WINE: Keeping New Year resolutions – how did I fare?

Just done my annual piece on vinous New Year resolutions for The Sunday Independent. I looked back at the corresponding article this time last year, to make sure there were no (or anyway, not too many) duplications. Here are the ones I made – with my notes on how well I managed to keep them.

1. Numero uno is the usual – “be nicer to my friends and more merciless to my enemies.”  I do this one every year. The rest are all drink inspired. Feel free to adopt all or any.

Didn’t quite manage this too well. As usual I’ve let some, well, a few, good friends down and worse, I’ve let a lot of total tossers off the hook. This year I’m going to declare war on anyone described in a press release as ‘celebrated’ or ‘renowned’ see how that goes!  Observance Rating 4/10

2. Drink more widely. There are some 5,000 grape varieties in the world. Many of us drink the same ones every week, equivalent of eating chicken every night and how exciting is that? So I’m going to devote more time to exploring the likes of Greece, Portugal, Hungary and other nations who are making sound but not, as yet, overly popular wines.

Done quite well on this one thanks to trips to all three of the above, plus Sicily. Came away with real respect for agiorgitiko, greco di tufo, fiano, touriga nacional, baga etc, etc. Observance Rating 8/10

3. Drink less but better. Stop knocking the top of a bottle of wine on a Monday night “because it’s there.” I’ll get as far through the week as I can without drinking and then treat myself to a really decent drop towards weekend.

Yeah right. Surprising how many crises occur on a ,Monday, necessitating the uncorking of a bottle  of wine. Observance Rating: 1/10

4. Rediscover beer. An evening spent recently at The Bull and Castle  with my buddy Channel 4’s “beer chef” Richard Fox made me recall just how good beer is and how varied once you’ve realised there’s a world beyond stout and fizzed-up draught lager. I reckon the flavour spectrum exceeds that of wine.

Spent a lot of time on beer this year, acquiring some new favourites. Made a conscious effort to go out and buy a dozen bottles every so often and work my way through them. Not really what you’d call ‘work’ is it? Observance Rating 8/10

5. Widen the sharing circle. I’ve always saved my very best bottles to share with folk I’m absolutely certain will appreciate every nuance. What elitist crap! This year I’m going to share these wines with more casual wine drinking friends.

Done pretty well on this one. Opened a few people’s eyes to the benefits of spending more on wine and got a lot of pleasure from doing so. Observance Rating 8/10

6. Kick  expensive bottled water into touch, especially in restaurants.

Yes! Haven’t bought a bottle of water all year except in London and Paris where the tap water is absolutely vile. Observance Rating  10/10

7. Avoid the temptation (and it’s considerable)  to shop over the border. Yes, wine here costs roughly twice as much as  in the UK, someone’s ripping us off for sure. But if it wasn’t for the existence of your local independent wine merchant you’d still be nipping out for a bottle of Pedrotti on a Friday night. These guys give good service, know their stuff and deserve our support.

Feel mega virtuous about this one, even though sorely tempted at times.  Will Brian Lenihan’s “sixty cent’s worth” really make a difference to folks’ attitudes? Observance Rating 10/10

8. Don’t drink and drive AT ALL. I made this resolution a couple of years ago but seem to have regressed. Somehow I’ve convinced myself a couple of glasses is okay. It’s not.

I’d be lying if I said I complied 100% with this one but I’ve done pretty well in 2009. Taxi spend has gone up. Room for improvement, though.  Observance Rating 10/10

9. Dining in a restaurant, consult the sommelier. That’s what they’re there for.

Found more restaurants this year that are concentrating on improving their wine offer. Most of the time you get respectable advice but now and again a sommelier lets you down, pushing a wine that proves disappointing (Presumably they are under instruction – the boss probably has shedloads of Ch.Obnoxious 2004  in the cellar and needs to get rid). Observance rating 6/10

10. Enhance my wine vocabulary. Keeping my tasting notes terse helps me avoid the clapped-out shibboleths many wine writers trot out. But looking back through last year’s I find I’m still overdoing the likes of “vibrant”, “unctuous” and other tosh. What we need, as Sam Goldwyn said, are “some new clichés”.

Thought I was doing all right until this week when I find I’ve used”nice” 3 times in one article! I plead pressure of work plus a bout of the Giant Hairy Mastodon Flu – the one that makes Swine Flu feel like a spot of mild sinusitis. Observance rating 5/10

COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASON