-calorie range in response to the growing trend for these wines. This has light cherry and red summer fruit flavours, and would be ideally enjoyed when coming into spring.
The de-alcoholisation process tends to find its best results in white and rosé wines, but if you must have a red then the famous Sutter Home winery in the US have a range called Fre (pronounced “free”) with a Merlot that will definitely pass muster. It has the soft plummy characteristic you’d expect from a New World Merlot and though you won’t mistake it for Château Le Pin from Bordeaux it’s by far the best de-alcoholised red available.
For those who want to abstain absolutely from alcohol this January, however, this is a really good option. From the classy packaging to the proud Normandy provenance and lack of added sugar, this is a really refreshing and juicy drop.
The problem with switching from alcohol to soft drinks is that it’s often a case of ‘out of the frying pan into the fire’ as the health savings made giving up the booze are easily negated by the huge amount of added sugar found in most soft drinks out there. Even apparently super-healthy drinks like bottled green tea or aloe vera juices can contain almost as much sugar as Coke or Fanta!
And though fruit juices such as this are also high in sugar, they’re naturally-occurring rather than the refined cane sugar added to common soft drinks, so you’ll get away on a technicality I think, especially when it tastes this good.