I am writing this week’s column on Christmas Eve, with a glass of Norfolk fizz beside me (Chet Valley’s House of Hemmant Blanc de Noirs, to be precise).  

You will be reading it on December 27, still right in the middle of the festive celebrations; I hope that you too might be enjoying a glass of something as you digest this week’s foodie thoughts.

I’m certainly not going to be writing about Dry January, that joy-sapping initiative which is designed to shame those of us who like a tipple into foregoing our pleasure for a whole month.

For a start, medical research shows that there is little long-term benefit in doing this; you won’t live any longer, it will just feel like it.

Anyway, if I wanted to give up alcohol for a whole month, it would have to be February, which is the shortest month.  But not in a leap year, thank you very much.

Regular readers will know that wine is something of a passion for me.  I am with Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder, who wrote that ‘a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine’.

So two contradictory reports in the last week have rather put me in a quandary, wondering whether to raise a glass in celebration, or to drown my sorrows.  

Either way, I am going to need a corkscrew.

The bad news first: the International Organisation of Vine and Wine has reported that extreme weather events led to the lowest global wine production in 2023 since 1961.  

Output was down by a whopping seven per cent on the previous year, with countries in the southern hemisphere suffering the biggest drops in production – as much as 30 per cent in some places.  

Closer to home, Italy’s production fell by 12 per cent, and in Spain the drop was 14 per cent.

This dramatic decrease in the amount of wine being made is firmly blamed on extreme climatic conditions, with frosts, freak rainfall and drought each impacting to a potential global wine shortage.  

Even if we were to assume that nine out of 10 people in the world never touch the stuff, 2023’s total global production of 244.1 million hectolitres would leave the rest of us less than a bottle a week.  A crisis indeed.

This calamitous news is thankfully balanced by a second report based rather closer to home.

The same climate change cloud which is casting a shadow over global production is at least providing a silver lining for the UK’s burgeoning wine industry.  

According to industry body Wine GB, 2023 will see all records smashed for the production of wine in our country, with more than 20 million bottles produced – more than 50 per cent up on the previous record year, 2013.  

This bumper harvest is attributed to near perfect weather conditions throughout the year, a record amount of land being under the vine, and the fact that many of the UK’s vineyards are finally reaching maturity.

The picture here in Norfolk backs this up.  Not since Roman times has there been more land in our county devoted to the grape, and many of the vineyards planted during the last decade are finally maturing and reaching peak production.

Norfolk winemaker John Hemmant, who made the wine which I am sipping as I write this column, tells me that the future looks bright.  

“2023 was a year when many of our plantings started to come of age, and as a result we have harvested our largest ever crop: we will make around 29,000 bottles of wine this year, a 31 per cent increase on last year, says John.

The picture is similar in many of our county’s vineyards, and with the quality of English wine going from strength to strength.  

And with production being hit in more traditional winemaking countries, there is an even bigger reason than usual to make it a Norfolk wine which you turn to in order to ward off the misery of January.

I’ll drink to that – cheers!