Wine Tasting with Matthew Jukes
Borders, Magdalen Street
12 / 8 / 00

Matthew Jukes is a very smooth man. What better way to shift copies of his new book Wine than by giving those in attendance at its launch in Borders bookshop on Tuesday night some hands-on training: after a rather nice Sauvignon Blanc and an equally tasty Beaujolais I even broke my own personal vow of stinginess and bought a copy. With the "composty" flavours (I reckoned "envelopey" myself) of a fresh young New Zealand red lingering on my palate, I practically dribbled on the poor man as he signed the cover ("'s for my Mum.tee hee"). Wine buyer and Daily Mail columnist, Jukes is described by the Sunday Telegraph as "The voice of wine", and if that voice speaks as it did on Tuesday evening all the time, we shall all be alcoholics before long.

Borders have certainly arranged an exciting programme of events to attract the public to their flash new store. But somehow their organisation deprives the events of the festive air they might be expecetd to have. The event started late, and the atmosphere of the room, all books and rows of chairs, left us feeling a little like schoolchildren : we waited patiently for Borders staff to introduce Mr Jukes as Ken from the Oxford Wine Company hovered about filling glasses. We clutched the vessels handed to us in trepidation, wondering whether to dive right in or to wait until we were told how to do it properly. We needn't have been worried. In disclosing the secrets of the tasting and choosing procedure, Matthew's "wine clinic" emphasised certain elements of ceremony (by the end of the evening, we all knew about the importance of everything from the length of a wine's legs and finish - ooh er - to the merits of screw caps and swirling), but was aimed at making the process more accessible rather than dazzling us with jargon and manners.

Wine snobbery for its own sake has no place here: the book even has a pronunciation guide ("Mueller Thurgau = mooller tur-gow"), so it was unsurprisingly not too embarrassing to have got through half a glass before Jukes had got to the bit about the "nose". Bear in mind that this is a man whose response, when asked how he had got into the wine trade, was "I love booze" - and who that morning had tasted 200 Argentinian wines.
The event was good value at the price of two pounds. A jolly good and very informative time was had by all, and the chatter of merry voices at the till was surely a delight to hear.

Su Jordan, 12 / 8 / 00