My friend’s mum had several initials both before and after her name. She was very studious and serious, and never seemed to shave her legs (not sure if this was a statement or an oversight). Yet how did she spend her Saturday afternoons? Like many in the UK, watching Mick McManus beat 50 Shades of Black & Blue out of people such as Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Catweazle. Sometimes Mick won, often thanks to his deadly forearm jabs. Sometimes he lost – two falls, two submissions or a knockout was the deal. But he always appeared the following week to sneer again at the audiences who loved him and hated him in equal measure.
Alas, Mick hit the deck yesterday, never to rise again from the referee’s count. Also no more is the magazine in which Mick made his wine judging debut, What Wine? It would have been 30 this year. Initially edited by Robert Joseph and Charles Metcalfe, it soon morphed into Wine Magazine, and then into Wine International, and it’s former staff members include many renowned UK wine writers – Tim Atkin, Joanna Simon, Susy Atkins, Chris Losh, Margaret Rand, Jane Parkinson…and me.
So where does Mick come in? The easiest way is to reprint part of a piece I wrote back in 2003 for the 20th anniversary of the mag. It was an account of what had featured each year in the magazine – below is the entry for 1983 featuring Mick’s contribution…
Among the articles in the inaugural issue of What Wine?, as it then was, are ‘How British IS British Wine?’, and ‘A lighthearted look at some of the more surprising wine growing countries of the world.’ Among these is Australia – ‘The ships which bore botanists also carried bits of botany, often French and German vines. Many reds are in the Bordeaux style, but 19th century German immigrants mean the whites are often Riesling based.’ The entry for Argentina was briefer – ‘UK consumption was growing fast. Until last year.’
The heart of the magazine is a tasting of literally hundreds of wines for which an eminent panel of wine trade figures was joined by celebrities such as Rodney Bewes, Henry Cooper, Sue McGregor, Mick McManus [told you we’d get to him], Stirling Moss, Brian Rix, Ed Stewart and Fiona Richmond. Top scorers included Grants of St James Côtes de Provence (£2.79), 1982 Asda Liebfraumilch (£1.95), 1977 Tignanello (£4.20), Tio Pepe (£3.99), 1977 Château Musar (£4.25) and 1980 Brown Brothers Chardonnay (£5.65)
One of the more memorable tasting notes is ‘Unwashed pants’, relating to Dominic’s Rosenhof Tafelwein. And while few of Mick McManus’s comments make it into the magazine, his comment, ‘Suits my taste’ about Robert Mondavi 1980 Chardonnay does appear. However, the gremlins which dog the production of any magazine caused the ‘u’ in ‘suits’ to become an ‘h’…