Back in early 2016 I visited New York to host a series of wine events, and at one of the dinners I found myself sitting next to a senior executive from Vogue.
I asked her what her favourite Champagne was, thinking she was ideally placed to comment given the vast number of launched and drinks parties she presumably attended.
She declared that she rarely drank during the week, preferring to enjoy a decent bottle or two of wine at the weekend – a mantra I have been chanting in my weekly Weekend wine column for more than two decades.
While I taste thousands of bottles of wine a month – and drink a fair few too – I have a good number of days ‘off’ each week.
I was chatting to my friend Jack Hollihan, an ex-banker who now mentors businesses, just before Christmas 2016 when he mentioned that loads of his pals were also taking a few days off the booze.
British wine expert Matthew Jukes, revealed the inspiration behind his new sophisticated non-alcoholic drinks.
Pictured: Matthew sampling his new creations
We decided, on the spot, that we should make a brand new, sophisticated, non-alcoholic drink which looked like wine that people could enjoy on their days off instead of having to drink boring water, de-alcoholised ‘faux-drinks’ or sugary, drearily dull alternatives.
While I was researching ideas, I came across the term Haymaker’s Punch on the internet.
Commonplace in the 1800s, it was drunk by farmers to quench their thirst after a vigorous day’s scything.
Simply made from cider vinegar, water, assorted fruit and veg and a touch of sugar or honey, this drink was stable, refreshing, tasty and keen on the palate – and it was pretty good for you too.
I set off for the supermarket at once how to clarify wine buy the basic ingredients for this romantically entitled drink and within an hour I had made my first batch of what would become hundreds, and it tasted truly wonderful.
Health and vitality were key pillars in this quest, but my drinks had to be as satisfying, adult-tasting, dry, elegant and as complete as possible as well. It took a year of painstaking trial and error to finally arrive at two drinks that Jack and I were proud of.
Of course, I employed my wine blending skills to help me.
This involved a gentle maceration technique using organic apple cider vinegar to soak and extract the goodness and flavour from a long list of top-quality ingredients.
These two drinks are called Jukes 1 and Jukes 6, because they were the recipe numbers that I had allotted them during their development.
We were thrilled to discover that the calories for our final blends came in at fewer than 17 for a glass of Jukes 6 and only 16 for Jukes 1.
Matthew explained the non-alcoholic beverages have been designed to drink diluted with still, sparkling or tonic water
Like cordials (although much dryer in taste), they are designed to be drunk diluted – so I made sure they could be enjoyed with still, sparkling or tonic water.
Jukes 1 is citrussy and herbal in flavour and when diluted it looks like a lovely glass of white wine, while Jukes 6 is dark red and it has a deeper, berry-like flavour with spice on the finish.
My next step was to come up with the smartest packaging possible, so I contacted my old friends Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby – the design legends who styled the interior of my Chelsea wine bar, The Crescent, in the 1990s and more recently the striking London 2012 Olympic torch.
Their clever idea was for a stylish, minimalist white box containing compartments of mini-bottles, rather like a miniature case of wine.
I converted an old railway arch in Battersea, south London, into a bespoke kitchen workshop, and launched Jukes 1 and 6 at the end of last year.
Every step of production, from macerating, bottling, labelling and boxing, is done by hand by a small and incredibly hardworking team.
A limited-edition ‘rosé’, called Jukes 8 , was released earlier this summer and I’m delighted to report that it has been very favourably received.
I have another limited edition, Jukes 2 , which is released on 1 September and is model led on an ‘autumnal’ style of red.
While all of my drinks draw their inspiration from my favourite wine styles, favourite wine styles, Jukes 2 is styled on the lighter red wines which match well with classic autumn dishes such as wild game, mushrooms, late vegetables and hedgerow fruit.
Think of sensual dolcet to from Piemonte, fragrant Chinon from the Loire Valley, refreshing Chianti from Tuscany, heady pinot noir from Burgundy and youthful tempranillo from Rioja.
To complete its charms, it has only 10 calories a glass – about a tenth of the content of red wine.
Now I have a complete seasonal series of drinks – spring is Jukes 1, the ‘white’; while summer is Jukes 8, the ‘rosé’; autumn is the new Jukes 2, a ‘bright red’; and winter is Jukes 6, the ‘dark red’ which was the very first I made at the beginning of this taste odyssey.
As a lifelong wine expert, I would never have guessed that the next chapter of my life would be spent in the non-alcoholic sphere!
Jukes 1 and Jukes 6 each cost £35 for a gift box of 9 x 3cl bottles from jukescordialities.com or fortnumandmason.com.
Jukes 2 (from 1 September) and Jukes 8 each cost £35 for a lightweight box of 12 x 3cl bottles from jukescordialities.com
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