Giles Burke-Gaffney
Giles heads the Justerini & Brooks buying team of five, who travel the world in search of great wines from family-run domaines and estates.

He joined Justerini & Brooks in 1997 as a cellar hand. It was the aromas while decanting incredible wines for lunches in the dining room at St. James's Street that sparked his passion and drew him into wine as a career.

For 15 years Giles honed his tasting skills and palate, built his wine knowledge, and forged grower relationships under the tutelage of then buying director (now chairman) Hew Blair. Giles took on this highly prized role himself in 2012.

He works closely with around 200 producers, and these relationships that are the lifeblood of the Justerini & Brooks portfolio. He also puts great effort into unearthing hidden wine making talent.

Giles spends much of his year in vineyards and cellars, principally in the wine regions of Europe, and has tasted over 30,000 wines in the last 5 years alone.
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.

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. 

Burgfest: The 2015 Red Vintage

Burgfest: The 2015 Red Vintage

Tuesday 18th September 2018
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

The prospect of four mornings spent blind tasting some of the finest reds in the Cote d’Or would be a mouth-watering one to any Burgundy lover... 

...though the reality of tasting 244 embryonic red burgundies from one of the most tannic and deeply coloured vintages on record was a more sobering thought - the daunting idea of trying to retain an unflinching concentration to give each wine its fair chance whilst endless batteries of between four to nine wine flights come in, wave after to wave, to assault the senses. Fuelled by enough restorative baskets of bread and gallons of water, I would just about make it to the end, palate intact, I thought to myself.  And yet….  The 2015 confounded this and many other tasters in the room.  I was surprised by the openness, joy and energy I found in the wines, tasting them was a sheer pleasure from start to finish.  Make no mistake, this is a powerful and concentrated vintage, but one with a sense of balance.  Only a few wines displayed alcohols that were out of kilter. Equally some wines from some producers will always have harsh tannins, but for the most part I found the wines had nice contours  - tannins were fine-grained, even seamless in some cases.  Acidities were not obvious but you could sense the role they played in supporting the wines’ big structures. This is without doubt a vintage “de garde” but a classy one.

A Burgundy Tasting: Burgfest 2015

A Burgundy Tasting: Burgfest 2015

Friday 15th June 2018
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

At the end of May the Burgfest team, an 11-strong group comprising a mix of burgundy specialist journalists and merchants, gathered at the tranquil Hameau de Barboron in the forest above Savigny-Les-Beaune to taste the great white crus of Burgundy from the 2015 vintage.  

We braved our wild boar-infested surroundings and knuckled down to taste 235 white burgundies blind over four mornings. The wines were organised in flights by village and then by vineyard or vineyard style, ranging from four to nine wines each.  The line-up was pretty mouth-watering:  tranches of Grand Cru Chablis, Meursault Perrieres, Chassagne Caillerets and Puligny Folatieres were just a few courses on a very appetising menu that was to culminate with nine Chevalier Montrachets and four Montrachets at the end of the last morning.  This was an unparalleled and unmissable opportunity to taste the great whites of Burgundy side by side, and what a thrill it ended up being.  Herewith my own personal thoughts on the wines.

Bordeaux 2017: The Sweeties

Bordeaux 2017: The Sweeties

Saturday 28th April 2018
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

In 2017 the going was hard in Sauternes and Barsac, frost being particularly vindictive in the latter.  

At its most extreme the vintage yielded no Grand Vin at all, Climens, who made just 35 barrels, being the most prominent example in Barsac. The picture in Sauternes was complicated, too, if not always quite as dramatic.  Where frost struck, it struck hard but otherwise there was hope.  Though not untouched by frost Coutet reported that in their best parcels they managed to achieve a pretty healthy 17hl/ha. 

In Tour Blanche, by contrast, they made just fifty barrels.  End of August and early September rains brought on botrytis and the first “tries” were carried out until grey rot started to appear and the harvest stopped.  Warmer, drier weather arrested any further ignoble rot development and concentrated what was left on the vine.  The harvest restarted and largely finished in the second week of October, by which time the berries showed significant concentration.   

Owing to such conditions it is not a straightforward vintage and far from uniform. The challenge was, as ever, to find the right balance in the wines and not simply concentration.  Having enough of the fresher lighter fruit to pick in the early part of the harvest and using the right amount of the later, more concentrated October berries (if you were lucky enough to have any)  was crucial. It cannot be considered a great vintage but there are a clutch of very good wines that show a lovely weighting of richness alcohol and freshness.   

Older Posts >