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.

More widely, there is no doubt that Burgundy remains in its ascendancy, with records now being broken on an annual basis. We now represent around sixty estates in Burgundy, with Domaine Groffier in Morey St Denis and Domaine Genot-Boulanger in Meursault newly joining this year. But there is much else besides which shares our focus. A quick look through the visitors book in our St James’s street dining room shows that we have hosted a range of truly exceptional wine growers over the past twelve months. To name but a few: Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair, Château Lafleur, Champagne Philipponnat and, for the first time, it was our great pleasure to welcome Soldera to Justerini & Brooks, where we drank an astonishing vertical of bottles dating back to the 1990s.

But outside these sybaritic lunches and dinners our Buyers remain wildly busy. The Justerini & Brooks portfolio expands as we continue our focus on securing high-quality estates as broadly based as Oregon, South Africa, the Gredos mountains of Spain and the volcanic coast near Naples, alongside our more traditional areas of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Barolo and the fabulous wines of Germany. We have a packed schedule of tastings and events planned in Scotland, Hong Kong and London throughout the year to help support these releases. The next few weeks alone include a Château Margaux dinner in Hong Kong, a Château Lafleur dinner in Stirling and a Marquis d’Angerville event in London, We also, once again, hire space at Somerset House to display a large part of our Portfolio on the 6th February for customers to come along and taste. There is indeed much afoot.

2018 was an exciting year for Justerini & Brooks for other reasons too. In May 2018 J&B Rare returned home, and after a gap of twenty-one years Justerini & Brooks is once again in charge of the British distribution of our iconic house whisky – a brand my visionary predecessor created in the early 1930s. There is both hard work and fun ahead. As we expand our return to whisky, 2018 was also the year we created a team within Justerini & Brooks purely focussed on the rarest and most collectible malt whiskies – responding to increasing requests from our customers to gain access to these rare and beautiful liquids.

2018 was a year of note for reasons beyond just business. We remain active in the world of polo, with fabulous British Polo Day events and after-parties thrown in Shanghai, Beijing, New York, Dubai and India over the past twelve months. Back in the UK we are thrilled with our close partnership with the Beaufort Polo Club in Gloucestershire, and our title-sponsorship of their two historic high goal tournaments each summer. And more recently, we have supported the Sentebale Polo Cup at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club.’

We continue to work on fresh ways for Justerini & Brooks to support Conservation, something we began to focus on in the 1980s with the charity Care for the Rare. In more recent years we’ve been proud to support the impactful work of Tusk Trust, and in 2018 we commissioned the renowned artist, Harland Miller, to paint a large model rhino which was then displayed in Trafalgar Square over August. Before being auctioned at Christie’s with all proceeds being donated to that cause.

Looking forward, we aim for 2019 to be even more memorable. Over the Christmas period there has been fervid refurbishment of our old St James’s Street building in preparation for our anniversary year and the associated events – 2019 marking our 270th year as wine merchants. Much has changed since 1749. Though a focus on quality and a firm belief in personal service remains our resolute aim for this New Year as much as it did when Justerini & Brooks first started.

Chadwick Delaney, Managing Director, Justerini & Brooks 

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.

Rhone 2017 - A tale of the unexpected

Rhone 2017 - A tale of the unexpected

Thursday 25th October 2018
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

During a week of bounding up and down the Rhone valley I have tasted some truly delicious wines. My focus has been on 2017s from barrel but I have also been tasting 2016s and 2015s from bottle. 

Before I launch into the many surprises 2017 sprung on me, a word on 2015 Chateauneufs. These are in a very good place right now and it is clearly a superbly-balanced vintage, they may well go into the shut-down phase that most Chateauneufs do but right now they are a joy and what’s more they show the harmony to suggest excellent ageing potential, it can genuinely be considered a great year in the South. People may remember France being bathed  in sunshine throughout 2015 but in the Southern Rhône it was not too much of a heat-wave vintage, there was a little more rain and ensuing cooler temperatures than further north.  The results were wines of great allure, roundness and charm. For sure richer than a “cool” style vintage but less alcoholic than other hallowed years like 2016 and 2007, for example. If you missed these at the time, then don’t hesitate to snap up 2015 Southern Rhônes. 

A Portfolio Tasting in Scotland

A Portfolio Tasting in Scotland

Thursday 4th October 2018
by Alasdair Lawson-Dick

Last week we welcomed guests to the New Club in Edinburgh for a Portfolio tasting, our first tasting in Scotland for two years.

With views overlooking Edinburgh Castle, the top floor rooms at the New Club provided the perfect setting to showcase a snapshot of our 3,000 strong portfolio. It is always a daunting process for our Buyers to pick a broad sweep of bottles to show clients at our tastings, representing some of our best and brightest producers, however, with more than 100 wines opened from across France, Germany, Spain, Austria, South Africa, Champagne, America, South America, Australia and New Zealand, there were plenty of old favourites and new gems for guests to discover.

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