It seems counterintuitive for a wine merchant to write about drinking less but there is no denying that teetotalism is on the rise, with younger generations in particular are binning the booze for a host of reasons.
While we wouldn’t want you to go that far, there many arguments for drinking alcohol in moderation. I will leave the details to others, but it is self-evident that hitting the bottle hard daily is a bad thing. The approach we recommend is to drink better wine in more moderate quantities – greater enjoyment, fewer hangovers.
Johnny Goedhuis is devoted to Sunday and Monday off, unless a very important lunch gets in his way. I aim for a 3-4 split in one direction or the other and am a fan of the occasional dry weekend after a week of wine-based work commitments. And, while we may eschew dry January, a few of us tried on wine-free February for size. It may only be marginally shorter, but 28 days seems an achievable stretch in a dry desert…
On a serious note, for a more complete picture on cutting down, Drinkaware do a sterling job providing information and strategies and we are proud to support them. One of their major recent campaigns has been drink free days, and is well worth checking out.
On the back of all this temperance, the market for grown-up soft drinks has burgeoned in the last few years. I would not claim any expertise in this area but have found one extremely pleasing alternative, for when mineral water just doesn’t do the job.
Wine writer Matthew Jukes has created a range of cordials designed to recreate the sensory experience of fine wine, and believe us, he’s done a bloody good job! Carefully selected combinations of fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices and flowers undergo a long, gentle maceration with organic apple cider vinegar. The result is three highly distinctive editions:
- Jukes 1 'The White': Citrus & herbal
- Jukes 2 'The Bright Red': Autumnal red with red fruit layers and faint smokiness.
- Jukes 6 'The Red': Fruity, deep & spicy
Juke's 1 & 6 reflect the flavours of a white and a deep, spicy red
The Jukes 8 'The 'Rosé' is currently sold out but is inspired by Provencal rosé and will reappear with the sunshine.
You just mix with still, sparkling or tonic water. Pour in half a bottle of Jukes, swirl, and adjust to taste – simple. Made in the UK, their quality and sustainability credentials are impeccable – and for the calorie conscious they come in at under 20 calories per glass.
I love Jukes 1 with sparkling water (although avoid anything with too pronounced a mineral flavour like St Yorre) and a couple of cubes of ice, closely followed by Jukes 2 with still water, chilled but not too chilled – which is pretty much a reflection of my wine taste. So, if you are tempted, just follow your instincts, or just try them all.
To find out more, I sent our marketing associate Harry on a mission to find out from Matthew himself how this wonderful project came into existence…
Harry: Hi Matthew, thanks for chatting with us, so where did you first get the idea to start Cordialities?
Matthew: Around five years ago I was at a dinner sat next to Sally Singer, then creative director of Vogue’s online division. We’d been talking about wine when she dropped into conversation that she didn't drink during the week. I was surprised that, despite going to so many wonderful parties undoubtedly dripping with the greatest champagne on earth, she wouldn’t touch a drop. Reflecting on this, I realised in my job as a wine taster, despite tasting sometimes 600 wines a week, I don't recreationally drink an awful lot Monday to Friday; I keep it for the weekends.
That Christmas I met with a friend from the States, who despite frequenting big political fundraisers in America, also didn’t drink during the week. I started digging deeper, finding tons of people doing just the same. It became clear this is real, that non-drinking is a movement. Trouble is, despite having written for the last 20 years I’ve never found a non-alcoholic wine that I like, and no one's going to order non-alcoholic beer when they're in a Michelin star restaurant.
I began researching lots of ancient recipes and came across something called a haymaker’s punch, which is basically one part apple cider vinegar and one part fruit and veg leftovers -- It’s skins, knobbly bits and honey all put together. It uses up fruit and veg leftovers in a rudimentary cordial that wouldn't be spoiled if it wasn't refrigerated. It was full of minerals and vitamins, perfect for the haymaker knackered in the fields in the sunshine.
The next day I bought the fruit, picked out some berries and designed a recipe. I kept it overnight in the fridge and by morning had a posh Ribena -- it was absolutely stunning!
From there I began planning a roadmap for highly sophisticated drinks that would be low in calories, low in sugar and high in organic apple cider vinegar. Importantly, I wanted them to have the silhouettes of whites, deep reds or fresh, bright red wines. What ensued was 18 months of very hard work and perseverance.
I've always blended wines but hadn’t forayed into manufacturing, so I found an arch in Battersea, designed a kitchen and sourced the bottles and the labels, drafting top designers to work on the project, hiring a skilled, innovative team to cover all aspects of production.
Jukes (right), with business partner Jack Hollihan
So now you are set up, what comes next for Cordialities?
What we didn't anticipate of course was everything shutting down. Our principal audience was restaurants and clubs. Fortunately, by then we'd got all the right Michelin star restaurants and much of the wine world on board and had begun looking overseas which, now, has grown into a thriving ecommerce business in America – we’re very close to shipping to Australia, getting back into Europe after Brexit and getting into the Middle East having secured our halal accreditation. I've plans for the next two or three years that are really quite exciting. So that's where we've got to, and we can’t see anybody in our space.
How did you arrive at the flavours you’ve created?
Wine critics are simply trying to give you an idea about the flavour of the drink. I just identified the descriptors I’ve used for the last 20 years from my favourite wines. So, in Jukes 6, which is the darker of the two reds, it’s blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries, but then another 20 ingredients to pull it all together and give complexity -- we list a few of them on the bottle but have tried to engender a sense of terroir and cultured production by adding fruit, vegetables and spice flowers to mimic the sensations you get in wine.
All this leads to a pretty good shopping list of fruit, vegetables and spices, which you then need to try -- that's what took me so long to trial! The drinks use half percentages of things – Jukes 6 has 23 ingredients so it's phenomenally complex -- these are adult creations, they’re bone dry with almost no sugar or calories in them, but they also complement food. That's why they’re a labour of love.
They allow me to satiate my senses, ticking all the right boxes in my brain, meaning I don't need alcohol; it's not the alcohol you crave, it's the complexity, the satisfying nature of a complex drink. And afterwards you think, hang on, I didn't need a glass of wine after all!
Where do you source the ingredients from?
We get them all over the place, but predominantly from within the UK. Most of it comes from the markets that supply all the restaurants in town. Our arch is just a huge kitchen. There's no equipment in it -- there’s one double sink, that's it. There are no gizmos, no science, no spinning cones or reverse osmosis machines. Just chopping boards, knives, fruit and veg.
Amazing, so it’s simply hand prepared fruit from British markets. Are all the main flavours manufactured constantly, or do you take a seasonal, small batch approach?
Some people have noted that Jukes 1 is Spring and Summer, 2 is Autumn and 6 is winter – 6 is the first one I started working on -- it’s the rich, spicy Cabernet Shiraz. I’m not going to divulge flavours to come, but there’s more action on the horizon. We will also be relaunching 8 again which was our special edition summer rosé. As soon as the weather warms up a bit in April, it will become part of the permanent collection having enjoyed huge success last year. It won’t be limited edition anymore; it will be a drink in its own right with its own bespoke packaging.
What’s great, is that we can make incredibly small batches, as little as 50 litres if we want, that's the level of flexibility we have. But also, the other question is, how quickly can we grow? I know of several facilities that are ready to rent, I can get more equipment very quickly so we could scale up beautifully.
Jukes 8, which share the profile of rosé, is expected to return in April
Is there a dream setting to enjoy Cordialities?
I think a crucial factor is what you drink them with. You can enjoy them with still water, sparkling water, in a big wine glass or in a tall glass with ice and a garnish – how you enjoy them depends on the mood. A context we didn’t see coming that's emerging in America is wellness consumption. People have been using it as a post-exercise drink, often with fizzy water after a game of tennis!
Personally, I sip one over a few hours while writing. I have it in a wineglass without ice with cold water. The main method of course is treating it and smelling it like wine with great food -- that's how London drinks it, apart from of course, Heston Blumenthal who serves it with tonic. When Sketch reopens its entire non-alcoholic food pairing menu will be with Jukes, simply served in different ways!
Last question from me. I was looking through your website and saw you put a lot of onus on naturally reproducing ingredients, recycling and reducing waste. Could you tell me more about that?
We don't have a big footprint; all of our leftover fruit and vegetables get picked up by a farmer and fed to livestock. Our boxes are recyclable – they’re a special paper that has a finish that’s deceptively not plastic. We’re paying a lot of attention to detail and are very, very strict about it.
We know where every single batch of everything we've ever bought has come from. We can trace everything and that's vital for me because I want to be able to stand there and say that we’re doing the right thing. Throughout the pandemic, we haven’t shut our doors and we haven’t used the furlough scheme, we’ve kept going, we’ve kept paying everybody. That was very important to us. But most importantly we’ve kept them safe.
Matthew Jukes is a wine journalist and critic.
Jukes Cordialities are available from https://jukescordialities.com/, or at your favourite smart restaurant when heading out for dinner is back on the menu.