Wine: Some light wines for post-Christmas period

I am in denial. January can be such a depressing month that I find the best way to get through it is to pretend it isn’t happening and drink light crisp wines like it was summertime.

Wine: Some light wines for post-Christmas period

I discovered this last year when trying to lose some of my Christmas weight gain by upping my salad count and reducing rich heavy foods and drinking light wines to match. Virtually the only calorie element in wine is the alcohol, but finding a wine below 13% ABV these days isn’t easy.

The reasons for the higher alcohol nowadays are varied but are mostly due to better vineyard management and a slight rise in temperatures, allied to the fact that consumers like the richer styles and they stand out better in blind tastings so win more competitions.

Those of us that began drinking wine in the 1990s find the high alcohol difficult to take given that 15% ABV is no longer unusual (I tasted a 17% Californian Pinot Noir a couple of years back that was closer to Port than Burgundy).

Early in 2014 it was reported by Scientific American magazine (http://bit.ly/N8Cw9Z) that a team of Spanish and Australian scientists had isolated a wild yeast that produced lower alcohol wines than conventional yeast (1.6% lower for Shiraz) without affecting the wine’s flavour. It is early days and some refinement is needed before such yeasts are available to winemakers, but this was a major breakthrough.

If you want some genuinely low-alcohol wines this weekend head to Karwigs in Carrigaline for some fine German wines which are often as low as 7 or 8%. Otherwise try a couple of the wines below, none of which is higher than 13%. Wine Courses are now enrolling throughout the country. Ask at your local off-licence or night-school.

Cork: Cork Wine School courses begin on January 24 with a variety of WSET courses from 1-day to 9 weeks. Tel: 021-4296060 or email grace@odonovansofflicence.com

Dublin: Wine Appreciation Course, Rathmines College, begins January 19, for 10 weeks, taught by myself.(enrolment from January 5). €125 http://www.rathminescollege.ie Tel: 01-4975334

Best value under €15

Domaine de Millet, Cotes de Gascogne IGP, France — €11.45-€12.75 

A blend of Colombard and Ugni Blanc, the former carrying most of the aromas and flavours. Ripe apple and pear aromas with subtle tropical touches on the palate and a spanking fresh clean finish. Alarmingly drinkable and perfect for a warm salad or to give a lift to root veg-based dishes.

Stockist: Wines Direct Mullingar, Arnotts Dublin, www.winesdirect.ie

Les Courtelles Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France — €11.99

In case you missed it Picpoul de Pinet is the fashionable white wine of the moment — never expensive, always fresh and crisp and great with food. This one has lots of crisp lemon and pear flavours and fine dry acidity on the finish.

Stockist: Dunnes

Castillo Colina Bierzo, Spain — €9-€12.50

The great thing about Bierzo and its Mencia grape is that even the bargain versions are excellent.

Ripe smoky fruit flavours with a nice cinnamon and spice character and a structured fresh finish. This was on offer at €9 over Christmas but may have gone back up by now.

Stockist: Dunnes

Best Value over €15

Hirschvergnugen Gruner Veltliner 2013, Austria — €19.95

At just 11% ABV this should help your diet (marginally!). Light, fresh classic Gruner Veltliner with salt and pepper aromas, a sweet apple centre and a salty lingering fresh finish. Gruner is a great food wine and works well with fish, pasta and pork dishes.

Stockist: Karwigs Carrigaline www.karwigwines.ie

Wohlmuth Riesling Sausal 2011, Austria — €19.95

With all the uber-fashionable Gruner Veltliner around we forget sometimes how good Austrian Riesling can be. This has a little age which brings out some of the peach and apricot flavours but it retains its balance and elegance thanks to lively lemony acidity.

Stockist: Wines Direct Mullingar, Arnotts Dublin, www.winesdirect.ie

Brandl Gruner Veltliner, Weinberge, Austra — €17.35

This is quite a serious tasting Gruner with a fine apple drop and white pepper aroma, an elegant stony mineral freshness in the centre and a lingering crisp salty finish. If you have some smoked salmon left over from Christmas have it with this.

Stockist: The Corkscrew, www.thecorkscrew.ie

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