Wine Guide Review : The Wine List 2004

Wednesday, 3 March, 2004
Myrna Robins
Matthew Jukes gives you the best 250 wines to buy in 2004
The Wine List 2004: The Top 250 wines of the year by Matthew Jukes. Published by Headline, London.

Here’s a persuasive punt for a bubbly: ‘… one of South Africa’s best sparkling wines, and … certainly the best value … It is ripe, fleshy and fruit-driven, with a really good lick of luscious Chardonnay fruit. Don’t mix it – it’s a hedonistic glugger.’

There’s more, but this extract gives a good idea of British wine writer Matthew Juke’s racy style - which probably earns disapproving comment from conservative oenophiles, but does much to encourage the average consumer in British supermarkets to head for the wine department.

The wine?

He is describing Graham Beck Sparkling Brut NV, priced at 7 pounds 99, and the only South African bubbly that makes it into his top 250 for 2004. The new edition of Jukes' pocket guide contains not only his choice of the world’s wines (he tasted, he tells us, 25 000 last year) but includes a comprehensive section on food and wine pairing. Beef gets four pages, and South African Cabernets are recommended for steak, our Shiraz for pepper steak, and our Merlot and Pinotage are suggested as suitable accompaniment to burgers! The selection criteria he favours are listed as ‘awesome flavour, pinpoint-accurate winemaking and great value for money…’

He also ensures that the wines are ready to drink – which categorises his appeal to consumers looking for wine for weekend dinner parties rather than for cellaring. Given that his weekly wine column is also read by some of the eight million Daily Mail readers and that he also produces an online wine newsletter, Jukes wields a powerful pen.

Let’s explore his selection further: Along with the single bubbly, 16 other Cape wines make the grade, consisting of two Chenins, three Sauvignon Blancs and two Chardonnays. The reds are made up of three Syrahs, a Malbec, a Pinotage, a Carignan and three blended wines. Compared with other New World wine producers, we lag far behind Australasia with 65, but are ahead of South America and California who have nine entries each. The Old World dominates, with France coming in at 73 and a combined total of 66 for Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Back to the Cape: That Matthew Jukes is a keen fan of Marc Kent’s wines is evident, as no less than four of his labels make the list, being the Wolftrap 2002, Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2002, Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2000 and The Chocolate Block 2002, selling in the UK from just under six pounds to nearly 24 pounds for the 2000 vintage Syrah.

The other South African wines to have found favour are Forrester’s Petit Chenin 2003 and Raats Chenin Blanc 2002. The Sauvignon Blancs are Stormhoek 2003, The Berrio 2002 and Iona 2003, and the Chardonnays are Jordan and Neil Ellis both 2002 vintage. Fairview Malbec 201, Diemersfontein Pinotage 2003 and Fairview Peg Leg Carignan 2001 head the reds followed by Graham Beck The Ridge Syrah 2000 and Rustenberg John X Merriman 2001.

A survey of grape varieties precedes a directory of UK wine merchants, chain stores and supermarkets and the text concludes with an index of labels. There is also a gazetteer of the world’s wine regions, and the South African entry lists several other producers that he recommends. Which, where and what – which wines, where to buy them and what to eat with them – is how the back cover advertises the contents.

While your best may not be his best it’s easy to understand why this well-produced annual has been the UK’s best-selling guide over the last two years. It sells for just under R100 here.