Great wines to make the most of ‘Damp’ January
Many people have tried their hand at Dry January with mixed results, but lower-alcohol and lighter wines are also worth considering
Ceretto Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy 2021 (from £18, harrogatefinewinecompany.com; heritagecellars.co.uk; rdwines.shop) Having dealt over the past couple of weeks with drinks for Dry January, this week I’m looking at wines for people who are doing a month of drinking less, rather than no, alcohol – an event that I’m assured by various authoritative sources (OK, by a string of enthusiastic PRs) has come to be known as Damp January. That could of course mean drinking fewer glasses of your usual tipple, but it could also mean finding wines that have significantly lower alcohol in the first place. There are plenty of lighter wines that pre-date the current no-low fashions: wines that have lower alcohol as a function of the conditions and grape varieties and the stylistic ambitions of the winemaker rather than any conscious effort to reduce the abv. Wines such as that great burst of sweetly muscat-grapey frothy joy that is Moscato d’Asti from Piedmont in northwest Italy, as exquisitely represented here by Ceretto's ebullient 5.5% abv example.
Tesco Finest Steep Slopes Riesling QbA, Mosel, Germany 2021 (£7, Tesco) Another classic region that has long specialized in naturally low-alcohol wines is the Mosel Valley in Germany. This is riesling country, and it's that variety's naturally steely acidity that makes a light and technically off-dry wine such as Moselland Riesling Kabinett 2021 (£10.95, tanners-wines.co.uk) "feel" dry in the mouth – the acidity "disguises" the sugar so that you don't really notice the sweetness, just the succulent stone fruit and the refreshing lively feel. The wine has presence enough to feel as if it has more than its 8% alcohol, too, and that barely perceptible sugar is actually very good for matching with dishes with a little chilli spice. Over the past couple of decades, the fashion in Mosel and other regions of Germany is to ferment more of the natural sugar into alcohol and make drier styles. But even these are scarcely heavyweights in the alcohol department: Tesco's great value Steep Slopes with its lime-candy raciness clocks in at a relatively modest 11.5% abv.
J Lebreton Domaine des Rochelles Malbec Val de Loire, France 2020 (£10.95, thewinesociety.com) When it comes to seeking out low-alcohol reds, the Loire has always been my first port of call. Even as the climate has got warmer, making it easier to ripen red grapes consistently, the wines have still retained a sense of restraint and harmony, with a crunch and sappy bite that can be very appealing. It's a style that's not for everyone: if you are used to the plump, plush, plumminess and chocolatey richness of Argentine malbec, for example, you may well be puzzled if not actively disappointed by Domaine des Rochelles’ take on the same variety grown in the cool climate of Anjou. It's a wine that's more about the pulse of redcurrant or rosehip acidity and the tingle of just-ripe raspberries than richly mouthfilling softness. Most pertinently for this week's theme, it comes with radically lower alcohol than your average Argentine powerhouse: a mere 11% versus the 14.5% you tend to find in most Mendoza bottlings.
Follow David Williams on Twitter @DaveydaibachCeretto Moscato d’Asti DOCG, Italy 2021 (from £18, harrogatefinewinecompany.com; heritagecellars.co.uk; rdwines.shop) Tesco Finest Steep Slopes Riesling QbA, Mosel, Germany 2021 (£7, Tesco) J Lebreton Domaine des Rochelles Malbec Val de Loire, France 2020 (£10.95, thewinesociety.com)