Friday 11 September 2015

A harvest update from the Guinaudeaus

Posted by Tom Jenkins, Bordeaux Buyer

The récolte is well underway across France. Jacques and Sylvie Guinaudeau have kindly taken a few moments from their busy schedule to give us an update on the 2015 harvest.

‘On the 5th September we picked the first Semillon grapes from the 'Ambaud' parcel. The crop is of great maturity and the juice possesses a powerful fragrance and precision never before seen within Grand Village Blanc…

We have just finished picking the white grapes. We have taken advantage of the wonderful weather (cool nights and splendid, warm days) to harvest the rest of our Semillon and Sauvignon only in the mornings, which will help to retain freshness and allows the grapes to be transported in perfect condition.

The harvesting of the whites gives the team the ideal preparation so we will be 'all set' for the challenge ahead. 

After a dry and warm summer punctuated with some welcome rainfall in August, the vines are expressing themselves exceptionally. We should be starting to pick the Merlot for Lafleur very shortly…’

Friday 13 March 2015

Growers Champagne

Posted by Julian Campbell, Buyer
Growing ‘pagnes - small production grower champagnes pushing quality ever higher.

It is no secret that the UK champagne market is dominated by the Grandes Marques. According to a grower we lunched with in Champagne earlier in the week, Britain’s thirst for grower champagnes accounts for a measly 1.5% of Champagne’s market share. In Italy, by contrast, 15% of all champagne comes from smaller independent producers, while in Japan that number is 10%. We clearly have some catching up to do.

The reasons for this state of affairs are no doubt historical, but also educational, and sociological. The might of the Grande Marque, not to mention the cachet of serving one, resonate strongly with the British public and there still appears to be a general lack of awareness that there are myriad family run estates across Champagne producing small batch artisan Fizz from fully owned plots of carefully tended vines.

Over the course of a very brief two day trip, we were invited on multiple occasions to come and taste still wines, the Vins Clairs, from the vats of growers who evidently class themselves as winemakers just as much as champagne producers. The likes of Francis Egly (-Ouriet) in Ambonnay and the Diebolt Vallois family in Cramant are producing vinous wines of such personality, precision and charm that it’s impossible not to be won over. The stringent quality controls they employ are perhaps only possible when working on the scale like this, where a small team quite literally oversees every element of production, from tying back the vines, to harvest, and into the cellar for elevage. And all this at prices that in the grande (marque) scheme of things, seem exceedingly fair.

Once the UK market in general starts to wake up to the quality on offer from these sorts of small, focussed estates, the rush will begin. For the time being, growers’ champagnes remain relatively under the radar, and arguably something of a steal: all the better for those who care more about what is in the glass than on the label.

Some stand out wines from a recent trip:

Egly-Ourriet Brut Tradition NV – Base 2010, a tremendously high quality entry level cuvee that combines rich fruit with great clarity and control at just 3-4 grams of dosage. 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay.

Pascal Doquet Diapason Grand Cru Le Mesnil sur Oger – 85% 2006, 15% 2005 – an all chardonnay cuvee that begins broad and gourmande and finishes highly pure, taut and focussed. A lot of wine for the price and currently in conversion to organic.

Diebolt Vallois, Cuvee Prestige Blanc de Blancs – a blend of 2009, 2010, 2011 (though the next release set to be a blend of six vintages) – potentially the best value of the lot. Precise, detailed fruit supported by super fine structure and an exceedingly pretty floral character.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

A Vega Sicilia line up

Posted by Justerini & Brooks
This week saw the annual tasting of new releases from the Vega Sicilia stable. As ever, it was eagerly anticipated by the Justerini & Brooks team who were keen to get to grips with both the Valbuena 2010 and Unico 2007. The first Unico to be released since the 2004, the 2007 gently bucks the trend of ten years cellar time post-vintage, thus allowing the brooding 2005 to lie dormant a little longer. 2007 was considered a ‘challenging’ vintage; indeed, it mirrored a number of the weather conditions seen in much-maligned 2007 Bordeaux. This necessitated the strictest possible selection of fruit for Unico which is only produced in years when quality allows. Rest assured, on tasting it, our concerns were quickly allayed.

Vega Sicilia is often considered as an estate that tends to overcome the caprices of a given vintage. Speaking with Javier Ausas, chief winemaker and all-around head honcho at the estate, his feeling is that Unico can broadly be described as producing two distinct styles through the years. It either falls into the liberal, opulent, generous style we have seen in vintages such as 2004, or the stricter, elegant style seen in vintages such as 1999. Both absolutely have their place and at their peak produce utterly compelling wines that are recognised as world class. 2007 certainly falls into the latter category. It is full of verve and tension, with a nose of dark and red cherries, violet and lavender, tempered by fresh coffee beans and bitter strawberries, the palate quite reserved, with clear acidity and a firm tannic structure. 

It is also worth mentioning Valbuena 2010 - the little sibling of Unico - which in 2010 is absolutely delicious. Having spent three years in barrel and two years in bottle prior to release, this is the first Valbuena vintage born in Vega’s much discussed state-of-the-art winery. For a complex, layered wine with sweet tannins and bright, open fruit from an outstanding vintage, look no further.

The ensuing lunch with Vega Sicilia in the private dining room of The Wolseley really centred on two bottles; the Reserva Especial 2012 and Unico 1987 from magnum. It is a rare privilege to taste the Reserva Especial, a traditional wine made from a blend of three vintages intended to maintain a consistent Vega style. 15,000 bottles are produced each year and the blended wine spends four years in bottle prior to release. In the case of 2012 the assemblage was made up of 1991, 1994 and 1999, complimentary vintages chosen to emphasise particular aspects of the wine; 1999 for freshness and acidity, 1994 for persistence and weight on the palate, and 1991 for mature, savoury flavours. Sour cherries, strawberry, griotte cherry, violet and dark berries were the fruits, with a structure that was still lively, coiled and [surprisingly] rather young.

On to the magnum of 1987, a vintage that was cut from the same cloth as 2007; high acidity, fresh and perfumed, but as Javier explained it is also a vintage that like 1998 and 1999 can be difficult to understand. When brought to the market these vintages were nervous, tight and a little unfriendly. Time in bottle has helped them soften and put on a little weight. On tasting, the technological advances over the last 20-30 years are clear when one considers the vintage similarities between 1987 and 2007. The controlled maturity of the grapes and clearer studies of Vega’s differing soils and parcels (19 and 64 respectively) have permitted 2007 to potentially become a great wine. The 1987, although seriously complex, has a touch of the wild about it – herby, leathery and spicy, it feels a little wayward and unharnessed and the acidity is still a little high. Naturally, it does however have a very attractive core of sweet and sour cherries, raspberries, blackberries and orange peel with an iron note on the finish. There is no doubt that this is seriously good wine. The ’87 has real character, is a wonderful experience and has remained true to the conditions - and the era - in which it was grown. 

In short, both 1987 & 2007 are of the same style and similar vintages but the ‘07 feels more complete, less wild and more finely tuned – a process indicative of evolution, not revolution. If age really is the great leveller then I sense that ‘07 at 20 years old will prove to be the superior of the two. 

More so than many, Vega Sicilia Unico really does have a style about it. Across vintages the wines display beautiful aromas and purity of fruit, the centerpiece to tertiary, savoury, herbal notes that develop over time. Whether it is an opulent vintage or reticent one, the wines have a clear sense of place and the question is never one of quality. Perhaps this has become a hallmark for this iconic estate, and that which enables it to sit with the very best. 

Mark Dearing
Buying Assistant

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Dining with the Guinaudeaus at the Connaught

Posted by Justerini & Brooks
Last week saw Baptiste and Julie Guinaudeau, proprietors of Château Lafleur, come to London so we took the opportunity to put on a dinner at which they could introduce us and some clients to their wines.

So, as you do, we called the Connaught and booked one of their private rooms, with dinner to be cooked by Hélène Darroze’s 2 Michelin star team. Unsurprisingly I’d been looking forward to the dinner for quite some time.

After a quick tour of the Connaught’s small but exceedingly good wine cellar (worth asking for if you’re there) it was time to open some wine and await our guests. Drinks started round the table so Baptiste and Julie could say Hello to everyone with some of their Château Grand Village Blanc 2013. Grand Village is the home of Jacques and Sylvie, and they produce excellent red and white wine from the vineyards around it; I’ve tasted quite a few vintages of Grand Village and can say I’ve got a big soft spot for them. New vintages of both cost under £10 per bottle, which is incredibly good value considering it’s made in exactly the same way as Lafleur, by exactly the same team. The 2013 Blanc was delicious, refreshing and palate-cleansing. It’ll be fantastic this Summer for sipping in the sun.

Then we got down to the main event; dinner and some side by side tasting. The oyster amuse-bouche, served in a Martini glass, was accompanied by a glass of Château Grand Village, A Louima, Blanc, 2012. It slipped down nicely before the second wines were served: Château Grand Village 2008 and ‘G’ Acte 2 2010. Both of these are Merlot/Cabernet Franc blends, the Grand Village 2008 having a smaller amount (10%) of Cabernet Franc than the ‘G’ 2010, which has nearly 50% Cabernet Franc. ‘G’ is a project they started in 2009 (Acte 1) so it was great to actually taste the result after a few years bottle-ageing. Side by side they both showed really well – Grand Village felt more traditional, ‘G’ more modern in style and both had a lot of fans round the table, as did the exquisite starter called ‘Onion’, a pasta dish with onion, black truffle, barley and lardo di Colonnata.

All we knew about the main course was the rather terse description on the menu: ‘Lamb’, Panisse, Taggiasca olive, basil. However by now we had 2 glasses of Lafleur in front of us and the evening was going swimmingly! The point of the evening wasn’t so much to show off the great vintages of Château Lafleur, rather to taste a couple of wines from less well-known years to show just how good the wines are. So, we started with 2007 Pensees de Lafleur (their second wine). Delicious, and a really good showing in a pretty-difficult vintage, but rather overshadowed by the glass of Château Lafleur 2004 next to it. The 2004 was a bit of star – still young and from a less than stellar vintage, this is the kind of wine that proves Lafleur are at the very top of their game. The lamb was stunning too, beautifully presented as was every course. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made use of a lot of tweezers in the kitchen to prepare food, the attention to detail of each plate was some of the best I’ve seen. It’s not hard to love food that looks this good.

Coming to the end of dinner, it was time to pour the 2 magnums of Lafleur 1999 that had been sitting on the side. Along with some simple but delicious Comte, the Lafleur brought the dinner to an end brilliantly. At the other end of the spectrum to the 2004, being far more mature, this was another example of great wine coming from a tough vintage. It’s still a ‘big’ wine but the density is now being replaced by some gorgeous aromatics.

Thanks to Baptiste and Julie for coming over – it was a tremendous night and a perfect reminder of how good Bordeaux can be. We all know about the pricing and the problems we’ve had with Bordeaux over the last few years; sometimes you need to remind yourself it’s about the wines. When Bordeaux makes great wine like this it really is the greatest wine in the world.

PS: I asked Baptiste “without going mad and spending the earth, what vintages of Lafleur and Pensees should people buy now?”. He replied “Lafleur 92, 93 and 94 for drinking, Lafleur 95 for laying down. Pensees 99, 2000, 2001.” Straight from the owner’s mouth…

- Nick Clarke, Private Client Account Manager

Friday 13 February 2015

Barolo 2011 - Don't underestimate it!

Posted by Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director
Vintages come in all shapes and sizes: round or racy, sweet or savoury, rich or delicate. However when it comes to ultimate drinking pleasure, and indeed age-worthiness, it is balance that counts. Although it was far from an extreme year, being punctuated by cooler weather either side of August, 2011 was hotter and less uniform than the routinely brilliant 2010. Nonetheless the quality of the best 2011s is not that far behind in our view, specifically amongst the cooler high altitude or southeast-facing vineyard sites. The wines exhibit powerful yet open, sweet, headily-perfumed fruit, which makes them polar opposite to their impressive but more serious, predecessors. We think there are some impeccably balanced wines that are thrilling to enjoy now whilst offering good ageing potential. Following a great vintage is never easy, but don’t underestimate 2011, it is a very good vintage that will surprise many.

Vintage in depth:

Heavy rainfall characterised winter, right up until March. Higher temperatures in April brought the season forward by two weeks and, despite cooler weather returning in June and July, the growth cycle of the vine did not slow down. August was hot but thanks to the good water reserves, ripening continued uninterrupted, even if berries started to shrink in some cases. Rain in the first week of September further aided ripening and hot September days were followed by cool nights which preserved a sufficient level of freshness in the grapes and also helped build up incredibly aromatic components that characterise the resultant wines. Vintage started relatively early at the beginning of October. The crop was healthy and quantities were good. There are a handful of factors vital to the quality of the vintage: The crop was a good sized one and in some areas controlling this was important; vines grown in cooler areas, either at altitude or with southeast exposures, performed best; Late ripening varieties such as Nebbiolo coped best with the vintage conditions; a cooler September as well as the good underground water reserves ensured the growth cycle slowed down and returned to normal, this meant the “hang time” of the grapes was longer than compared to other “hot” vintages such as 2009.

So what of the wines? They are packed with rich, ripe, fruity flavours and intense floral perfumes. The tannins are powerful and evident yet your mouth is left sweet with fruit. The very best wines are those from the cooler sites or those with a cooler site component in the blend, and these wines are utterly compelling. They show a fine, balancing freshness to counteract the vintage’s heady fruit character. There are many excellent wines from La Morra the pinnacle of which are those from Brunate and Rocche dell’ Annunziata. Star performers from other communes were Cascina Francia, Fiasco and above all Rocche from Castiglione, whilst in Serralunga Brea from Brovia and San Rocco from Azelia were exemplary. A little lower down, but nonetheless brilliant, Cannubi showed its quality across the three producers that I tasted – Altare, Scavino and the Cannubi Boschis from Sandrone.

When tasked with comparing it to another vintage producers flitted between 2007 – but with more tannins and acidity (Roberto Conterno), 1998 (Davide Voerzio) and a blend of 2008 and 2004 (Vietti.) They are wines that have a sweetness and fragrance that make them very appealing already, although their structure and exquisite balance should ensure very good ageing ability.

Friday 30 January 2015

Cheval Blanc Masterclass

Posted by Justerini & Brooks
Yesterday we were treated to a Cheval Blanc master-class with Pierre-Olivier Clouet and Arnaud de Laforcade. This young and talented Technical Director and Finance Director team gave us a wonderful tasting and shared their wine-making philosophy in our chilly St James’s Street Cellar.

We started with a flight of Quinault L’Enclos, the newest addition to the group. This small vineyard in the outskirts of Libourne was purchased in 2009 and has undergone a complete transformation in the vineyard and the winery. The gravelly vineyards have been ploughed and organic farming techniques have been adopted. In the chai, Pierre-Olivier is using a much lighter touch, allowing the vintage and the terroir to speak. The progress is evident just from the three vintages we tasted: 2010, 2011 and 2012. The 2012 is wonderfully aromatic, is packed with transparent fruit and is beautifully balanced. Texturally, this is so refined – the tannins are fruity and long with no sense of dryness. This is definitely an estate to add to the watch list. 

Pierre-Olivier then introduced the wines from Cheval Blanc. The first flight paired the 2010 Petit Cheval and the 2009 Grand Vin. It was extraordinary to re-taste these magnificent wines. At 14.5% alcohol, the 2010 Petit Cheval is a most impressive wine. It possesses all the hallmarks of this arresting vintage: power, alcohol, and the most intoxicating of bouquets, but everything is in perfect balance – this is so harmonious you want to drink it right now! Cheval 2009 is clearly a baby. It has the exoticism of the vintage with copious amounts of extract and regal, large scale tannins. It is a tour de force that requires and will reward patience. 

Our next flight was an opportunity to see the progress of the 2011s. You might expect 2011s to struggle after the 2010 and 2009, however, the 2011s equipped themselves admirably. Aromatically they are more reserved. The fruit is dark, brooding and mineral, although there is a nice clarity and precision here. Petit Cheval’s tannins are quite powdery at the moment, a common trait in 2011. The Grand Vin is noble and classy, finishing with pure refined fruit tannins – a noteworthy effort. 

The next brace came from the 2006 vintage – something of a forgotten year. Petit Cheval is already quite evolved displaying secondary aromas and gorgeous, mouth-coating iodine and mineral flavours. The Grand Vin is by contrast very primary. The fruit is pure and sexy and the firm tannins require a little more time to blend into the wine. This is a splendid wine which the Cheval team are quite rightly very proud of. 

The final flight only had just one wine, the magnificent 2000 Cheval Blanc. This is a wine that really deserves its own flight. It has been a 100 point wine and in our opinion is thoroughly deserving of the accolade. It is unctuous and rich, yet delicate and refined. There is no sense of heaviness; it just keeps giving wonderful perfumed nuanced fruit. This is a deeply complex wine that one can’t help to admire right now, but one senses this could be one of the all-time great Chevals, which will last well into the 21st century.

We’d like to extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to Pierre-Olivier and Arnaud for sharing their passion, time and above all, wonderful wines with us.

Tom Jenkins, Bordeaux Buyer

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Southwold 2015 tasting (Bordeaux 2011)

Posted by Justerini & Brooks
Following the spectacular duo of 2009 and 2010, some questioned the pulling power of the 2011s. Whether it was the charm of this somewhat derided vintage or the lure of cooked breakfasts and sea air, the Southwold regulars nearly all made the trip to Suffolk.

The vintage got off to the very best of starts. While we were tasting the embryonic 2010s from barrel, we basked in warm sunshine and admired the precocious vines. This was one of the earliest flowerings in recent times. Summer had arrived early - but it didn't last. Seasons were getting muddled. July and August were decidedly spring-like and didn't help grape maturity. Thankfully a fine September (except for the hail in St Estephe) came to the rescue and provided relief for some very worried vignerons. 

My general perception of the vintage is quite positive. The wines have a soft ripe core that to my mind is reminiscent of the 2001s. They are charming and not at all aggressive or astringent. They don’t have the concentration or complexity of 2009 and 2010, but that is an unfair comparison. Having tasted two of the all-time great vintages, this was definitely a bump back down to earth. 

Wines that stood out included: Pichon Baron and Grand Puy Lacoste. Both displayed the hallmarks of elegant Pauillac and possess ample density. From St Julien, Leoville Poyferre was glossy and impressive, while Montrose and Cos d’Estournel stood out as the class acts of St Estephe. Chateau Palmer and Smith Haut Lafitte Rouge were both head and shoulders above their peers in their respective communes. On the right bank, star performers included Angelus, Tertre Roteboeuf, L’Eglise Clinet and Vieux Chateau Certan. 

As one would expect, the First Growths and top estates from the Right Bank are generally a notch up on the super seconds. However, Pichon Baron, Eglise Clinet and Chateau Palmer could more than hold their own, even in this company. 

Sauternes and Barsac are traditionally a bit of an afterthought in these reports. High costs of production and waning demand makes one wonder why anyone struggles to produce these wines. But struggle on they do and thank goodness they did in 2011. The wines are wonderfully sweet and beautifully balanced. They will be a joy to drink young and they should age gracefully for decades. Our old friend Doisy Vedrines was the pick of the bunch, as it was for our Buying Director when we tasted en primeur - good spot Giles! 

Commercially the 2011s are not that interesting at the moment. This is often a problem with vintages preceded by a great crop (or two in this case). Prices don’t fall fast enough. Bordeaux was certainly guilty of over-inflating prices on release. Subsequently, market conditions deteriorated making prices look even less attractive today. I felt that a general despondency about pricing probably unfairly influenced peoples’ impression of the wines. I believe that this is a superior vintage to 2007 at this stage. Bordeaux’s euphemistic phrase, ‘classical’, springs to mind when tasting the 2011s. Because of the lack of heat in August, these are not fruit bombs. Californian Cabernet they are not; this is an orthodox Bordeaux vintage, which, given a few more years in bottle, should blossom into something quite interesting.

Tom Jenkins, Bordeaux Buyer

Monday 5 January 2015

New Year’s Message from Justerini & Brooks

Posted by Justerini & Brooks

2014 was an exciting year for Justerini & Brooks. Despite continuing challenges in the wider wine market the business grew, but not without work.

We saw particular success with our portfolio of Burgundy, Champagne and Italian wines, all of which have continued to be increasingly demanded by our customers. This year’s Barolo campaign was the first for Justerini & Brooks to exceed £1million sales in the month it was released, with a further £1million sold in older vintages over the following few months. A well-deserved and exciting development for a region we began importing into the UK a generation or so ago with the 1989 vintage.

The demand for prestige and artisan Champagnes in 2014 proved to be even stronger with our customers, with Champagne sales almost surprisingly growing by 20% on the year before. Some quality vintages and a broadening portfolio sit behind that. Sadly, the same success cannot be said of Bordeaux, with the 2013 en primeur campaign being the smallest Bordeaux campaign for Justerini & Brooks since the 1990s. Though we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that Bordeaux still remains quite substantially the biggest area of our business. We've also noticed a strengthening in demand of older vintages of Bordeaux over the past six months at these new prices, with the successful sale of several substantial and world-class cellars through our broking team.

As for customers, the United Kingdom continues to be our single biggest market, with just over half our business done servicing the wine collections of our customers here in the UK. A further 40% of our customers are based all across Asia - now as north as Beijing, as south as Perth, as west as Delhi, and as east as Tokyo. It is a pleasure to see us moving to second generation customers in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong and Singapore, markets we began looking after in 1976. It was a full 110 years earlier than that, in 1866, that Justerini & Brooks first began to attract overseas customers to its portfolio, initially with the United States. It has been a quiet few years for our American business, though we are now seeing a slow upturn, with New York remaining by far the biggest part of that market for us. As it was originally.

Within the business, our window cleaner and our Chairman both celebrated 40 years with Justerini & Brooks. One of whom has helped bring a sparkle to how we display ourselves in St. James's, the other has proved to be an invaluable steward. Hew Blair's clear vision and commitment to quality has been instrumental in building the continuing success of Justerini & Brooks through the changing times of these past few decades. We have a customer base more vibrant and active than we've ever known, and a huge collection of fine wine estates that we represent; a collection that is arguably unrivaled around the world.

Our customers and ourselves have much to be excited about in 2015. And like with much at Justerini & Brooks, it shall start with Burgundy.

We wish a very happy New Year to all our customers.

Chadwick Delaney
Managing Director

Thursday 11 December 2014

Burgundy 2013 Vintage - "Hang time"

Posted by Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director

“Hang time" is the catchphrase that kept coming up in my tastings with more than 50 producers up and down the Côte d'Or earlier this month. It has become clear over the last decade or so that it is this and well-controlled yields that are two of the vital factors for making great Red Burgundy, certainly more so than hot and sunny weather.

Etienne Grivot sums it up better than anyone: “A difficult but incredible year.”

It was not an easy growing season: The weather was poor during flowering which greatly affected yields, summer was difficult and although end of season weather improved and aided ripening the very late harvest was interrupted by a storm in early October. In fact it was one of the latest harvests ever, certainly for Frederic Mugnier - the last time grapes were picked that late was 1984, the same goes for Marquis d’Angerville. However, despite all of this, the reds at top addresses have turned out brilliantly, something that could not have happened without the tiny crop the vines were carrying and the enormous amount of selection work that the top domaines undertook at harvest time. Acidities, though high, tend not to stick out anything like as much as other high-acid vintages such as 2008 and 1993, in fact they blend beautifully into the wines, adding nothing more than an appetising verve. The fruit, though it took a while, reached full maturity. Unusually in this day and age of global warming, grape skins and pips ripened at low alcohol levels, between 11.5 to 12.5%. But perhaps the most intriguing feature of this red vintage of all are the wonderfully suave tannic structures, a result of the long hang time on the vine (120 days instead of the usual 100 from flowering to ripening.)

The wines boast that beguiling mix of lightness and intensity - Red Burgundy's great attribute. Whilst not always a homogenous vintage, thanks to uneven ripening, rot and hail that damaged vines from Savigny to the north side of Meursault, the important point is that good growers with good vineyards were capable of making great wines. In 2013 each wine's terroir characteristics were even more transparent than in 2012, a reason some vignerons rate their ‘13s more highly. At their best these are bright, transparent, seductive and certainly age-worthy.

The same can be said of the whites: Quality and ripeness were uneven at lesser addresses and here acidities may stick out a touch, but at any domaine worth its salt they are truly excellent.  Acidities are racy, the wines are streamlined, refreshing and show greater balance and refinement than 2012s, and a touch more ripeness than 2007s. Quantities, whilst not big, are a smidgeon better than in 2012.

Overall it is difficult to generalise about 2013 apart from the fact that it was not a homogenous year and quantities are just as small as 2012, sometimes smaller. It is clear, though, that this can be an exciting vintage. There are some wonderful  Côte de Nuits wines from good terroirs and, whilst the weather was a little more challenging in the Côte Beaune, there are some great reds to be found there too, notably around Aloxe and in parts of Volnay. For the whites, there are many extremely fine wines from the top vineyards of Chassagne, Puligny and the south side of Meursault.

Herewith some of our growers’ thoughts on the vintage:

Etienne Grivot: “A difficult but incredible vintage, the alcohols were low but the pips and skins were ripe, it was a very late year, reminding me of 1978.”

Gregory Gouges: “ A Beautiful Vintage.”

Christophe Roumier: “2013 started off reminding me of 1993, but now I am more inclined to think 2001 or 1995.”

Gerard Boudot, Etienne Sauzet: “Among the very best ever Puligny vintages.”

Erwan Faiveley: “An amazing vintage at the very best estates”.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Domaine Weinbach’s 2013 Vintage Report

Posted by Julian Campbell, Buyer

It was with great sadness that we visited Domaine Weinbach this year as there would be a noticeable absence from the vintage presentation after Laurence Faller’s tragically early death in May 2014. Laurence had been admired by all who came to know her, and her talent for winemaking was well documented. She had a prodigious talent and was recognised by wine drinkers around the world, as well as her peers, as one of Alsace’s brightest lights. Her immediate family included her two children and her sister Catherine and mother Colette, the latter two both remaining at the estate, Catherine remaining very much hands on. Catherine’s son Theo will continue to look after the vineyards, as he has done for a number of years, while the current cellar master will continue the work he’s done for over ten years. They have suffered a very sad loss this year, but Laurence leaves the estate in good shape and excellent hands.

The climatic conditions of 2013 were challenging. The weather in May was particularly cold and miserable, delaying flowering, and giving rise to ‘coulure’ across the whole spectrum of varieties. From the off the harvest looked set to be late, and low yielding. July and August here were warm and hot, punctuated by useful bouts of rainfall, the vines managing to regain a little lost time in these two months, so long as vegetative growth was kept in check. By the time September arrived the vineyards were in good condition and as a result of some fine even September weather, and cool nights, the grapes approached ripeness with excellent acidities intact and vibrant fruit profiles.

Harvest eventually started on 3rd October, a touch later than usual and lasted through to the end of October. As a result of the disastrous flowering, the estates yields averaged a mere 28 hl/ha, with Riesling and Muscat the two most affected varieties.

Now in bottle, the dominant characteristics in 2013 are freshness and vitality. However, this is not a lightweight vintage. “I think you can apply the term juicy to 2013” Catherine noted, and they are, but there is also more to them that that. From Sylvaner to the top Gewurztraminers, these wines have complex personalities, rich voices, and very clear finishes. There is very little fat, though of course there is opulence where opulence is called for (as is the case in some of the top Gewurztraminers) moreover, there is moreish fruit enveloping great ripe acidity and typical Weinbach elegance. The Schlossberg Rieslings, what little there are of them, are particularly clear, mineral and incisive.

So a very fine vintage of decisive, well defined wines that have the intensity, character and acidity to cellar well into the next decade. One final song from the late Laurence Faller (1967 – 2014).

Monday 17 November 2014

Rhone 2013 - a silver lining - and a quick word on 2012s

Posted by Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director
Walking through some Grenache vines in Châteauneuf –du-Pape at the end of September 2013 was glorious.  It was a bright, sunny and rather balmy afternoon, unusually so at that time of year even for the Southern Rhône.  As I looked at the vines, sparsely dotted with the odd bunch, most of them grapillons (the second flush of grapes that are left on the vine after vintage because they never ripen and are not used to make wine,) I imagined how glorious the crop would have looked and how gratifying harvest must have been.  So it was to my great surprise later that evening to learn that picking had not even started yet.  Nearly a year on, I travelled out( this week) to taste the results. 

Uneven weather before and during the 2013 flowering period resulted in the dropping of embryonic bunches, followed by aborted flowering of those that remained. Grenache was the most severely affected variety in the South and given that this makes up 70% of the typical Châteauneuf blend, was something of a catastrophe for growers.  A drop of 30 to 50% compared to a usual harvest was reported across the region, for many producers it was the smallest crop they had ever seen.  In the North, depending on the vineyard and individual terroir, Syrah was worse affected than it was further south and there were also tiny yields for Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Furthermore a very uneven wet and cold summer meant it was a late vintage, the latest in thirty years of wine producing for one particular Hermitage vigneron. 

However the small crop was very much a silver lining, particularly in the North. What grapes there were ripened well in the sunny, dry, end of September / early October conditions and good acidity levels were maintained.

Broadly speaking in the North this is a 2012 plus plus vintage. 2013 has a similar profile to ’12 but with more ripeness and concentration, whilst retaining an agile, refreshing quality. I tasted some juicy, classical, luscious Cornas and Hermitages but even better were the Côte Rôties, where growers generally recorded half a crop but were offered more than double the recompense by nature in terms of quality.  This is a great Côte Rôtie vintage.  The whites in 2013 are great, too, the Condrieus were some of the best I had ever tasted. They offered ripe, fruity flavours without the heaviness sometimes associated with these wines and displayed mineral, linear finishes. 

In the south the wines were uncommonly refreshing and relatively low in alcohol  (13.5 to 14 % rather than 15 to 15.5%)  However they could not trump the exquisite 2012s - I re-tasted many of these in Châteauneuf – my initial opinion of them last year was more than confirmed.  2012 is one of the very great Châteauneuf-du-Pape vintages with a refinement and subtle beauty that was largely missed or under-appreciated upon release. Snap them up while you can. 

Coming back to 2013: It was an extreme, marginal vintage that will certainly be variable in quality amongst less quality-conscious growers.  There was a fine line between good and bad.  However at the region’s quality-minded estates, on the right side of the line, the quality can be utterly brilliant.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Château Margaux and Justerini & Brooks in Jakarta

Posted by Justerini & Brooks

We organise many dinners and tastings all over the world, but last week we hosted a particularly memorable event in Jakarta with Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux. It was the first time that Paul had been to Indonesia, so Justerini & Brooks put on a gala evening at the Grand Hyatt hotel for our Indonesian customers, and arranged to have vintages of Château Margaux, back to 1966. The evening began with a chilled glass of Dom Pérignon 2004 to cleanse our palates and get us in the mood for a sensational flight of Margaux that would follow. Once our guests were seated, we started with Pavillon Blanc de Château Margaux 2010. This 100% Sauvignon Blanc cuvee, which is from a 12 hectare site just outside the Margaux commune, was rich, youthful, and utterly delicious, and was a fabulous match with baked lobster. It was followed by Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux and Château Margaux both from the legendary 2005 vintage. The Pavillon Rouge was delightful, and much more approachable than the Château Margaux at this precocious stage. The Grand Vin was an extraordinary powerful wine, full of promise. Its beguiling bouquet slowly unravelled with aeration to reveal a deeply seductive wine, packed with dark fruits, and silky ripe tannins. This will no doubt be stunning in time, but patience will be required. In fact, Paul Pontallier believes that this may well be his best vintage yet (and he started with the estate in 1983.)

After the 2005 we moved on to Margaux 1996. This proved to be the star vintage on the night – a sensational wine that showed everyone how sublimely seductive Margaux can be. It had everything in the glass: rich, gloriously perfumed aromas, and a depth of cool, ripe fruits that were covered in the silkiest of tannins. This is a truly gorgeous wine that is drinking perfectly at the moment; the epitome of 1st growth quality, and it worked so perfectly with Wagyu beef.

This was followed by Château Margaux 1986, a more savoury vintage, and one filled with nuance. The tannins on this structured vintage have slowly softened and mellowed over time to show highly refined, elegant fruits and a wine that has a beautiful lengthy persistence on the palate. 

The 1983 and 1982 Margaux were then served side-by-side. These two vintages of Margaux always form a fascinating conversation when placed together, and usually divide opinion. This again was the case last week, where there was much debate. The 1983 Margaux had a superb definition and balance, but for me the ripe weight and silky fruits of the ’82 made it even more enjoyable. With wines of this age, it is always about individual bottles, and there have often been times where I’ve preferred the 1983. 

The evening finished with 1966 Margaux. This fully mature wine was a delight to end with. The Château has come a long way since the 1960s and although the wines from this era are not well reviewed, they are still fascinating and drinking well – proof that great terroir always shines through… This was soft, with luscious fruits that caressed the mouth as one slowly sipped it; a fitting end to a great and highly memorable evening. 

- Chadwick Delaney, Managing Director

Monday 27 October 2014

Bordeaux 2014: Harvest report from the Guinaudeau

Posted by Justerini & Brooks

The 2014 vintage is providing us with so much pleasure… As we told you in the last email on 17th September, we were in a sunny disposition, and we still are. We finished the harvest with the Cabernets Franc plots from Grand Village on the 8th October in excellent conditions…

We worked hard throughout the summer to keep the grapes healthy. We must say that the weather in September and in October has been exceptional. Optimum ripeness was reached in all the different terroirs.

We have to harvest at just the right moment when the grapes are very ripe. It is a key success factor to harvest each parcel at the right time. If the harvest is done too early, phenolic maturity would not be reached, however with a late harvest the result would be too heavy, without enough freshness and precision.

Concerning Lafleur, we harvested:

- The Merlots from the lot A on Friday 26th September

- The Merlots from the lot B on Monday 29th September

- The Cabernets Francs from the successful lot D on Sunday 5th October

- The Cabernets Francs from the lot E and F on Monday 6th October

We have just started the running-off (lot A and B from Lafleur). The Merlots combine power and delicacy, with a mind-blowing balance and freshness. Cabernets Francs from the lot D, are macerating, but we have already achieved a complexity and aromatic intensity we associate with the great millésimes…

The maceration is done for the white; they are now digesting the lees which are particularly rich this year, and we are doing a batonnage every two days. The framework is getting there, the tasting from the barrels confirms our first impressions. The white should be on another level for the 2014 vintage…

We will share our impressions about the vintage very soon.

Bien Cordialement,

Les Guinaudeau

Friday 24 October 2014

Bordeaux 2012: The Usual Suspects

Posted by Justerini & Brooks
The annual Bordeaux tasting at the Royal Opera House was rather less busy than normal, but those who did attend were in up-beat mood. Our friends from Aquitaine arrived fresh from an Indian summer that has lifted spirits and hopes for the 2014s. And it would appear that the worst of the ‘Bordeaux Bashing’ may be over. Clients are beginning to re-visit this once darling region and re-discover their love affair with Claret.

2012 was far from an ideal growing season and the harvest was particularly precarious. Initially we thought this favoured the early ripening Merlots from Pomerol and Pessac. The challenge on the left bank was to wait for maturity and risk dilution and rot or cut one’s losses and harvest before the rain. At the time of the primeur tastings our Chairman said that ‘terroir, technique and timing were all key to success in 2012’. How right he was.

On the evidence of Thursday’s tasting, it is the usual suspects who have risen to the top of the pile. Perennial successes such as Grand Puy Lacoste, Domaine de Chevalier, Malartic Lagraviere, Smith Haut Lafitte and the two Pichons have made beautiful wines with concentration, vitality and freshness. It is not a blockbuster vintage, that is for sure, however, there are wines that will give enormous drinking pleasure and are sensibly priced. Xavier Borie’s GPL and Olivier Bernard’s Domaine de Chevalier Rouge deserve special mention – these are both tremendous value.

At the time of release we were rather negative about Sauternes. We always try to be honest in our assessment and we discouraged clients from buying these wines. It is clearly not a good vintage for sweeties – the wines are at best simple and lack botrytis. When there are so many good Sauternes vintages to choose from, one can quite easily forget about the 2012s altogether.

Those pessimistic about the primeur system said at the time, ‘these are not wines to buy en primeur’, and they have largely been proved right. Many of the 2012s are still available at their opening prices (good news for consumers) – but given how well some of the reds tasted and their relative affordability, they may not be around at these prices for long…

- Tom Jenkins, Bordeaux Buyer

Wednesday 22 October 2014

VIDEO: Domaine Chantal Remy, Clos des Rosiers

Posted by Justerini & Brooks
Our recent Burgundy trip took us far and wide. Here Chantal Remy's son, Florian, explains to us Clos des Rosiers.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Highlights from our Burgundy trip: Henri Gouges

Posted by Justerini & Brooks

Last week the sales team flew out to Burgundy to visit a number of our agencies and amongst many highlights, one Domaine that really stood out was Henri Gouges in Nuits St Georges.

In the early 1900s, Henri Gouges, mayor of Nuits St Georges, was one of the largest landholders in the region. He was heavily involved in the INAO (Institut National d'Appellation d'Origine) along with the Marquis d’Angerville in Volnay and was at the forefront of a revolutionary project to delineate the various Crus and also to persuade local winemakers to take up domaine bottling rather than selling all their juice to negociants who would usually blend every barrel together and release the wines simply as Cuvee 1, Cuvee 2 etc. Henri was indeed the first producer in Nuits St Georges to start domaine bottling his wine in the early 1930s, when he created his eponymous Domaine. As one of the largest landholders in the region, Henri had significant holdings in the famed Les St Georges vineyard, but, not wanting to be seen as giving himself an unfair advantage, he insisted that no vineyards should be proposed for Grand Cru, even though Les St Georges was, and still is, widely believed to produce wines of Grand Cru quality and at the time the wines often sold for more than many other of Burgundy’s Grand Crus. In fact an application was recently filed with the INAO re-opening the case for its promotion to Grand Cru. There are currently 41 separate 1er Crus in the region.

The Domaine now has 15 hectares of vines in Nuits St Georges, the majority of which are in the southern part, close to Premeaux (Clos des Porrets, Pruliers, Vaucrains, Chenes Carteaux and Les St Georges) which generally produce the richer, more masculine and age-worthy style of Nuits St Georges. Their only holdings in the Northern part, towards Vosne Romanée are in the 1er Cru Chaignots, which produces a softer, more feminine style that can usually be approached earlier. The wines of Domaine Henri Gouges are well known for their incredible ability to age and traditionally they have been completely unapproachable, sometimes for up to 20 years after the vintage, but more recently, current winemaker Gregory Gouges has strived to give the wines more approachability whilst still retaining their ability to age. Picking is all done by hand and the Domaine uses organic practices, so vibrating tables are used for grape sorting but mostly, according to Gregory, to get rid of the huge number of insects! The bunches are 100% destemmed in every vintage as according to Gregory ‘there is enough tannin in Nuits already without adding it from the stalks.’ There is minimum intervention in the winery and never any correcting – for instance they did not acidify in 2003 nor did they add tannin in 2004 so there are clear vintage variations across the wines – in fact the Domaine has always gone by the maxim ‘it is whilst still on the vine that a fine wine matures.’ Fermentation takes place in concrete tanks which keep the temperature stable and only minimal new oak is used in the elevage, which usually lasts around 18 months before the wines are bottled. 

During our visit we tasted through a range of the soon to be released 2013s, all of which showed excellent purity and pretty fruit and whilst the 2013s are not quite as concentrated as the 2012s or 2010s they certainly have the stuffing to last for many years in the cellar and should provide enormous drinking pleasure in the years to come. After tasting a short range of wines going back to 2009 we were treated to a sumptuous and incredibly generous lunch with some truly wonderful and extraordinary wines, finishing off with two examples that clearly showed just how well these wines can age. First we were wowed by a fully mature but wonderfully elegant Pruliers from 1970, which was still holding up well after 44 years but even more of a surprise was the last pair of dusty, mouldy bottles that were opened. Most of us guessed the wine must be from the 1950s or 1960s but when its identity was revealed it was truly a revelation. The wine was from 1936, a wine that had been hidden along with a number of other bottles in a walled up cellar which had succeeded in staying hidden from the Nazi occupiers during the Second World War. Gregory asked us to guess the Cru and of course we all presumed it must be Les St Georges or Vaucrains, but no, it was none other than the estate’s entry level wine, the monopole Clos des Porrets. At 78 years of age the wine was truly ethereal, a wonderful experience and a real treat. Considering how well these wines have aged, anyone with an eye to long-term cellarage should definitely be putting a few cases of this domaine’s wines away for as long as they can resist. Whilst 1936 is regarded as a very good year for Red Burgundy, it was certainly not as good as 2009, 2010 or 2012, all of which are available in this offer. A short selection of recommendations follows: 

Nuits St Georges Clos des Porrets 1er Cru 2009 @ £390 – one of the estate’s two monopoles, we saw one with a beautiful texture and serious ageing potential. Buy this and forget it for at least 10 years. 

Nuits St Georges Les Chenes Carteaux 1er Cru 2010 @ £350 – situated on a strip of land between Les St Georges and Vaucrains this is clearly a very special wine at a bargain price! 

Nuits St Georges Les Pruliers 1er Cru 2012 @ £465 – made from vines up to 70 years old, Pruliers produces wonderfully intense mineral wines and this 2012 is up there with the best.

Edward Stafford-Deitsch

Friday 3 October 2014

26 vintages of Clos des Papes

Posted by Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director
I have drunk more Clos des Papes in the last four weeks than the whole of last year, 26 different examples of red and white to be precise, but I am not complaining.  For this fine Rhone estate produces wine that, with age, challenges the convention that Chateauneuf du Pape is about power, richness and little else.  Whilst the famous vintages of course get great journalistic scores and points, the last month has also proven how good Clos des Papes is in "challenging" vintages, indeed they are sometimes preferable.  Overall the wines were utterly graceful, sensual sweet but moreish, very refined but with a distinct sense of place.  My first tasting was with Vincent Avril himself in his cellars, the initial premise was to taste 2013 but Vincent's generosity extended to another 8 additional wines.  The second occasion was a thoroughly convivial dinner earlier this week where the 1934 was rather decadently, but not incorrectly, served as an "apertif" - it was a memorable night. 

Overall I have tasted 8 whites and 18 reds, amongst which were such lauded vintages as 1983, 1989, 1995 and 2000, however my absolute favourites were as follows.

2013 - White.  Less Grenache than usual, really clear and crisp without being aggressive excellent
Red - lots of Mourvedre (30%) and 15% less Grenache than usual.  Early days but promises so much, the freshness of 2008 with the fat of 2011.

2012  Red - One of the great vintages, intensity, depth ripeness and freshness with velvety tannins.  Edges ahead of the other great 2010 for its extra charm and harmony

2001 White - secondary character and complexity with youthful precision , keeps on giving. wonderful 
Red - a long life ahead of it very young and not ready but clearly very smart.  Lively strong but fine- boned.  Super.  Just edge out the very attractive plump and sensual 2000 it was paired with.

1997 White - stunning, a nose that smell distinctly of Saar Riesling.  This is a cooler edgier vintage and it shows in the wine, stony mineral with enough fat to balance

1993 White -  stony and even tauter than the 1997.  A little leaner than the 1997 but very moreish and enjoyable nonetheless
Red -  one of the wines of the dinner.  Wonderful to drink now so fresh and vital but seductive with it.  Floral, fruity and finely poised. Brilliant

1988  Red some secondary character and spice but still plenty of fruit, distinctly mineral too.  Perfectly weighted and drinking well now but there's no rush.  gorgeous. 

1984 - a very "cassis" nose, lots of dark fruit.  More mourvedre in this than usual, this is very impressive and youthful, it still has a good long life ahead of it.  Tense dark structured but velvety blackberries and currants. 

1971 Red this was paired with a '74 - which was lovely and drinking well now - but the 71 had the edge.  Serious dark but bright, almost slightly brooding still, very enjoyable indeed if still plenty to give

1934 Red.  Speechless.  The nose is a nice enough mixture of strawberries and balsamic vinegar, however this does not prepare you at all for the utterlty spellbinding palate  Silky sweet garriguettes strawberries slip accross the juicy palate, notes of leather and spice aswell but they are not too dominant.  Light-touched but persistent, so elegant and beguiling.  Most amazing of all is that it managed to taste not just like Chateaneuf but specifically like Clos des Papes after all these years.  A slickness and sweetness of fruit married to gently spiced characteristics... and it held on in the glass well. Extraordinary

Tuesday 23 September 2014

White Burgfest 2011: An update on 2011 White Burgundies

Posted by Giles Burke-Gaffney, Buying Director
Our chairman, Hew Blair, who will soon be tasting his 40th Burgundy vintage with Justerini & Brooks this autumn, looks back at the Burgfest review of the 2011 white wines tasted earlier this year. 

A report on this summer's Red Burgfest 2011 will follow in the coming week.


-          3 days of blind tasting by 8 top worldwide wine buyers and journalists Neal Martin and Dr Neil Beckett.

-          250 wines tasted in 29 flights

-          1ers and Grand Crus from the Cotes d’Or’s main wine producing villages and for the first time St Aubin and Chablis

-          Discussion was entered into after each flight pre and post disclosure and at the termination of the tasting


Chablis 2011 proved to be ultra mineral ( a good thing ) , but the palate puckering style made it  difficult to see into some of the wines. Consequently top names such as Dauvissat were very closed and backward. Others with a richer style were considerably more open, the Grand Crus of William Fevre and Moreau-Naudet.  The overall range of Jean-Marc Brocard received the best reviews being taught ,focused and with exquisite balance.

For a debut at this tasting the St Aubins’ in these two flights were of a consistent high quality. The energy , minerality and complexity amongst the best was impressive. The top Domaines , such as Lamy , Ch de Puligny and Marc Colin are taking this appellation into new heights of quality.

Of the five flights of 1er Cru Meursault , Genevrieres proved to be the most consistent and with real outstanding performers headed by Domaines des Comtes Lafon - a brilliant example - “ wild flowers , limestone teasing complexity “  Dominic’s Perrieres and Charmes were also top notch .Other over achievers were Michel Bouzereau , Ch de Puligny and Bernard Boisson Vadot .

The 2011 vintage in Chassagne crystallised the difference in style and quality between the higher and lower 1er Crus .Outstandly good examples came from Grandes Ruchottes , La Romanee and Caillerets on the upper slopes exploited by Paul Pillot , Bernard Moreau and several Moreys.The middle and lower 1er crus were as to be expected richer with more density but very fine Vide Bourse of Marc Colin and Chenevottes from Jean Noel Gagnard showed what can be achieved showing energy and minerality.

Amongst the five flights of 1er Cru Puligny’s there were few disappointments and many superb wines which showed the outstandingly high quality of the 2011 vintage in this village . Great wines across the board from the high flying Domaines headed by Sauzet , Leflaive and Bachelet Monnot . It would be tricky to choose the outstanding vineyards of the vintage, but Folatieres and Pucelles are my pick.

The Corton Charlemagnes were split into three flights East ,West and Ladoix. No particular advantage was perceivable . The West flight was headed by Remi Rollin’s dynamic , brooding  age-worthy example , the East by Patrick Javillier’s delicious roasted nut and butter example and Ladoix exquisitely balanced wines of Franck Follin-Arbelet and Oliver Leflaive .

The Grand Crus centred on Montrachet were tasted in four Flights. The wine of the whole tasting was the Le Montrachet Comtes Lafon , breathtaking intensity power and balance, closely followed by an ethereal Montrachet from Marquis de Laguiche . Other outstanding wines were the Batard and Chevaliers of Domaine Laflaive and the cool restrained ageworthy Batards’ of Sauzet and Bachelet Monnot .

The 2011 White Burgundies were a pleasant surprise in many ways . There were few if any corked bottles , which shows growers are taking quality control of corks more seriously . There was no sign of any premature oxidation , perhaps a combination of fine acidity and lessons learned both in vineyard and cellar . Overall I would be confident and more than happy to have these wines in my cellar and be in no rush to pull the corks . The 2011s from these top Domaines will provide great pleasure and in many cases exceptional quality drinking .

Friday 19 September 2014

Breaking news: Guinaudeau's 2014 vintage update.

Posted by Justerini & Brooks

"We have just started the harvest for the Blancs de Grand-Village following a period of glorious, warm, sunny weather. We are happy, because the grapes are very ripe, the aromatic level is amazing, both for the Sauvignon and Sémillon. 

After a tough summer, once again we had to work hard, but the first two weeks of September were brilliant, as a consequence the vendage has a surprising potential… At the moment the grapes are in excellent condition and we can therefore take our time. We have been harvesting in the cool early mornings for the last three days and have collected all of our Semillon and half of our Sauvignon.

Regarding our red grapes, physiological maturity has largely been reached in Pomerol and we are taking advantage of the nice weather to further improve the tannic structure. We may take some secateurs to the very young vines in the parcel of Lafleur called La Sieste this week. We will see… In any case we should start harvesting the best Merlot plots in Lafleur by the following week. The Cabernet Francs grapes have tasted well in the vineyard, and should be ready at the beginning of October.

We will let you know how the 2014 harvest is going, but it has started under excellent conditions. "

Les Guinaudeau.

Monday 30 June 2014

'At home with Chêne Bleu' - an event special

Posted by Justerini & Brooks
Xavier and Nicole Rolet are the owners of Chêne Bleu, an idyllic winery located in the foothills of Mt Ventoux in Southern Rhône. They kindly invited us into their stunning London home for a spoiling evening showcasing their beautifully polished wines paired with dinner created by a rising star on the London culinary scene - Marcelo de Campos. Marcelo created a menu combining the aromas and flavours of Provence with hints of his native Brazil. A ‘touch of football fever' menu matched with award-winning French wines may sound like a strange concept but the first bite of the canapé indicated to me that it was going to be an interesting evening. The thoughtfulness and complexity in the flavour of the food matched terrifically well with the wines.

Before dinner, whilst enjoying her 2013 Rosé, Nicole explained the story of the winery, and their decade of dedication which successfully changed an abandoned vineyard and ruined chateau into the heralded place that it is today. The 1700 feet altitude of the vineyards is certainly tasted on the palate with minerally flavours, especially in the light pink rosé. This is a serious food wine which does not leave one feeling anything but refreshed and happy.

At dinner we enjoyed an array of delights, my top pairing being the Aliot 2010 with celeriac lasagne and truffle confetti. The oily, richly textured Aliot burst with complex flavours and worked alongside the creaminess of the lasagne and savoury notes of the celeriac and truffle. Another great moment was trying Chêne Bleu's new wine - Astralabe 2009 with ‘steak frite Brazillian style’ (wonderfully cooked meat with cassava chips). This wine is the baby of Abelard. More fruity and less concentrated; Nicole says it is your perfect Thursday night wine (it is so delicious I will be enjoying it every night of the week). As ever the Héloise and Abelard shone, the Héloise's femininity highlighted against the more masculine and spicy Abelard. Both were stunning with the lamb although I found the velvety Héloise really stood out with the crusted lamb cutlet and ratatouille.

It was an extraordinary night of which we all will remember, thank you again to Chêne Bleu for their hospitality and incredible selection of fine wines.

- Catriona Palmer, Event Manager