A ‘NoLo’ mini break for Dry January changed my relationship with alcohol

Jane tries NoLo’s new boozy break at Wye Valley Tudor farm – Jane Knight

I am a happy girl and I don’t talk about my personality. My nickname says it all: Champagne Jane. I like my fizz, along with red wine in winter, rosé when it’s warm, and Baileys when I feel like it.

The problem is that, like many others, I drink too much. It’s a crutch when I’ve had a difficult day, a celebration after a good one. And nothing says “you’re on vacation” to me more than the clink of a champagne glass. I’ve been through several dry Januarys, counting every moment of the most miserable months until I was able to raise a glass to February. The thing is, I don’t want to give up forever. I just want to cut: a story as old as modern times.

So when I heard about a new NoLo booze break designed to help you do just that at Wye Valley’s Tudor Farmhouse, I set off on the 3.5-hour journey from my home in Essex to find out more. Idiots on the motorway followed by a good half hour of winding roads in the dark meant I was more than ready for a drink by the fire before dinner in the cozy sitting room of Tudor Farmhouse.

I skeptically scanned the extensive list of mocktails; My experience with anything that passed for alcohol up to that point had not been good. A NoGroni sounded smart, but considering I’m not a fan of real negronis, it was a non-starter. Then French 75 caught my eye, a blend of non-alcoholic sparkling wine and gin, plus sugar syrup.

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The hotel offers an extensive non-alcoholic cocktail menu – Rob Besant

The cork pop of the Noughty non-alcoholic sparkling wine was like a balm to my frazzled spirit and it tasted good too. Even though I knew it didn’t contain a drop of alcohol, I began to relax.

The wine at dinner was also a revelation. Spurred on by the menu’s advice that “if you only try one non-alcoholic wine during your stay, let it be this one,” I ordered a bottle of Oddbird GSM 0.5 percent (grenache, syrah, mourvèdre). “Would you like to try your wine?” the waiter asked as I sat in the wood-beamed dining room. Yes, I thought, trying not to remember all those non-alcoholic reds that tasted unpleasantly like grape juice.

This one, however, smelled like wine and also tasted surprisingly like it, although without opening up when shaken in the glass, nor with a long aftertaste. He could definitely tell it wasn’t real, but he was pretty good anyway. What’s more, he complemented the excellent meal, pairing very well with a starter of mushroom risotto, herb-crusted cod as a main and remarkably well with the cheese board, particularly the double Gloucester.

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The wine at dinner was a “revelation”, says Jane – Rob Besant

I’ve always found it difficult to eat a good meal without alcohol (I once trudged through an 11-course tasting menu in Saudi Arabia without a drop), but being able to drink this “wine” between bites meant I didn’t feel deprived. What’s more, a 175ml glass had only 36 calories compared to 147 in the real glass.

There was only one problem: the £43 price tag. “It’s a really good wine that then goes through an additional process to detoxify it, and because it’s not mass-market produced, the price reflects that,” said Colin Fell, who runs Tudor Farmhouse with his wife, Hari. “There’s a lot of crap out there; we tried dozens before choosing this one.”

It was Hari’s own experience giving up alcohol that prompted the couple to create NoLo Cocktails, which they sell by subscription as well as in the restaurant. “I stopped drinking for a month in April 2019, but I felt much better and quit for a year, and now I stop drinking,” Hari said. “We have seen a huge increase in demand for non-alcoholic beverages, so this year we introduced the NoLo break.”

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Owners have seen a “huge increase” in demand for non-alcoholic drinks – Rob Besant

As part of the package, they recommend walks where you can get back to nature and embrace yourself in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean. You’ll also be able to enjoy wellness experiences, whether you prefer a massage in the hotel’s shepherd’s hut spa or a saltwater floating experience nearby. At Forest Float, I locked myself in my personal capsule and floated silently in salt water in the dark for an hour (you can also choose between different colored lights).

Floating supposedly helps with relaxation, improves circulation, lowers blood pressure and mental clarity, while the Forest Float website also claims it gives you “the opportunity to kick your addictions.”

I can’t guarantee this, but I felt strangely uplifted after my session, before venturing out for a forest bath of a different kind in the Forest of Dean. I definitely had a spring in my step on the three-hour loop on Mallards Pike, which I completed with a full hour to spare.

A shorter 1.2 mile wellness trail is offered at Symonds Yat Rock, a 10-minute drive from the hotel, where I spotted a deer leaping through the trees and enjoyed the incredible view of the River Wye opening from the lookout.

Back at base, another splendid dinner awaited us (along with the discovery that, sadly, low-alcohol wine doesn’t keep as well overnight as its alcoholic brother). However, I finished the bottle and took the last glass back to my room.

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Tudor Farmhouse rooms have individual features ranging from sloping ceilings to freestanding bathrooms – Rob Besant

While all the rooms in the farmhouse have individual features, such as sloped ceilings or statement headboards, my spacious suite featured a spectacular bathroom with a claw-foot tub perfectly positioned beneath a skylight. Lying in the bathtub, glass in hand, I gazed up at the studded night sky as a passing owl hooted its evening song, determined to change my drinking habits forever.

This is definitely a break worth raising a glass to, as long as the glass is filled with non-alcoholic beverages.


Jane Knight traveled as a guest of Tudor Farmhouse (01594 833046; tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk), which offers NoLo breaks until the end of February from £520 for two nights for two people, including a mocktail per night, a bottle of wine without alcohol and box of NoLo cocktails to take home. Float in the Forest (floatintheforest.co.uk) offers one-hour floats for £55.

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