New Producer; Welcoming Raul Perez

New Producer; Welcoming Raul Perez

Monday 11th February 2019
by Mark Dearing

Despite the freezing darkness and the rain lashing against my windscreen, the notoriously wet winter conditions around Santiago de Compostela could do nothing to dampen my spirits.

 It was early, and I was en route to Bierzo to meet Raul Perez at his winery in Valtuille del Abajo. There I would hop from my rental car in to Raul’s 4x4 Shogun and together we would traverse the mountains around Bierzo for the day, variously jumping out to look at special plots and dive in to cold cellars to taste his latest wines. I was on my own pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago, but rather than a waypoint, Bierzo was the destination.

It was hard not to feel a little nervous, for all references to Raul Perez and his influence on the Spanish wine scene over the past decade routinely accede to superlatives. To his legions of fans, both consumers and fellow winemakers, he is a real visionary, cut from maverick cloth, whose determination has revolutionised the way the world looks at Spanish wine. To others, he is wild, unpredictable and impossible to get a handle on. Both are right.

Southwold: 2015 Bordeaux under the microscope

Southwold: 2015 Bordeaux under the microscope

Friday 8th February 2019
by Tom Jenkins

It’s over thirty years since a group of pioneering British merchants first met in the small, seaside town of Southwold to assess a young Bordeaux vintage under blind tasting conditions. 

Luminaries such as the late John Avery and Bill Blatch, along with the likes of Clive Coates MW and our very own Hew Blair, were amongst the first tasters. Although the venue has changed, the name remains, as does the spirit and professionalism. The results are eagerly anticipated by Bordeaux Chateaux; this is the ultimate litmus test, affirmation of years of hard work or hard truths.

Now, here comes the caveat: this is perhaps not the most flattering time to taste these wines. In fact, in my experience it is one of the worst… Although barrel samples can be variable, there is an undeniable freshness and purity of fruit. Just after bottling, they are equally flattering, a year and a half after bottling, they are usually less gratifying. 2009 is a notable exception – these have always been gloriously easy to taste. The 2015s attracted comparisons to 2009 from barrel; however, on this showing, they are less flamboyant and more structured. There are very many notable successes, but it is by no means as uniform or as easy to taste as those spectacular 2009s.

Justerini & Brooks: A New Year Message

Justerini & Brooks: A New Year Message

Thursday 10th January 2019
by Chadwick Delaney

The start of a new year should be a time to review and reflect. A pause before the rhythm gets set for the year ahead. Here at Justerini & Brooks a great deal of activity continues to fill our time. 

Back in January 1991 we encouraged a small group of our Burgundy growers to bottle some cask samples and bring them over for Justerini & Brooks’ customers to taste before they bought. It was the first UK primeur tasting of Burgundy focussed on private individuals. Little did we realise how dramatically that would grow. Most pleasingly we still represent many of those estates that made that journey from France. In fact, I write this note from our Edinburgh office where this year we are extending our primeur tastings to include the New Club on Princes Street. It allows our Scottish customers to taste the new wines, and meet some of the growers, the day before the now huge London tastings begin. Bruno Clair, among others, is personally here. As he was for that very first Justerini & Brooks tasting in London back in 1991. 

Vintage Report: Burgundy 2017 - Beguiling Burgundian Elegance

Vintage Report: Burgundy 2017 - Beguiling Burgundian Elegance

Thursday 3rd January 2019
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

The 2017 vintage is already being lauded as a great year for whites, but make no mistake this is a superb red vintage, too. When producers like Freddy Mugnier say “I think these were the best, most healthy, grapes I have ever picked” you sit up and take notice. For the Pinots display a beguiling mix of ripe, sensual fruit, delicacy, elegance and freshness. What’s more they offer vivid terroir characteristics - this is a red burgundy lover’s vintage par excellence.

The season started early and resulted in a precocious harvest (taking place between 3rd and 13th September for Pinot Noir). Based on readings taken throughout the calendar year, 2017 was the warmest on record. However the summer was remarkably well-balanced without any extremes in temperature. After a successful flowering, drought was the only potential danger, but rainfall at the end of August put paid to that. Conditions for harvest were perfect with sunny, warm days and cooler nights. There was one notable day of rain within the first two weeks of September otherwise growers could pick when they liked. All of this sounds rather easy, and largely it was, but there were two key factors for making really great, rather than merely “good” Pinots in 2017: Yields and élévage. In the words of Louis-Michel Liger-Belair, who has made a stunning range of 2017s “there was time to pick and to get ripe fruit, even with high yields, but if you did not control yields the wines will be a little diluted.” The second factor was to make sure the beautifully ripe, seductive fruit of the vintage was captured and not allowed to dry out, many of the growers we visited in November had already begun racking their wines in preparation for a slightly earlier bottling than usual. Early in the season green harvests were seen by many as crucial elements in controlling yields. By harvest time, grapes were uniformly ripe and very healthy, almost all producers we spoke to made it clear that tables de tries were largely redundant. Despite this fruit ripeness, sugars were in perfect balance, alcohols ranging between a balanced 13 to 13.5%. Such was the maturity of the stalks and grapes that those who practice whole bunch fermentations often included a greater percentage than usual in their fermenters, which seems to have been a successful approach, adding nerve and complexity to the wines. Whether whole-bunch or de-stalked though, the wines commonly display ripe, pliable fruit textures and, despite it not being a particularly high acid vintage, a distinct energy and freshness.

A Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy Dinner

A Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy Dinner

Friday 2nd November 2018
by Alex Turnbull

Two weeks ago a very special dinner took place at 61 St James’s Street celebrating the wines of Madame Lalou Bize-Leroy and others. 

It was a magical evening, made all the better by exceptional food from Simpkin and Roses. All of the Bize-Leroy wines, including the Romanee Conti’s, came from the Justerini & Brooks Cellar, where they have been sitting since shipping from the respective Domaines on release. These are my notes.

Kicking off the evening with a glass of fizz and a canapé, we tried two vintages of iconic Champagne Salon from Les Mesnil Sur Oger. Easily one of the most instantly recognisable Champagne houses, it was fascinating to try the 1999 and 1996 in quick succession. Some wines have the remarkable ability to transport you back in time, and the 1999 did just that. Orchard and citrus fruits of apples and lemons, with a lovely creamy texture and a perfumed finish, I am pleased to report that the 1999 has barely developed since the last time I tried it and shows all of the signs that it will continue to age at a snail-like pace. The 1996 which we drunk next was marginally more evolved but no less delicious, and definitely entering its drinking window now.

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