Not-so-dry January: pairing wine and healthy food

January – synonymous with detoxing and sobriety. Christmas is a time for indulging in great food and wine, with higher alcohol consumption an inevitable byproduct of the seasonal festivities. Whilst many people choose to go dry in January, for many health-related or lifestyle reasons, there are benefits to be had from drinking wine – not least to make the detoxing more bearable!

January wine

In fact, wine does possess some health benefits (in moderation, of course). All wine, especially red wine, is rich in antioxidants. Grape varieties such as Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel have been found to have notably high concentrations, perhaps these are the wines of choice! Compounds such as polyphenols and anthocyanins are found in the skins of the grape that diffuse into the wine during fermentation. Grapes are also known for their particularly high concentrations of tataric and malic acids, which when taken with food aid digestion. It has even been argued that alcohol, in small amounts, has a positive impact on cardiovascular health.

Just as it seems too good to be true, wine is well known for its high calorie content. But if you really want to scrape the barrel, with quality wine production any residual sugar is sourced naturally from the grapes, whilst drier styles of wine have very low levels in the finished product – all thanks to the fermentation process.

January detox

Science lesson over, we can all agree that wine is good for the soul. On those dark, cold January evenings, we seek joy and comfort in pouring and savouring a heart warming glass of vino. So whilst we try to put the excesses of Christmas behind us, we suggest a slight compromise. As well as the psychological, physical and somewhat dubious benefits of drinking wine, its versatility with food can be used to one’s advantage. As we try to seek out healthier dietary options, more often than not there will be a wine to match. Healthy food can also be delicious, versatile and enjoyable, so why not make it easier for ourselves?

Below is a non-definitive list of healthy food options and wines to match; get creative and sample many different wines to boot – we could get used to this!

  • Avocado Salad: The health benefits of Avocado are numerous, plus it is a highly versatile ingredient that can be included in a number of recipes. A salad allows you to add other ingredients as you please, perhaps with some romaine lettuce, tomatoes and a simple lemon dressing. The obvious wine of choice would be the Percheron Chenin Blanc Viognier, a excellent everyday drinking South African white that will make a delicious partner – superb value for money.
  • Fish: Another healthy food source that provides so many options. Seafood is well known for its health benefits, such as providing key sources of omega 3 and vitamin D – something that might be lacking in the winter months. Fish that is simply prepared, perhaps wrapped in foil to be steamed or oven baked, provide hassle free, low calorie meals fit for any day of the week. We are thinking of a dry white, something crisp, refreshing, with a touch of zest; our recent French editions from Domaine de l’Herré and Domaine de l’Hortus would make ideal partners.
  • Piedmontese peppers: Simple, low calorie and delicious – what more could you want!? This delicious recipe would make an excellent light meal – and as for the wine we would stick with the Italian theme, made for our fuller bodied Cà dei Frati rosé.
  • Pasta in rich tomato sauce: another tasty yet simple recipe borrowed from the Italians, this will provide a wholesome meal in its own right (for a small treat, add a few Parmigiano shavings). This calls for an equally hearty Italian red – particularly Sicilian delights Il Passo from Vigneti Zabù or Nero d’Avola la Ferla. Add a generous helping to the tomato sauce, do burn off the alcohol (this is one way to have a dry January!).
  • Tagine: For further comfort and wholesome cooking, this delicious Moroccan recipes will work wonders. If you’re looking for healthier alternatives to meat, perhaps add some chickpeas as a source of protein as well other essential nutrients. A vegetable based tagine would work very well with our La Vendimia Rioja, from revered producer Alvaro Palacios.
  • Curry: This winter warmer is also highly nutritious and can be made healthier with a vegetable or fish base. The trick with curry is to not go overboard on the spice, as it will completely overwhelm the wine. Otherwise, this will go well with one of our Platter 5 Star Wines for a real treat, particularly the Botanica Semillon, the Beaumont ‘Hope Marguerite’ Chenin Blanc or The Foundry Viognier, fuller bodied styles that will handle the spice. Rolly Gassmann’s fabulous Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris would also work a treat, as would the Adobe Carmenère from Chile if you are looking for a red (more affordable) alternative.

January healthy food

Low Alcohol Wines 

As much as we try, if you are trying to cut down on alcohol wine presents something of a stumbling block. This is made more tricky by the increased presence of high alcohol wines on the market, particularly from the New World where abv can reach 16% (look out for Californian Zinfandel or Australian Shiraz), not to mention fortified wines and Amarone.

However, we do have a few low alcohol options, particularly Moscato wine – both a classic Piedmont Moscato d’Asti and an excellent Aussie version from Innocent Bystander. Both would make a lovely aperitif, or pair with an assorted fruit salad (probably shouldn’t mention that it goes well with cake too!). We also have a fabulous German Riesling from the esteemed von Hövel estate, which at 8% abv allows more flexibility with food. Asian cuisine comes to mind, particularly Thai or Malaysian dishes – try healthier recipes that include vegetables or fish, this is what this wine is made for!

Vegan and Vegetarian Wines

It may be a New Year’s resolution to go meat-free or avoid animal products all together. However, you may be surprised to know that this will also put many wines off limits due to the additives used in the production process. Alas, all hope is not lost, with many producers focusing on creating vegetarian and vegan friendly wines. WineTrust has a dedicated Vegan and Vegetarian selection to put your mind at ease. With nearly 70 wines to choose from, you could even be spoilt for choice.

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