Dry January? You might as well be speaking Martian. Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favour of maintaining a healthy regime but in the most grisly month of the year, why on earth would we strip away the simple comfort of a glass of vino while relaxing in the evening after work? Rather than abstain totally for one month, how about sipping less often but selecting superb bottles of wine throughout the year? You won't be spending any more but you'll be reveling in sheer deliciousness and trimming the intake admirably. After the excesses of Christmas, I love kicking off the New Year with lighter styles of wine. Generally these more nimble treats with their elegance and lower alcohol come from cooler climates - by the seaside or up high, showing us how climate can moderate and streamline a wine. I'm writing this blog from a wine trip to Melbourne Australia where the vineyards on the Mornington Peninsula are cooled by the influence of the Antarctic breeze and where, just north of Melbourne, the hilly and cool Yarra Valley is creating some superbly elegant styles of Pinot Noir; get your chops round Little Yering Pinot Noir on the Hotel du Vin's wine list.
But it's not all about levels of alcohol. What could be more zesty on a damp January day than a glass of sunny Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand? Mahi make a great one served at the Hotel du Vin, turbo-charged with tropical zest. In fact, it's so bright it's like a flashbulb illuminating your palate. Or if you want to expand your horizons, Rueda in Spain makes cracking Verdejo which is peachy and fresh - have a sip or two of K Naia at the Hotel du Vin. Sticking with Spain, Albariño remains one of my favourite tipples with shellfish and the wines are all about the freshness of the Atlantic that cools the north western Galician Coast. Condes de Alberei is a fun Albariño and makes a decent aperitif. For an all round stunner that's as fresh as a gleaming snow-capped Alp, Austrian Grüner Veltliner is supreme - Schloss Gobelsberg is an excellent winery and you can find their work in a Hotel du Vin near you.
As for reds, grapes with lighter styles to look out for include Pinot Noir and Gamay such as Fleurie La Madonne La Reine de l'Arenite. I'm also a huge fan of Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley in France which can work served chilled for something a bit different. But perhaps the lightest and brightest bottles to pop are the sparklers. Fizz usually tends to have respectable levels of alcohol and exudes a sense of upbeat refreshment. English fizz has come on leaps and bounds and opens up a splendid opportunity to visit a vineyard right here on our very island. French Champagne remains a huge symbol of classy celebration and with Lombard, Ruinart and Dom Perignon to choose from on the Hotel du Vin's wine list, you can pick the perfect bottle to match the occasion, budget and mood and lift any shade of January blues.