A tale of two tipples: Richard Esling February 16

No alcohol or some alcohol? That is the question.

Monday, 15th February 2021, 2:53 pm
Vilarnau Brut SUS-210215-134929001

There are so many theories concerning the benefits or harm to the body caused by consumption of alcohol, that it is easy to get confused. Medics, scientists, researchers, Governments, all are keen to have their say on the matter. How many units is safe to drink regularly? How often? For how long? Is there really a difference between men and women? The internet, of course, plays a huge part in this information overload, coupled with the fact that most of the time, we want to see things as we want them.

In my mind, there is no doubt about two points concerned with alcohol intake. Excess is definitely detrimental, but so also is total abstinence, unless it be for defined medical reasons or religion. The benefit of a controlled and reasonable level of drinking alcohol has been very evident during the pandemic, even to the point of off-licenses being designated as ‘essential’ shops. In order to get us through the tough times of multiple lockdowns, we have all needed a little light relief in terms of some enjoyment.

A firm believer in this theory is Dr David Khayat, a leading French oncologist, who has just published a book entitled ‘Arrêtez de Vous Priver’ – Stop Depriving Yourselves. The basic tenet of his advice is promoting the message that people should have a “few small excesses, without feeling guilty”, in other words a ‘little of what you fancy does you no harm’. According to Khayat, small indulgences are essential for relaxation and self-esteem. His fascinating book is a combination of medical and psychological theory, arguing that constant denial is harmful to the mind and psychological well-being, whilst making little difference to the body.

With the publication of Khayat’s book urging people to enjoy life’s pleasures, from sex to wine, naturally it has caused quite a stir in many media circles, first reported on RTL, the French commercial radio network. A former chairman of France’s National Cancer Institute, David Khayat’s words should not be taken lightly and the top French newspaper ‘Le Figaro’ has praised his “positive and liberating message”.

Whether or not you ‘buy in’ to the message of a little indulgence in food, sex and wine, I am going to hedge my bets here – at least on the wine front! Vilarnau, a top producer of sparkling Cava from near Barcelona in Spain, has recently released a non-alcoholic version. Vilarnau Brut Reserva is a first-class sparkling wine made by the traditional method, with a fabulous presentation and coming out at a standard 11.5 per cent alcohol. Delicious, fine bubbles with apple and pear flavours and aromas.

And now there is Vilarnau 0% alcohol. Organic, vegan friendly, low-calorie, alcohol free, nauseatingly correct at every level! But fabulous, for all that. Forget anything you ever thought about non-alcoholic wines, this one changes everything. Fine persistent bubbles, dry, aromatic and flavoursome, with a similarly excellent presentation as the alcoholic version. Aromas of fresh white peaches and fresh lychees and a crisp, refreshing palate. The best alcohol-free wine I have ever tasted, this really raises the bar. Brut Reserva available from Tesco and Ocado at £12. The non-alcoholic version is £6.99 on Amazon.

So there is the choice. To be, or not to be? And if its ‘not to be’ because you are driving, working or just being careful, there is now a real ‘grown-up’ sparkler free of alcohol.