Well, as I can’t write about wine this month …
I have to apologise to regular readers of my column, but as I am (at the time of writing) a quarter of the way through my first ever dry January, I really cannot bring myself to write about anything to do with wine – just the thought of it makes me very sad.
I told the editor that I would write a few food columns this month, but ahead of that, I would like to share with you and anyone else who is staying on the wagon for however long what I have so far found best to drink with food.
As for alcohol-free wines, apart from the one sparkling wine that I wrote about last week (Wild Idol), I have never found another that I could even consider drinking with food, or at all for that matter.
But one of the first things that came to mind for me was that, whenever having lunch at a proper Chinese restaurant (of which there are sadly none here in the Algarve), I have always drunk green tea.
Any tea contains tannins and I have always found when sipping my Jasmin tea in a Chinese restaurant that I do not miss wine, so this month I am experimenting with various different teas at dinner time, without milk and sugar of course.
The closest thing I have found to drinking wine with dinner, however, is humble cranberry juice, especially the variety without added sugar. Poured into a wine glass, the colour even comes close to that of a light red or a dark rosé, and the fruity nose and tannic tartness of the juice in the mouth goes very well, in my view, with all sorts of food.
As for alcohol-free beers, well, I have never been much of a beer drinker anyway, but when in a restaurant here in Portugal, where it is impossible to get my cranberry juice, or for that matter a decent green tea in most places, an alcohol-free beer is a lot more interesting than a glass of water.
Most of them have a rather unpleasant taste, but one I have found that I like is the German Warsteiner Pilsener Alcohol-Free, even if it does cost almost as much as a cheap bottle of wine. Poured into a glass, it has a nice frothy head and I find it quite palatable.
My dry January is, in fact, as much about shedding some kilos as it is about giving my poor liver a rest, so it is good to know that most alcohol-free beers contain less than half the calories of normal beer. My cranberry juice is also very low in calories and my green tea is totally guilt free.
Happy January everyone!