Jan. 4 2017 12:32 AM

Looking for wines to help you keep your new year’s resolutions

Gyms all over Greater Lansing are packed right now.

If you’re the new year’s resolution type, do your best to assimilate to gym protocol, and be aware that your presence is throwing off the habits of others who are very important in keeping your gym afloat.

And if you’re one of the regulars, have a little empathy. Find it in your heart to be cool with the onslaught of new gym members who strive to be like you — at least for the next month or so.

Empathy in 2017 is so hot. And while new year’s resolutions aren’t exactly a new trend, it helps to have focus, or defined variables that can lead you to your promised land. So let’s take a look at some wines that can help you stick to your goals.

Celebrate the new year with a bottle of A. Margaine’s Premier Cru Le Brut, one of Justin King’s favorite Champagnes from 2016.
Justin King/City Pulse

For anyone counting calories in 2017, good news: You don’t need to give up on wine. But you may need to make some changes in your wine shelf. Calories in wine primarily come from alcohol and sugar, in that order.

The best wines for waist-watchers are low-alcohol wines that are not too sweet.Cooler climates tend to produce lower alcohol wine, because the lower temperatures mean that the grapes don’t ripen as much through the season, thus there are not as many sugars in the grapes when they are picked at harvest. This means that there are less sugars to convert to alcohol in fermentation.

German rieslings are great example of this. Contrary to popular belief, not all riesling is sweet. But if Deutschland’s favorite aromatic grape isn’t your thing, check out chardonnay from Chablis.

Chablis is a small region in France, about a two-hour drive southeast of Paris. Almost every important wine made there is made from chardonnay grapes.

Chablis is totally different from the butter bombs of California (unless you’re drinking Grand Cru Chablis, the top-level stuff that has insane elegance stuffed into a higher alcohol and more heavily oaked style). Stick with the everyday value Chablis, like William Fèvre’s 2014 Chablis for about $16. It’s a wine defined by graceful, tart apricot and green apple flavors against some lip-smacking minerality. It’s a tried-and-true wine pairing for any shellfish lover.

For those who made the new year’s resolution to spend less but don’t want to lose access to killer wines packed with flavor, there are myriad options for you. There are oceans of inexpensive Spanish wine on the market right now, driven by the workhorse garnacha tinta grape, aka grenache in France.

The average $15 garnacha is not a graceful wine, but it’s not meant to be. Most Spanish garnacha comes from the northern part of the country, and it exudes pepper and licorice spice notes, herbal tobacco-like flavors and ripe cherries, strawberries, and raspberries.

Bodegas Borsao’s 2013 Tres Picos garnacha is probably the most widely available garnacha in the Michigan marketplace that provides full-flavored wine for a low price. It’s a failsafe crowdpleasing bottle for sloppy nights of pizza and burgers. And it shouldn’t cost more than $17.

Another popular new year’s resolution is to stop smoking. Wait — what does this have to do with wine?

It’s undeniable how directly responsible Big Tobacco has been in the declining health of millions of Americans, and Philip Morris played a big part in this global ruse. When you’re in the news because your products kill people, you diversify and change your name.

Philip Morris USA was renamed Altria in 2003, and Altria sells wine. A lot of it. Altria’s wine holdings are all under the umbrella of Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

If you’re not keen on supporting Big Tobacco shareholders and executives, don’t buy these brands: Chateau Ste. Michelle, 14 Hands, Erath, Columbia Crest, Villa Maria and oh, about 30 others.

I understand the dilemma. Many Altria-owned estates make delicious wines are on the forefront of modernizations and efficiencies that benefit the wine industry. Columbia Crest has long been a dependable winery, making stellar product at a great price. But if you have a bone to pick with the tobacco industry, this is what not to drink.

Personally, I have two big resolutions for 2017: Hit the gym and pop more Champagne bottles.

A. Margaine’s Premier Cru Le Brut is delicious and worth the extra cash. Mostly chardonnay with a sliver of pinot noir, this is pure Champagne elegance. Le Brut is layered in expressive nectarine, pear, honey and a hint-of-saline minerality. For about $55, it’s an item for a special night, perhaps. But out of more than 60 sparkling wines I tried in 2016, this was my favorite for the money.

Justin King is a certified sommelier and owner of Bridge Street Social, a wine and cocktails-focused restaurant in DeWitt, where Champagne is poured every day the doors are open.

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