So we’ve now reached February, and for a good few of my friends who were brave – or crazy – enough to banish booze from their lives for the whole of January, there will be a huge sigh of relief as one by one they reach for the corkscrew to get on the outside of their first glass of wine in 31 days. Ahhh, the total unalloyed pleasure.
A few years back I took up the Dry January challenge, suggested by my sister Karen. Except we decided to make it February, on account of it being the shortest month, thus incurring the least amount of pain (and also in order not to interfere with New Year celebrations, which for Scots tend to go beyond the first of January). Karen casually mentioned it, like a dark threat. As in, do you, Ag, actually think you are capable of not drinking any alcohol for a whole month? To be candid, the fear of not being confident I could carry this through spurred me to take up the challenge.
And yes, to my relief, I did manage it, but I cannot say it was easy. Not AT ALL. I remember one dinner I attended, where a particularly fine pinot noir was being served. I was a hair’s breadth away from breaking my resolve, but by now I was in the final week so I gave myself a talking to, borrowed my neighbour’s charged glass and just made do with inhaling the fragrance. Deeply. I was surprised to find the experience oddly satisfying.
Last year I moved house and had to sign up to a different health centre where they do a full medical check on new patients. Everything seemed ticketyboo (thank the lord for daily yoga!), but then came the inevitable alcohol consumption question. I can never remember what the maximum recommendation is (funny, that) and after telling the young nurse my intake (deducting a glass here and there from the total), she proceeded to lecture me on needing to give my liver a rest two days a week. I replied to her, “Come on, you are how old? Twenty-five, and Irish, and you’re telling me you stick to the guidelines?” She giggled and moved on to the next question.
But she did get me thinking. It’s not that I drink loads; I just love to have wine with dinner, and I eat dinner every night. What I have been trying to do more, however, is to raise the standard. And this is where Wine Trust 100 comes in. I know that any bottle I open from WT100 will be the best value it can possibly be. I had a memorable bottle over Christmas: Argentinian Pulenta Gran Corte 2013; at £35 much more than my budget normally allows, but it really was special. Dark, intense, fruity, spicy, 14.5 per cent. Very grown up!
Another two bottles I loved were the Vina Ardanza 2008 (£24) – a fruity, ruby-red rioja that’s both complex and elegant – and Newton Johnson Chardonnay 2015 (£23), which is creamy, classy and citrusy with a vibrancy that’s exciting.
So that’s my new year’s resolution: quality rather than quantity!