Talkin' About a Resolution

Richard Ehrlich's Beverage Report
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For The last few days, up and down the land, persons aged 18 and over have been making New Year's resolutions in the grisly wake of the holiday season. The aftermath of excess rarely provides ideal growing conditions for the green shoots of sensible thinking, but few can resist the temptation. I have a few resolutions of my own on the theme of imbibing, for what they're worth. Mostly to do with drinking more intelligently and adventurously:

ONE I will win the Lottery, then use my new riches to start buying much better wine. The fixed costs in a bottle of wine amount to something approaching the two-pound mark, and you pay that whatever the contents. This means that every extra quid you shell out goes straight onto the bottom line of quality. Even if I can't do it in Lottery-winning style, I will try to spend a bit more. After all, the children don't really need shoes.

TWO If I fail to get rich, I will toy with the idea of drinking less but spending the same amount on what I do drink. The economics are simple. Let's say, for instance, that you spend an average of pounds 5 per bottle and share one every evening with your partner in wine. That's pounds 35 a week. Okay, now resolve to drink alcohol four evenings a week instead of seven. Those pounds 35 will enable you to buy four bottles costing pounds 8.75. For that money you can get reasonable clarets, top-notch red Spaniards and Rhones, and some dazzling Australians and New Zealanders. Naturally, the more you spend now, the greater your buying power will be under the new regime.

THREE If offered something at a party that I wouldn't drink at home, I will refuse it. Actor Bruce Willis opined that everyone has a finite lifetime's capacity for alcohol, and that he had reached his very quickly. (He now sticks with water.) I have a way to go before I reach my limit, but I don't want to waste it drinking muck.

FOUR I'm going to broaden my beery horizons. Top of my To-Drink list will be the Millennium Ale from King & Barnes. Sold in the high street exclusively by Oddbins, in a limited edition of 6,000, a 64cl bottle will set you back the whopping great price of pounds 9.99. That's a lot for a bottle of beer, but they say it will keep for years - and it comes in a wooden box to give it the look of a collectable. Who cares? I'm going to drink mine.

FIVE I will try to develop a taste for Campari, two open bottles of which languish under the stairs.

SIX I won't fret when I fail resolution five.

SEVEN I will figure out a way of increasing my intake of Cognac, Armagnac and single malt without going broke or getting savage hangovers. Maybe I'll even spend pounds 25 for a year's membership of the Cognac & Whisky Club (01707 646987), which offers an extensive and mouth-watering selection. If I keep taking my Prozac, though, I may convince myself that I can afford its Delamain Tres Venerable, Grande Cham-pagne Cognac (pounds 110).

EIGHT I will deny myself the convenience of stocking up on drink from supermarkets and give a share of business to independents and specialised chains. Supermarkets are useful and often good, but we need the independents. Support your local wine merchant!

NINE I will finally come to grips with developments in Italian wine, about which I know far too little. Watch this space.

TEN At least once a month, I will buy one superior bottle for laying down. (Laying down = dumping with the carrier bags, empties, and Campari bottles under the stairs.) We're talking not about multiple-digit claret or Burgundy but about five-to-10 material, both in price and in keeping time. I won't notice I've spent extra money, and over a few years I'll amass a good selection of wines for special occasions. If you want to follow suit, consider this advice from Oddbins. In addition to the obvious tips like red Rhones and 1994 claret (plus 1995 when it comes in), it would lay down better quality Chileans and South Africans, red and white; white Australians, especially Semillons from producers like Peter Lehmann; New Zealand whites from Villa Maria; and better Californian Cabs and Zins. From Europe, Alsace and German whites, plus a few bottles from the French regions. None of these areas would normally be considered prime candidates for laying down. I am willing to experiment, however.

ELEVEN I will be less obnoxiously officious about administering the booze chez nous. My wife complains that she can't get a drink without consulting the cellar master (yours truly). If you're the cellar master where you live, and you recognise yourself in this description, lighten up a little. If you suffer from a CM, read this to them. !