A Spotlight on Burgundy

A Spotlight on Burgundy

Wednesday 17th April 2019
by Giles Burke-Gaffney

Since our inception in St James’s in 1749, Justerini & Brooks has always looked to push boundaries and explore new territories in the world of fine wine. Before it found such popularity over the last decade or so, Burgundy had long been at the heart of our illustrious portfolio.  

In 1992 Hew Blair pioneered the introduction of Burgundy En Primeur tastings by becoming the first British merchant to showcase barrel samples from family-owned Burgundy domaines to private customers, fundamentally altering the way the UK bought its Burgundy.  Hew would go on to become our Chairman in 2008, a position he still holds to this day, and served as President of the Royal Warrant Holders Association in 2011. During his 45 years of service to the company Hew has watched the wine world blossom, seeing Burgundy go from the point of near commercial irrelevance to its current position as one of the most coveted wine-producing regions in the world. We now buy from over fifty producers and are immensely proud to be one of the largest domaine-bottled Burgundy importers in the UK.

So It is fitting that at the beginning of 2019, in our 270th year, we began our anniversary celebrations with our most successful Burgundy campaign ever.  Burgundy tastings in London, Hong Kong and a revived Edinburgh event hailed the beginning of a special, celebratory year. The gatherings focused on the new vintage, 2017, which has not only proved to be an excellent year for whites but surprised many with the Burgundian charm of its reds. As our Buying Director Giles Burke-Gaffney - who also manages our Burgundian portfolio – put it “We were taken aback. It’s a vintage we love but we weren’t expecting it to break all our previous sales records, and we have, by a distance. The wines are really good, demand is strong, more wine was available this year and our customers are buying more broadly than ever before. Burgundy is having an exceptional period.”

The tastings began with a trip up the east coast to Edinburgh, the first foray into Scotland for many. We were joined by Chateau de Meursault and Chateau de Marsannay, our new exclusivity Domaine Genot-Boulanger, Follin-Arbelet, Domaine de la Folie, Chantal Remy, Bruno Clair and Jean Noel Gagnard, the last two stalwarts of our Burgundy portfolio for over thirty years.  An excited throng of Scotland’s most enthusiastic  burgundy “amateurs,” (as the french would say) joined us for a memorable tasting in the New Club over-looking Edinburgh’s beautiful castle. The  evening culminated with a delicious dinner at the Tower with yet more castle-vistas and a dram or two of whisky. Our troop was weary come the morning but this was nothing an east coast full-scottish couldn’t remedy on our descent to London. 

The London leg took place in familiar surroundings – One Great George Street’s beautiful Great Hall.  We were joined by 28 Burgundy domaines in addition to Alsace’s much-loved Domaine Weinbach.  The tasting buzzed throughout the night and ended up smashing all of our Burgundy tasting and sales records across the board.  A delicious dinner followed in the Tate Britain’s fabulous Rex Whistler restaurant, a memorable night in a fittingly lavish setting. The evening itself broke its own record – more producers than ever before guessed the vintage in the Port game, the traditional end to a Justerini & Brooks evening. They are getting too good at this, we’ll have to re-think this next year!

London crescendoed the following day with a Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair tasting and lunch, the 2011 vintage in particular revealing its beauty through the stylish and complex muse that is La Romanée. That evening, amongst an illustrious line up, the 2008 La Romanée spellbound its tasters during a World of Fine Wine / Domaine du Comte Liger-Belair dinner at La Dame de Pic. A memorable moment.

The culmination of our extended Burgundian celebrations was in Hong Kong. We began looking after our first private client customers here in 1976 and this year we came full circle with us holding our first ever Burgundy En Primeur tasting there. The vintage surprised and delighted every bit as much as it had in London and Edinburgh.   

At 270 years of age, we continue to move forward, going from strength to strength – our recent portfolio tasting at Somerset House was the largest we’ve ever held. We are not ones to rest on our laurels though, and whilst we continue to dedicate ourselves to sourcing world-renowned labels from the respected regions and starry producers we have come to know and love, we take as much pride in navigating uncharted waters and seeking out new and exciting prospects from across the globe. An approach we believe will lead us into our next 270 years.

Watch this space for more news of our continued 270th anniversary celebrations.