Like so many people, for the last 18 years, I’ve subscribed to the concept of no wine or any other alcoholic drinks during the first month of the year. This somewhat misguided and often boring theory springs from that Calvinistic ethos of the dreaded “New Year’s Resolution”. But this year, I’ve decided on a new approach – let me introduce you to DLDBDI. This not so snappy acronym stands for:

Drink Less

Drink Better

Drink Interesting

Whilst none of us deny that having a few alcohol free days a week is good for our health – a month of abstinence has no real virtue if come 1st February, the top comes off (and stays off!)  the Silent Pool Gin and there is a sudden drought of Fever Tree tonic in your local Waitrose!

As every February, I will be visiting the vineyards of Chile & Argentina for a couple of weeks, a spell of healthiness beforehand is no bad idea – but this year, I’m changing January to make it more balanced!

“Dry” January of course comes with certain caveats. It’s a month with lots of trade wine tastings – and as that is technically work, it does not truly count.  Certainly it will be mostly spitting with hundreds of wines on display at each tasting – but there are always the absolute stars of the tasting which is would be sacrilegious to spit out!  Also, there are the two “Joker Cards” to play during the month . Experience has shown that these can save one’s sanity during this tough month – I had to attend a Christening once during a Dry month – following a rather odd  Happy-Clappy Church Service,  a glass of Fino would have been most welcome – and a chilled glass of Lime & Soda did not cut the mustard!  Don’t get me wrong – the people at the church were lovely and welcoming but song sheets that appeared as in a pantomime and getting members of the congregation to hold up pictures of sheep was a little bemusing!  Plus of course, there is 25th January for Burns Night – tantalising close to the end of the month – until you remember there are 31 days in January! And how is one supposed to toast the Haggis without a glass of Laphroaig to hand!

So, I’m paying more attention to what I drink in January and making a concerted effort to make it more interesting.  Drink Better is a relative concept – we all have different price levels of what we consider acceptable to pay for an everyday mid week bottle of wine, so you might just prefer to drink less wine this month but spend the same amount on fewer bottles and upgrade your choice. Given the base percentage of what makes up the retail price of a bottle of wine  – the duty, tax, bottle, cork or screw cap, distribution etc all are roughly the same on a bottle of wine that costs £4.99 as one that costs £9.99,  before you even take into account the cost of the actual wine. So it makes sense to spend that bit extra and you get more actual wine for your money!

But Drink Interesting is even more key to the idea behind DLDBDI . In the UK, we are so fortunate with wines from around the world so easily available. So why not put aside your default grape variety or wine country – and look out for wines from countries that you do not normally consider. Why not try Morocco, Slovenia or Moldova? But also in the classic countries, look out for different grape varieties, try Lagrein from Sud Tyrol, Encruzado from Portugal or Nero D’Avola from Puglia.

Or perhaps try out a new style of wine. January is the perfect month with its depressing grey drizzly days to (re)- discover the delights of Sherry and Madeira. Not wines on everyone’s radar, which is such a shame as they are great value for the time devoted to producing them.  There is a sherry for every occasion from bone dry Fino through to delicious sticky PX (perfect simple dessert when poured over Vanilla ice cream!) and who could fail to enjoy a warming glass of Madeira after a hard day in front of a computer  – perhaps a Bual with all its notes of marmalade and hazelnuts with a handful of almonds to hand (well they are a so called superfood!).

Or simply, change your wine buying habits! So often wine simply becomes just another thing on the shopping list at the supermarket (not always a bad thing – M&S currently have some very interesting wines) – but there is a plethora of Independent Wine Merchants in the UK who stock wines from lesser known regions, smaller producers and have the staff to make your choice an informed one – and often will have something open to taste as well! So search out your local Indie Wine Merchant and be daring in your choices – Drink Interesting! I’ll be posting some ideas for you on twitter throughout the month – And when you find something that really tickles your taste buds, do share it with me on twitter under the hashtag #DLDBDI

Dry January – No Thanks! Drink Less – Drink Better – Drink Interesting!