Food & drink: I'll drink to that

My Round: Retox, detox, botox...Forget fads and fashions and learn to live a little with some surprisingly good low-alcohol options
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The Independent Culture
What is the world coming to? By this time in the calendar year I should have had a dozen press releases extolling the virtues of one detox regime or another. Instead, the daily post contains barely a mention of the D word. My modest requirements for faddist amusement go unsatisfied, and it irks me no end. But in their place comes a different kind of release, on behalf of the excellent Appleton Estate rums, this one proposing something quite different - and I liked what I saw.

"Jump off the bandwagon by staying clear of the endless stream of fad diets..." This is the message. "Experts recommend a sensible overall diet rather than a strict regime 100 per cent of the time", and their recommendation offers latitude for such "indulgences" as a Watermelon Martini: watermelon crushed and shaken with rum and simple syrup, then strained. Woo hoo! My kind of healthy drinking regime.

The folks at Appleton go on to quote "nutrition consultant" Ian Marber, who proposes an 80-20 rule for overall well-being. "Stick to a healthy eating plan for 80 per cent of your day," he says, "and save the remaining 20 per cent to treat yourself when you are out to dinner or at a party." The principle appeals even if the details look hazy. Are the percentages measured in nutritional intake, or in minutes? If it's measured in minutes, you could spend your healthy 80 per cent eating fresh fruit and the remaining 20 per cent chugging WKD and inhaling Mars bars. I'm also intrigued by the concept of quota-trading over the course of the week. If you pack your 80 percenting into five days, can you treat your body like a sewer from Friday through Sunday?

Answers to these vital questions are probably hard to come by, so I would like to suggest my own solution to the detox/retox problem: low-alcohol wine. By which I do not mean artificially reduced alcohol, but wines in which the levels are lower by nature. Low alcohol in wine can happen, broadly speaking, for two reasons: the grapes are picked while they still have a relatively low sugar level, or the fermentation stops before all the sugar has been digested by those hungry yeast cells.

The two most famous examples are the wines of Germany, especially the Mosel valley, which sometimes register as low as 6 per cent, and champagne, the grapes for which are rarely harvested at over 10.5 per cent potential alcohol. If you're minded to do a little retoxing, champagne is a fine thing. But I'm minded to use the retox campaign as yet another plea for advocating the cause of German wines, which are still insufficiently valued in this country. Two good low-priced specimens are highlighted below, one an entry-level Riesling and the other something of an oddity from a distinguished producer.

The third wine comes from another undervalued category, the sparkling wines of the Veneto. Prosecco can be one of the world's most painful wines, so searingly acidic that it makes you shudder. But a good example is a thing of low-alcohol beauty, just 11 per cent or so yet chock-full of flavours that I can best sum by comparing them to sherbet. This one comes from Bisol, one of Prosecco's great names. Its top-of-the-range Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Cartizze tips the scales at a much higher price (pounds 17.10) and is worth every penny, but I like this one for its simplicity and easy-going price. And if you're shopping chez Bibendum, check out its rewarding February sale. Lots of good Burgundy among other attractions. I can't promise detox, retox, botox or any other kind of tox. But I can promise serious drinking pleasure - the most important tox of all.

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