A New Year message: Letter from London

A New Year message: Letter from London

Wednesday 4th January 2017
by Chadwick Delaney

We will all certainly remember 2016 as the year of milestones. In the broader world 2016 was a year of quite some change, which has given us a lot to reflect on. Beyond careful planning for the future, at Justerini & Brooks it was a year we allowed a small focus on celebration. 

Firstly, we had a couple of important anniversaries. Our business, which started in St. James’s back in 1749, celebrated its 150th anniversary of doing business with the United States. The arrival of ocean-going steam ships allowed the rich and inquisitive of New York to come to London, and us to go there (Justerinis subsequently opened an office there in 1866). Yet records show the U.S. didn’t even house our first overseas customer – a lone Indian Maharaja beats the glitzy and more broad arrival of Manhattan by eight years. From that first customer we now service the needs of collectors across 49 different countries.

In 2016 we also celebrated the 40th anniversary of my pioneering predecessor Geoffrey Jameson opening up the Hong Kong market in 1976. As part of our anniversary celebrations in Hong Kong this year we recreated one of his opening events, and took the top floor of the Peninsula hotel for a fabulous party with many of our long-standing customers in attendance, as well as some amazing large-format wines.

Beyond celebrating some history, we had more current milestones to acknowledge. Cellarers Wines Ltd – our storage company which manages our customers’ reserves – has recently been growing at an extraordinary and unprecedented rate – taking in a further 44,000 cases of customer stock in just the past two years. It seems that increasingly major collectors value what Cellarers offers them, and which very few others do. Beyond the legal protection and extra security of a separate limited company managing one’s stock, it’s the knowledge that every case is landed with the owner’s name physically placed on it along with the date it entered the warehouse – proving each specific case belongs to its specific customer. At a time when so much customer stock is bulk-landed into warehouses to quietly save companies money, such peace of mind is invaluable. Please feel free to contact Cellarers at cellarers@justerinis.com for more information about storing with them.

So what has 2016 meant for us and our customers? Well, Burgundy continues to shine. Sales growing a further 24% on the year before. Thankfully with a slight drop in the average case price on that prior year (down from £961 per case to £869.) Disappointingly, it seems that the large gains of interest in Italy that we had been seeing in recent years took a pause in 2016, with Italian sales dropping 9% on the year before, mainly driven by a less exciting primeur campaign for Barolo. Even though the average case price of Italian wine sold at Justerinis being £1060 (down from £1179 the year before) which surprisingly still places the country’s top wines above our Burgundy average. With the highly anticipated 2013 Barolo releases coming this March it will be interesting to review these sales numbers again next Christmas. Conversely, after many years of seeming disinterest, Rhone took off in 2016 – growing a staggering 441% on the previous year. The average case price, at £572, showing the difference the top estates of the Rhone Valley offer compared with their more fashionable rivals elsewhere. Bordeaux, still by far the biggest region for us and our customers, continued to come back from its long period of stagnation – showing a second consecutive year of growth, but this time more accelerated. Bordeaux sales grew 65% on the year before, with the average sales price in 2016 being £1218 a case. We should touch on whisky – a rapidly increasing area of interest with our customers, and one which we’ve been putting a lot of work into servicing. Both the old, rare bottlings and limited bottling runs, but also even individual casks of some of the hardest to find Scotch whiskies getting bespoke-bottled for our private customers. All of this has meant that overall our whisky sales have almost doubled over the past two years, with this becoming a multi-million pound part of our business. The average bottle price now a heady £719, which shows the area of keenest focus amongst our whisky customers.

But we save the best to last. A region that Justerini & Brooks has been proudly importing and championing for many decades, but which fell out of favour more than forty years ago. The statistics for Germany this year are incredible. In fact only possible because the growth in demand is not only in the traditional sweeter styles but also due to the newer interest in the dry styles of Riesling, plus the widening range of superb Pinot Noir now being made there. Our Buyers also attended the famous Trier auctions this autumn and bought, for the first time ever, a large array of special, auction-only cuvees which were keenly taken up by our customers. In total it meant that Germany grew a staggering 576% on the prior year, with the average case price being easily the most attractive of all our key fine wine regions, at £363.

2016 has equally been a year to note for reasons beyond simple business. Our long association with the sport of polo continues (in both England and India). Not only, in more recent years, our involvement at a global level with supplying wines to British Polo Day as they tour their exquisite and spectacular polo events across ten countries a year. Most currently just three weeks ago with two incredible events in India, kindly hosted by the Maharajas of Jaipur and Jodhpur. (Please view the Polo section within the Discover area on www.justerinis.com/discover-justerinis to see more). But also back at home 2016 saw Justerini & Brooks title-sponsor the prestigious, high-goal Arthur Lucas Cup at Beaufort Polo Club. Rekindling our relationship with that great English polo family, twenty five years after Arthur Lucas’s grandson captained the J&B team to victory. (Again, a short video of that 2016 tournament is also on the Polo section of our website.) On more serious notes, we passionately continue our involvement in conservation and ecology, an area we first became involved in many years ago with the Care for the Rare programme in Africa. We remain proudly involved with Tusk Trust, and more recently 2016 saw us become involved in an important ecological project much closer to home – the visionary Garden Bridge concept across the Thames.

We start the New Year with a lot to reflect on. This business has always tried to be an example of the power and importance of personal, meaningful relationships. Many forged over lifetimes. Both with the growers we so proudly represent, and also with our customers who enjoy drinking their wines. In this hectic, ever-changing world, true, meaningful luxury is increasingly becoming something that simple.

- Chadwick Delaney, Managing Director of Justerini & Brooks

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