Low & No for a more palatable ‘dry’ January!

Low & No for a more palatable 'dry' January!

REINFORCING earlier trends, the pandemic has made us rethink our relationships with many things, including booze. Assisted by improved technology, the embryonic alcohol-free beverage category is on the up. Dominated by beer, cider and (increasingly) spirits, sales of no and low-alcohol (NoLo) drinks have increased substantially of late and are estimated, according to a recent report by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, to rise by over thirty percent by 2024.

So, whether you’re forever a teetotaller or just easing off on alcohol, here is a delectable selection of some of my favourite resolution-friendly, lower-alcohol (and lower calorie) tipples out there. As you will find out, abstemiousness doesn’t mean skimping on taste since these bottles are low in alcohol but big on flavour. Cheers!

1) Citrusy, unfiltered, Helles-style, 0.5% abv vegan lager brewed in Bavaria

Lucky Saint Unfiltered Alcohol-Free Lager, Bavaria, Germany (Tesco Clubcard £1, £1.50 offer at Sainsbury’s, 330ml)

Beer minus the hangover? Lager devotees read on. NoLo beers can range from 0.0–0.5% abv, but that 0.5% abv is so trivial that your body can metabolise it with no ill effects – you get the same level of alcohol in kombucha, some breads, a glass of OJ, or even an over-ripe banana. Crisp, thirst-quenching, citrusy, moderately malty, slightly hazy and vegan (it’s unfiltered), this is a truly stonking lager that’s one of the very best lip-smackingly great beers on the bustling NoLo market today. One for lunch or to refresh after a strenuous jog. Get a Tesco ClubCard and grab a top bargain (just £1). Be sure to give it a really good chill. You won’t miss the alcohol! Alc 0.5%.

Beer fans should also try the deliciously different range of tasty lower-alcohol (0.5% abv) craft beers from Big Drop and Lowtide that are available at Fuggles Bottle Shop (the foremost beer retailer in Tunbridge Wells), Dry Drinker and elsewhere.

2) 5% abv spritzy pink Garnacha from Spain – one for those with a sweeter tooth

Hacienda de Lluna Moscatel Rosado 2020, Valencia, Spain (Laithwaites, £4.29-£5.29)

Nab this thirst-quenching floral and grapey 5% abv Valencian Moscatel Rosado and brighten up dull January midweek mealtimes. It’s a darling with everyone from customers to Laithwaites’ Fine Wine team and is superb served well chilled with red berry desserts. Fermentation is stopped early to ensure a low-alcohol content while preserving plenty of natural sweetness and fruity flavours, all kept fresh with a bit of fizziness. Toothsome and medium sweet, this semi-sparkling rosado is sunshine in a brumal glass. Alc 5%.

3) Tangy, easy-sipping half bottle of Loire red wine

Chinon ‘Les Granges’ Domaine Bernard Baudry 2019, Loire, France (Lea & Sandeman, £7.95-£8.95, 37.5cl)

One strategy to drink less – but imbibe better – is to buy wine in tinier vessels. The half-bottle format is a great option and this 13% abv French red is a top-notch choice: a crunchy, fresh and forward-drinking Cabernet Franc from the Loire. Think redcurrants, pencil lead and summer pudding. Lightly chill and drink a small glass solo or with some fine dishes. Best matches are tuna and peas with new potatoes, gammon, pigeon served pink, simply braised rabbit or a fillet of beef cooked with bay leaves or rosemary.

You’ll get two decent glassfuls each if you share a half (37.5cl) bottle of this wine but perhaps also invest in a well-designed little apparatus called SAYV (£4.95 at Slurp.co.uk) that sprigs a cover of argon gas over the wine to keep it crisp. It’s a very helpful, inexpensive – and effective – wine preserver. Bon appétit! Alc 13%.

4) Must-try palate-tingling, featherweight, naturally lower-in-alcohol, vegan-friendly white wine from New Zealand

Forrest Wines, The Doctors’ Riesling 2019, Marlborough, New Zealand (New Zealand House of WineFrontier Fine Wines Gerrard Seel, £10.99-£14.25)

Top of my January list for lower alcohol white wines is Riesling. A paragon of winemaking excellence, Forrest Wines use special techniques and first-rate parcels of fruit to make The Doctors’ range of lower alcohol wines. Dr. John Forrest and Beth, his winemaker daughter, reckon that there are around fourteen subtle corrections that can be made to realise a loss in total alcohol of around 4 -5% without compromising the flavour, mouthfeel or structure of the wines i.e., the wine’s viscosity. And it all starts in the vineyards.

He and his wife pioneered the Selective Leaf Removal (SLR) trellising and canopy management system in their Marlborough vineyards to produce wines that are naturally low in alcohol yet still chock-full of flavour. SLR helps to reduce the average height of the trellis by about a foot and decreases the number of leaves on the vine in the upper portion of the canopy (which in turn reduces the sugar in the grapes), exposing the older and less active leaves that then become the major producers of the vine: “They’re not the ones pumping out the sugar,” he illuminates, “but they continue to do a good job to help lower the acid and create the flavour that we need in the grapes.”

Taking its cue from the light-but-racy Kabinett Rieslings of Germany’s Mosel, this is an eminently drinkable glance of lower-alcohol wine’s bright future in the southern hemisphere. With lively acidity, this zesty beauty tastes just off-dry and positively sings of tangy limes, peaches, orange zest and Granny Smith apples. Great with lobster, scallops or a spicy prawn stir-fry. Uppermost quality stuff at a non-mouth-watering price, this has lots going on for a wine of just 9% abv. Also try the tropical fruit-stashed The Doctors’ Sauvignon Blanc at 9.5% abv (£8.99-£9.99; MajesticTesco & Waitrose).

Not only is The Doctors’ lighter on the alcohol, but it’s also lighter on the environment and vegan-friendly too. With Dr. John leading the charge on the creation in 1995 of the Sustainable Winegrowing NZ initiative, all Forrest Wines are produced in a certified sustainable way. I’ll drink (in moderation) to that! Alc 9%.

More information at alcoholchange.org.uk

Follow James on Twitter @QuixoticWine

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