Whenever I hear mention of ‘Dry January’, I’m reminded of satirist Ambrose Bierce’s amusing take on abstention – “Abstainer: a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.”
Personally, and I say this with some considerable pride, I’ve never, as yet, fallen prey to the easy temptations of pleasure denial and, fingers crossed, I never will. But pursuing a mildly hedonistic path isn’t always easy, especially in the bleak midwinter, and us iron willed drinkers are open to anything that will help us resist the – oh, so – beguiling attractions of abstinence!
Thankfully, there is now an alternative to the reductive message of ‘Dry January’ and it, too, comes in prefix form. It’s called ‘Try January’ and it fits perfectly with our New Year desire for change and new possibility.
If you like the idea, why not take it upon yourself to try wine from a couple of the, beyond the norm, wine regions that you’ll find below? (One for each letter of January).
Jerez: Sherry comes from Jerez. Who cares? Well, cast aside any thoughts of vicars or maiden aunts sipping sweet sherry from silly little glasses – that’s not what real Sherry is all about at all. The real stuff is dry, delicious and, in recent years, the toast of Michelin starred restaurants across the land. Try an ice cold Fino or Manzanilla with nuts and olives to see what the fuss is about.
Abruzzo: The fifth largest wine producing region in Italy, Abruzzo is a mountainous region with a significant coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Try Trebbiano d’Abruzzo (white) or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (red).
Navarra: Lying adjacent to Rioja, Navarra is overshadowed by its more illustrious neighbour but the region’s reds are a good value alternative to Rioja.
Uco Valley: Currently, Malbec is all the rage and the Uco Valley near Mendoza in Argentina is considered to be one of the best places to grow Malbec in the world.
Alentejo: I think most of us could confidently point to the Algarve on an unmarked map of Portugal but I’d wager that most Brits are blissfully unaware of Portugal’s largest region, the Alentejo. For, despite lying directly above the Algarve on the map, the Alentejo has little to interest the average holidaymaker because it’s predominantly an inland agricultural region with very little coastline.
Nicknamed the ‘bread basket of Portugal’ because of its pre-eminent role in feeding the nation, the Alentejo may not appeal greatly to sun worshippers but it should, make no mistake, be on the wine radar of anyone with a thirst for wines that are both affordable and a bit different.
Ciconia Tinto 2013 combines approachability with the roasted richness that’s typical of Alentejan red wines and its broad appeal is clearly evidenced by its constant picking up of value for money gongs from the likes of the Wine Spectator magazine and other esteemed publications.
Rueda: If you’re a fan of Sauvignon Blanc but fancy a change, then you really must try the wines made from the Verdejo grape variety in the Rueda region in Spain.
The K-Naia 2014 from Bodegas Naia is an unoaked style of Verdejo that exhibits many of the tropical fruit characteristics often found in New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. There are pineapple and mango notes alongside pink grapefruit flavours and a zesty, limey acidity. It’s fantastic with fish, new potato salad or prawns in garlic sauce.
Yarra Valley: Located 50 miles to the east of Melbourne in Australia, the relatively cool climate of the Yarra Valley makes it particularly suited to the production of high-quality chardonnay, pinot noir and sparkling wine.