Low on alcohol, high on flavour

By Richard Ehrlich, January 9, 2014
Follow The JC on Twitter

It’s that time of year. Again. The excesses of the holiday season lie brooding on waistlines nationwide. And people of good sense want to cut back on their consumption of alcohol. Those who are made of sterner stuff than I cut it out altogether for January, or a part of it.

I won’t argue with the abstainers, but I will not join them. If I’m going to go to the trouble of making a tasty meal for Mrs E and myself, I am going to show it due respect by pouring a glass of wine. Or, at the very least, an apéritif. If the apéritif is good enough, it may even eliminate the desire to carry on drinking table wine throughout the repast.

This is certainly true of Barbeito Old Reserve Sercial 10 Year Old (Berry Bros. & Rudd, £31.95). Sercial is the driest of Madeiras, and a small glass of these sumptuous dried-fruit flavours will keep your taste buds racing for a very long time. I recommended this in January of last year, and make no apologies for recommending it again.

It’s also true of Dolin Chambéry Vermouth, a long-time favourite of discerning bartenders and independent merchants like Berry’s and Tanner’s, and is now sold by Waitrose. Dolin is extremely dry and extremely distinctive. It is, of course, outstanding in a Martini. But this month you may prefer it in my favourite low-alcohol mixer: one part vermouth, two parts gently fizzy water, a few drops of crème de cassis or mure. Over ice, in a tall glass. From Waitrose at £9.89, from indies at a bit more.

And finally. The words de-alcoholised wine should strike fear into the strongest heart – with one exception. The estimable Torres winery found a way of making a 100 per cent Moscatel and reducing the alcohol to just 0.5 per cent alcohol while retaining its full complement of grapey, peachy flavours. The wine is called Natureo. Sold by Waitrose but cheaper at Asda, just £5. Good enough to drink all year round, but especially welcome in The Month of Living Sensibly.

    Last updated: 7:45pm, January 9 2014