IF you’re anything like me, these weird alcohol-free January fads are to be avoided 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.

Yeah, you probably guessed it, my cleansing wine of choice is always going to be an Italian white. A couple of decades ago, I wouldn’t even have given most Italian whites 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 tastiest 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 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 favourite of late being 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 of four quid higher due to taxes and retailer margins. Anyway, happy New Year and viva Italia.

Bigi Orvieto Classico

I should really hate this as its a medium dry wine but it’s got a fabulous nose of flowers and almonds that leads you into a full palate of peaches, nuts and cream. Excellent with prawns, crab dishes or roast chicken.

Exel Wines £9.50

Pavia Pinot Grigio

An aromatic wine with crisp refreshing fruits and hints of apple blossom. Perfect with fish or roast chicken.

Marks & Spencer £10