#DryJanuary or #TryJanuary? You decide!

Whether you’re doing “Dry January” or “Try January”, drinks blogger Peter Ranscombe has some suggestions to hand.

THE first footers have left, the steak pies have been reduced to crumbs, and the Christmas decorations are looking a little sorry for themselves; it can all mean only one thing – it’s 1 January once again.

New Year’s Day often brings with it those post-Hogmanay headaches and hangovers and promises that “I’ll never drink again”.

It’s little wonder then that #DryJanuary has become such a popular post-Christmas detox, with health-conscious Scots opting to forego alcohol for 31 days and instead embrace fruit juices, soft drinks and other alcohol-free tipples.

While doctors continue to debate the merits or otherwise of alcohol-free months – especially if participants then binge-drink in subsequent weeks – there’s no harm in all of us taking a cold hard look at how much booze we consume.

Yet there’s another side to the coin too; this month has also become #TryJanuary, especially among independent wine merchants that encourage their customers to explore beyond their usual merlots or pinot grigios.

So, whether you’re taking part in #DryJanuary or #TryJanuary, here is a trio of recommendations to get you started…

NO ALOCHOL: Produced by Seabuckthorn Scotland Community Interest Company, a social enterprise founded by former international aid worker Kirstie Campbell in East Lothian, Buck Shot is made using sea buckthorn berries harvested from invasive plants along the coast. It’s got a creamy texture and a very distinctive savoury flavour, which really appeals to me. Even more impressive is the Buck Russian, which adds fresh ginger and a touch of sugar to the party to create a vibrant and refreshing soft drink. Yum. Look out for a further two products being launched later this year, which have been created in partnership with SAC Consulting, the commercial arm of Scotland’s rural college – a water-based pre-biotic kefir drink and a ginger beer. There’s a list of stockists at https://www.seabuckthornscotland.com/where-to-find-us

LOW ALCOHOL: Billed as “Scotland’s first alcohol-free brewer”, Jump Ship is the brainchild of Sonja Mitchell, who raised £15,000 of crowdfunding from more than 170 investors in just six days to launch her project. At just 0.5%, Mitchell likens the alcohol content of her Yardarm Lager to that of “a large ripe banana”. It’s brewed with Citra and Styrian Bobek hops and is gluten-free. It’s got gorgeous mandarin and lemon aromas on the nose, along with a yeastier note too. Lots of hoppy freshness on the palate – with loads of lemon and grapefruit notes – but also a touch of malted biscuit on the finish. It’s fresh and tangy, and a huge improvement on the mass-produced “zero alcohol” lagers from the big brewers. Very impressive stuff. Its recommended retail price is £1.99 for a 330ml can and there is a list of on- and off-trade stockists at https://www.jumpship.beer/shop

GO ALCOHOL: For anyone partaking in #TryJanuary then table wines from Portugal should be high up on your hit list. Europe’s western sentry is best known for its fortified wines, but production of regular vino is on the up, and the 2016 Quinta do Noval Petit Verdot (£34.95, Vintage Wine & Port) is a cracking illustration that not all the country’s output is low-price supermarket fodder. There’s a hint of raspberry layered into the blackcurrant and blackberry on the nose, with more red fruit notes poking through on the palate. It’s warming, it’s fresh with acidity and it’s packed with ripe and well-integrated tannins to sit alongside venison or steak. Plus, if you’re looking for other Portuguese suggestions, then check out the Quinta do Noval Extra Dry White Port from Villeneuve Wines in Edinburgh and Peebles or some of its red siblings from my visit to the Douro valley in 2018 – and relive me and my saltire boxer shorts treading the grapes.

Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s blog entries about whisky, wine and other drinks on The Grape & The Grain at https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/grapegrain/