“Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep well, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved” – Medieval German Saying.

If you’re anything like me, these weird alcohol-free January fads are to be avoided like the plague – so let’s raise a glass to a guilt-free month and kick it off with a look at something clean and refreshing to wash the season of excess away.

My cleansing wine of choice is always an Italian white. A couple of decades ago I wouldn’t even have given most of these space in my glass as so many of them were thin, bland and somehow all too similar – but boy have things changed. The Soaves have that classic hint of zingy apple, the Pinot Grigios are crisp, fruity and refreshing and they are producing some of the toastiest Chardonnays normal wallets can buy.

There’s been a really determined effort in recent years to raise quality levels across the board, and while there’s still plenty of dross for tourists to enjoy in the many sunny piazzas, it’s far easier now to find real quality. In fact, truth be told, Italy is fast becoming my country of choice for excellent fruity whites from the north to the south, with particular credit of late to Sicily. The latter is probably still best known for its sweeter styles but there’s been a steady trend towards tropical-fruity, refreshing, dry wines of late and they are cracking partners for antipasto or chilled to the bone to partner a barbie in the summer.

As with Germany however, Italian wines have often suffered on UK shelves because shoppers often find the grapes and regions confusing, but in truth that’s down to us, not them. My suggestion is to start with some of the widely recognised names or your holiday favourites but remember to trade up in price because while you may have had a decent Pinot Grigio on holiday for under a fiver, you need to be aiming three or four quid higher in the UK due to taxes and retailers’ margins. Fruity, refreshing wines aside, however, Italy is producing some extraordinary buttery Chardonnays as well as some really complex tastebud-popping wines such as Christian Tombacco’s Origine Bianco that takes four years to produce and is aged in chestnut casks. Viva Italia!


  • Tombacco Origine Bianco: One of the most complex whites I’ve ever tasted, with everything from apricots to vanilla and hints of cedarwood on the finish. Definitely one for wine lovers to cross off the bucket list but it ain’t for Pinot Grigio fans. Richardson’s of Whitehaven, £29.95
  • Pavia Pinot Grigio: An aromatic wine with crisp refreshing fruits and hints of apple blossom. Perfect with fish or roast chicken. Marks & Spencer, £10.