Everyday during the New Year holiday I ran and exercised. But Monkey Year celebrations were not kind to my waistline. Like many readers I ate and drank to excess during the holiday (wines, holiday dishes, chocolate and other sweets were all part of my celebrations) and now I must pay the price and find a way to lose weight and detox. The good news is that this goal can be achieved while still enjoying wine. The key is picking the right wines.
If you respect your taste buds I suggest avoiding specially produced diet wines. They’re awful. Instead you can pick quality wines from cooler climates that are naturally lower in calories. Alcohol and sugar in wines means more calories so a dry wine with lower alcohol has fewer calories. Simply put, when watching your calories avoid high alcohol and sweet wines of any kind. In general, white wines tend to be lower in calories than red wines.
Its also important to understand that its not only what’s in your glass that counts, its also important to pick wine styles that inspire you to eat light and healthy. In other words, big red wines that pair beautifully with whopping slabs of fatty red meats are not the best options. Think light and white.
In addition to picking the appropriate white wine, there are also some clever tricks that will limit your caloric intake. A super sized glass of water before drinking your first glass of wine will quench your thirst so you’re drinking for flavor and not to hydrate. Another option is to make your first glass a wine spritzer thereby eliminating half the calories while quenching your thirst. When its time to savor your wine inviolate, lower alcohol, cool climate whites are the way to go. Some of the best examples come from northern and central Italy.
Nestled on the step hills of the Italian Alps is the wine region of Alto Adige. The northern most wine region in Italy features steep hillside vineyards that slope down to the Adige River and its tributaries. The combination of sloping vineyards with excellent exposure to the sun and a climate featuring sunny days and cool evenings results in some of the world’s most fresh and fragrant white wines. Better yet, they are relatively low in calories.
Three particularly aromatic and tasty styles of wines from this region are Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer. Pinot Grigio is the most approachable and popular. Good Alto Adige Pinot Grigios offer an abundance of ripe fruit scents and flavors, good weighty mouthfeel and restrained acidity. Their graceful and friendly characters have made them some of the most popular white wines globally. The Sauvignon Blanc wines of this region are equally aromatic but feature greater acidity and complexity. Gewurztraminer wines from Alto Adige offer an abundance of exotic floral and spice sensations often with a pleasant slightly oily texture.
The good fruity and fresh nature of Alto Adige whites makes them very good companions to healthy, low calorie foods. From garden fresh salads, steamed and sautéed fish to healthy nut and seed snacks — there’s always a white wine from Alto Adige that will augment your healthy lifestyle.
Many of the best wineries in Alto Adige are small to medium in size and family-owned. Two of my favorite producers are Alois Lageder and Elena Walch. Alois Lageder has been making wines since 1823 and is a fifth-generation, family-owned winery with a range of beautifully made white and red wines. Elena Walch married into a family who owned two of the region’s most acclaimed estates and has worked tirelessly to make them even better. Her wines are consistently good and feature a range of personalities.
Another top Alto Adige producer with wines in Shanghai is St Michael Eppan.
Another relatively low calorie Italian white wine style is Orvieto from Umbria in central Italy. Orvieto is a charming wine made using the Trebbiano, Grechetto, Drupeggio and other Italian white grapes that are cultivated on the hills surrounding the hilltop village of Orvieto and adjacent towns. Though sweet, semi-sweet and even red Orvieto wines can be found, the most prevalent and famous wine from this area is a light to medium body, dry white wine. Orvieto whites are typically low in alcohol and feature a straw-yellow color with enticing fruity and floral aromas and crisp peachy flavors. While not considered a serious or great wine, a good Orvieto white wine is quite a pleasing and food-friendly wine.
Like the whites of Alto Adige, Orvieto wines pair nicely with healthy foods that are part of your detox regime. In Shanghai, I suggest choosing an Orvieto Classico instead of a standard Orvieto. The classico wines come from the most select vineyards near the town of Orvieto and tend to have more concentration and structure. This is important because the basic Orvieto, while charming when enjoyed in Umbria, does not travel as well as the weightier classico versions. All Orvieto wines should be consumed young while their aromas and fruity flavors are still fresh.
Several well-known Tuscan producers make Orvieto Classico wines from their own or cooperating vineyards in Umbria. These producers include Ruffino, Antinori and Carpineto and their wines are easy to find in Shanghai. Harder to find, but worth the search, are Orvieto Classico wines from small Umbrian producers like Barberiani and Conte Vaselli.
Other whites that are relatively low in calories are Albarinos from Rias Byass in Northwest Spain, Muscadet from the Loire Valley in France, Riesling Kabinett from Germany and pas dosage Champagne and other “zero dosage” sparklers with no sugar added. All these charming whites mean your post holiday detox campaign doesn’t have to be painful and tasteless.