The joys of January
Of all the months of the year, January has the best intentions. It reminds me of Eddie in Ab Fab, late for work, horribly hungover, coming down the stairs in oversized sunglasses to frumpy Saffy sitting at the kitchen table. “Health, health, health, darling!” she sings. But the illusion doesn't last for long.
For many, January is a month of resolutions to be better. That’s not a bad thing, as long as you don’t take it too seriously. For a few weeks we convince ourselves that, after the excesses of Christmas, we will atone by exercising and eating properly and striking all the postures of “wellness” that we have absorbed wordlessly from magazine covers and Tube ads. Sane, rational people succumb to nonsense such as detox teas, the bene t of which appears to be largely metaphysical, and sometimes mystical.
This month is a feeding frenzy for the more cynical members of the health industry, but wine merchants have a tougher time of it. Like last night’s great idea, the cold light of January breaks harshly on us. My smiles are wider, though, as I greet some of my customers on the way to work, since this time they’re wearing lycra and moving more quickly than usual. They smile back, we share the joke. The garnet depths of a mature glass of claret, so alluring in December, can’t compete with the plastic appeal of new running trainers come the new year.
At some level, we all know that drinking wine isn’t really an important part of a balanced diet, and it’s fun, so it’s always the rst thing to go on a masochistic health kick. Of course, I know there are studies that show that if you drink 1.4 glasses of Madiran a day then you’ll reduce your risk of heart disease by 3.7%, or something like that. If this is the wine sales pitch of the future then we might as well buy shares in Holland & Barrett. However much we might try, wine isn’t a health drink. It’s about pleasure.
Although January might be more attuned to self- agellation, poverty and penance than luxury, the message shouldn’t change. Wine is one of life’s small luxuries, a beautiful detail that elevates the whole composition. If January is a month of resolutions, then I’d like to propose three alternative New Year’s resolutions that might be a bit more tempting to keep, and just as edifying.
1. Extend your vocabulary. The words we use for wine get stale after a while. Elegant Sancerre, spicy Syrah, tannic this and mineral that. It’s all useful industry jargon, of course, but it helps to challenge ourselves to come up with fresh comparisons, new words and not to be afraid of being a bit adventurous. I liked hearing a colleague describe a Medoc recently as “pure Savile Row”. It beats blackcurrants and cedar.
2. Try some new food and wine matches. We get comfortable recommending white Burgundy with sh and Malbec with steak, but branching out can be to everyone’s bene t, reminding us that uncorking a bottle of wine isn’t a ritual, it’s a discovery.
3. Do more blind tastings. Of course they have their limitations as a way of assessing absolute quality, but they’re fun, everyone gets to drink, and they’re a great way to make new avour connections and level the playing eld a bit among wine lovers with di erent levels of experience.
Even if you don’t succeed with them all, it’s a lot more fun to try than another kale smoothie.
Jason Millar is retail director at independent wine merchant Theatre of Wine. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and found on Twitter @jasondmillar.