Who came up with the idea of New Year Resolutions? Undoubtedly a puritanical killjoy. As January begins I'm doing try January, not dry January. The festivities of Christmas are a distant memory, pay day is weeks away, and the worst of winter lies ahead.
Will eating less, abstaining from alcohol, and dragging our bodies into the early morning darkness to exercise really elevate our mood?
Good food, good wine and good company, in my humble opinion, are the foundation upon which a healthy mind and a healthy body are built. If I were to make resolutions (I don’t), then I would resolve to: “eat and drink better”.
Try January is an opportunity to cook with unfamiliar ingredients, to drink wines from unusual grapes and to seek out wines from unexpected places. Visiting farm shops, local butchers and cellar doors often brings me face to face with the farmers and winemakers, interactions which heighten the sense of adventure and enjoyment.
Imbued with this pioneering spirit I have selected three wines which I think are well worth seeking out to start your try January adventure...
First up is Huxbear Orange Bear 2021. Orange wines (sometimes called skin-contact wines) are created using white grapes with their skins on. While the crushed grapes are fermenting they take on a more tannic quality from their skins and pips, and have a deeper colour. These qualities make them great food wines.
Orange Bear is made by Ben and Lucy Hulland on their six hectare vineyard in Chudleigh, south Devon. For the past few vintages the couple have been trialing different grape varieties for their orange wine; 2021 is 100% Chardonnay. It has notes of stone fruits and nectarines, a full mouthfeel, and just a tickle of tannin. It will pair well with salty foods, and I paired it with a risotto of locally foraged mushrooms (not personally foraged, bought from a suitably mycophilic looking chap at Totnes market).
Huxbear Orange Bear 2021, Devon
Orange wine has seen a boost in popularity over the past few years. While there isn’t a huge number of English winemakers trying their hand...… read more
My second pairing starts with a shoulder of lamb. I am lucky to live close to a farm shop where the butchers use only local meat. They adopt a nose to tail approach and use every part of the animal with little to no waste.
I cook it low and slow, which requires opening an equally languorous wine.
Alo Jais Noir Carignan 2022 was harvested from bush vines growing in the far south of France – the bit that thinks itself Catalan first and French second. These gnarly old vines were abandoned until winemaker Guillaume Letang chanced upon them. Their age and elevation make the vines naturally low yielding. In turn this makes the wine concentrated, intense and complex. There is dark, rich fruit, delicate tannin, and a smooth mouthfeel. Ideal with my choice of lamb, or equally happy with a lentil and bean stew. In Guillaume's own words, "a must taste wine".
Alo Jais Noir Carignan 2022, Roussillon
Big, bold and concentrated Carignan Noir that leaves a big, bold impression. Winemaker Guillaume Letang went on a voyage to vineyards unknown to source these...… read more
Finally, my favourite pairing.
Most people will be familiar with Picpoul de Pinet, a zingy, fresh white wine from the Languedoc. A new style of Picpoul, labelled “Patience”, has recently been created.
Florensac Picpoul de Pinet Selection "Patience" 2021 retains Picpoul's classic citrus and sea salt DNA, but with added depth thanks to lees ageing. This richness demands something more gastronomic than the typical Picpoul and oyster combination; fresh white fish with beurre blanc would make an excellent partner.
A pair of fresh flounders caught my eye in a display at the local fishmongers. Inspired by Julia, the award-winning series starring Sarah Lancashire currently showing on Sky Atlantic, I transformed them into Mousselines de Poisson à la Maréchale to create an unforgettable food and wine pair.
Florensac Picpoul de Pinet Selection "Patience" 2021, Languedoc
Patience is a new, more gastronomic, style of Picpoul. It is something special for Picpoul lovers in search of the next level. In the glass...… read more
As February looms into sight, try January is ending with raised spirits and raised glasses – thankfully none of them dry.