The countdown to Christmas has officially begun. The team at Justerini & Brooks could not think of a better way of observing advent than discovering a very special line up of bottles, carefully selected by their buyers.
As an intense year of hard work comes to an end, with intense challenges sourcing, shipping the best bottles in the world and delivering them to you, Tom Jenkins, Giles Burke-Gaffney, Julian Campell and Mark Dearing are particularly happy to share some of their favourite and best-value choices.
A combination of all-time favourites, must-have classics and interesting discoveries that you will want to fill your cellar with and have at hand, during the festive season as well as all year round.
Nothing evokes celebration quite as Champagne does. Hear the cork popping and you know the mood will be rightly set. But Champagne also deserves a place at the dinner table, providing great food-pairing possibilities and much drinking pleasure, not merely as an aperitif.
There is nothing quite delicious, and indeed Christmassy, that Champagne and cheese!
Pierre Paillard, Les Parcelles Bouzy Grand Cru NV
Julian Campbell, J&B’s Champagne buyer, is unequivocal when talking about this fizz: “This has to be one of the best non-vintage Champagne cuvées on the market. A hugely satisfying glass of Champagne which is great on its own, but with enough stuffing to be enjoyed alongside roast chicken with crispy skin and roasting juices.”
Paillard has been making wine in the Grand Cru village of Bouzy for over 200 years. “We are simply thrilled to be representing Paillard in the UK,” says Julian. “It’s being propelled into the upper echelons of grower Champagnes by two young, forward-thinking brothers with outward looking sensibilities.”
This cuvée is produced from 22 individually vinified parcels of estate vineyards in Bouzy, where only organic composts and treatments are used. It is a blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay with 30% reserve wines and is aged sur lie for 48 months before release. Fermentation was spontaneous, and the malolactic fermentation wasn’t blocked. “This is the sort of hands-off winemaking that is only made possible by exceptional fruit and very attentive farming,” Julian adds.
£35.82/bottle available here
Pascal Doquet, Arpège 1er Cru Extra Brut NV
The ‘Arpège’ in this Cuvée’s name refers to the fact it is made from fruit grown in three villages: Vertus, Mont Aimée and Villeneuve. Pascal Doquet established his own estate in 2004 after making wines for his parents’ label since 1982 and now runs his Domaine under strict organic principles. All wines are fermented with native yeasts in a variety of vessels, from concrete to wood to inox. “Ageing is longer than you’d expect here, and the wines tend to have a wonderfully savoury, complex lees-aged character to them,” Julian says.
Winemaking for this 100% Chardonnay Champagne is natural and hand-off, with only wild yeasts and bottling taking place with the lightest of filtrations and no finings. After malolactic fermentation in tank, the wines remain sur lie for five months with approximately one third of the production aged in used oak barrels prior to secondary fermentation in bottle.
“The multi-village arpeggio effect, coupled with music-lover Pascal’s organic farming and patient winemaking makes for a very fine savoury, characterful Blanc de Blancs equally enjoyable on its on or alongside food,” says Julian.
£34.42/bottle available here
Winter generally means ‘the time to drink warming reds’. However, a rich, poised white, such as the one below, can be an equally appropriate alternative, with its intense aromatic complexity and savoury appeal. An important thing to remember: do not drink it too cold – intense, structured whites should be enjoyed at the same temperature as lights reds.
Château de Meursault, Bourgogne Blanc ‘Clos du Château’ 2017
Justerini & Brooks has worked with Château de Meursault since 2012 when it was bought by Olivier Halley and the estate’s fortunes began to change: his aim was to make it one of the most hallowed estates in Burgundy. Winemaking is now overseen by Stephane Follin-Arbelet and under his direction the Château is currently undergoing conversion to organic, increasing the size of the picking teams, and lowering yields.
Talking about this Clos du Château, Burgundy Buyer Giles Burke-Gaffney says: “An east-facing Clos on the grounds of the Château, this is one of their signature wines. Pure and impeccably balanced, full of bright, juicy and generous fruit. Crisp Sicilian lemon and citrus zest notes, touches of blossom, white flower, and a hint of stone fruit. Characterful and with sufficient flesh but definitely on the more taut and elegant side of the white Burgundy spectrum. Very moreish with 25% aged in oak barrels for months.”
£26.68/bottle available here
A winter cellar must be generous with its red wine selection. You’ll want festive, more robust options, alongside everyday drinking pours that offer value and guaranteed satisfaction. The selection below covers all these instances and needs, with an array of Justerini & Brooks buying team’s definite favourites which includes wines from iconic producers such as Luigi Odero and Raúl Pérez. A combination of explorative suggestions and firm classics that will surely wi their place at your Christmas dinner table.
Château Grand Village Rouge, Bordeaux Supérieur 2016
“The Guineaudeaus describe the 2016 growing season as ‘a three-step waltz’: the wet spring, the ‘brutal’ drought and the ‘moderate’ autumn.” says Bordeaux buyer Tom Jenkins. “It makes it all sound so easy, but the reality was less serene. The 2016 range is amongst the very best we have ever tasted, but this came at a huge cost and with much sacrifice. The entry level Grand Village is without question the best wine we have tasted from this estate on the outskirts of Fronsac. Do not be deceived by its lowly appellation; this is sensational, a truly polished, serious wine with a super-refined tannic structure and superb concentration. It would out-class many wines with far higher price tags. The nose has glossy perfumed fruit, bright cherries, tayberries, flowers, and cane fruit. The palate is intense, bright, and graceful, packed with cranberry and strawberry liqueur. A magnificent Grand Village that captures the gravitas of the vintage, but still has enough flesh to suggest it will drink well in a few years and last for a couple of decades. 86% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc. A stand-out wine!”
£20.17/bottle available here
Château Capbern, St Estèphe 2017
“This excellent estate, situated between Calon Ségur and Montrose, has the same winemaking team as Calon Ségur: Laurent Dufau, Vincent Millet and Eric Boissenot,” explains Tom Jenkins. “It has now dropped the Gasqueton from its name and will just be called ‘Capbern’. A blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot and 3% Petit Verdot, this is very dark fruited with hints of coal dust, cassis, and earth. There is plenty of stuffing, good texture and a savoury and dark chocolate finish with just a few hints of red berry fruit coming through. It’s not a profound wine, but it should be a very enjoyable pour in five years or so.”
£20.68/bottle available here
Raúl Pérez, Las Gundiñas, La Vizcaina de Vinos 2017
There is no ‘Raúl Pérez style’,” says Spain buyer Mark Dearing. “He seeks only to express his grapes’ origins and push the boundaries of quality within the region, adapting winemaking to suit each individual parcel.”
La Gundinas is often deemed the most sensual and flashy of the La Vizcaina crus, giving soft ripe and sweeter truffle aromas with hints of smoke and fruit liqueur. The grapes have been selected from flatter ground at (just!) 500m elevation, where clay soils and a south-east exposition mean that La Gundinas never struggles for ripeness, delivering a generous, easy-going wine.
£21.67/bottle available here
Château de Marsannay, Bourgogne Rouge ‘En Montre Cul’ 2016
Also owned by the Halley family and covering 34 hectares of superbly situated vines and with its own winemaking team led by award-winning Sylvain Pabion. “Winemaking is classic and adaptive, largely de-stemmed but with whole bunches, when necessary,” says Giles. “Alongside Château de Meursault, this is on course to become one of the largest organic-certified estates in the Côte d’Or.”
Giles describes this as a serious Bourgogne from vines on the slopes of north Marsannay, near Dijon. “The soils here are gravelly, rather like those of Beaune-Grèves. Lush and radiant, full of joy and generous, but very precise, fruit. Silky forest fruit and summer pudding flavours; creamy and smooth but refreshingly juicy finish.”
£22.68/bottle available here
Justerini & Brooks, Pomerol NV
“The true identity of our House Pomerol is highly classified,” says Tom. “In fact, all the buyers involved in the assemblage have had to sign the Official Secrets Act 1911, such is its sensitivity. All we can say is the wine comes from two of the leading estates on the plateau of Pomerol, and arrogant as it may sound, it is absolutely delicious! In truth, we can’t really take any credit; blending fruit that hails from the world’s greatest terroirs isn’t that challenging.”
This cuvée is produced predominantly from the wonderful 2016 vintage. There is an explosion of sweet berries, flowers, and Kirsch. The palate is awash with opulent plummy fruit. It is round and mouth-filling with a beautiful silky texture. We are delighted to see how this luxurious cuvée has knitted together – it has all the perfume, charm and sophistication we are looking for in a Pomerol.
£24.67/bottle available here
Barbaresco Rombone, Luigi Oddero 2016 Piedmont
“An estate going places fast,” is how Giles describes this producer. “We believe Luigi Oddero e Figli has the potential to become one of the very great estates of the Langhe.” The story starts in 2006 when Luigi split off from the main Oddero estate with 30 hectares; sadly, he passed away in 2009 but his wife Lena is now running the azienda alongside children Maria and Giovanni with Dante Scaglione, of Giacosa fame, as consultant winemaker. In 2016 Francesco Versio joined the team as Head Winemaker. “Also formerly at Bruno Giacosa, Francesco is considered one of the brightest young winemaking talents of the region,” adds Giles.
Winemaking methods are traditional, with long, gentle extractions followed by ageing in large old oak casks for up to three years. Grapes for this wine are selected from vineyards in the Treiso commune that sits at 290 metres above sea level with a south south-west aspect ensuring great sun exposure, and a high limestone content in the soils for structured, but balanced and well-defined wines. Aged for 18 months in large old wooden cask.
Giles concludes: “Blessed with some truly great vineyards and some of the best winemaking talent around, the Luigi Oddero future looks bright indeed: vivid elegant wines with great intensity and purity of flavour.”
£34.68/bottle available here
Domaine Feraud et Fils, Châteauneuf du Pape 2017
Giles describes Yannick Feraud of Domaine Feraud et Fils as “the most exciting young winemaking talent in Châteauneuf-du-Pape” alongside Julian Barrot of Domaine la Barroche. The Domaine was founded by Yannick’s father in 1984 but it was only in 2012, when Yannick took over, that his reputation started to be built. Vineyard holdings include five hectares of old vines near to Rayas in the sandy Grand Pierre and Pointu sectors, as well as two parcels in Courthézon, all planted mainly with Grenache (85%), 10% Mourvèdre and the rest with the other permitted varieties.
“Rigour in the vines and simplicity in the cellar are the best ways of describing Yannick’s approach,” comments Giles. “The aim is to pick fully ripe fruit as he ferments with whole bunches, naturally, with no added yeast. Fermentation is in concrete tanks before élévage in old oak tonneaux. Yannick’s hard work, know-how and passion have yielded wines of striking finesse and soul.”
£38.58/bottle available here
There’s been much talk, among wine circles, of an ongoing ‘Sherry Renaissance’. The style and regions are (again) making waves among sommeliers and wine critics for the diversity, elegance and craftsmanship behind the work of the local Bodegas. If you’re looking to invest in a prime fortified wine, for a sophisticate and warming drinking experience, look no further. You might even find out that this style is, quite surprisingly, bridging generations, as popular in old books as it is on Instagram!
Bodegas Tradición, Amontillado VORS 30 Years
“Bodegas Tradición is a unique Sherry Bodega that bottles consistently genre-defining, mature wines that are a veritable assault on the senses, in the nicest possible way,” says Mark. Their wines are small-batch bottlings, with the highest average ages on the, often exceeding the thirty-year VORS designation on the label.
This Amontillado is made when the Bodega’s Finos are kept in barrel long after their flor has died, becoming incredibly complex, and the average age in this bottling is 45 years old. “They have full faith that once opened this bottle should last for up to a year if kept upright with the cork put back in – so there’s no need to rush through the bottle, would that restraint be so easily counted upon!” adds Mark.
£63.56/bottle available here
A proper Christmas selection would not be complete without a sweet wine! In which case a classical, yet forward-looking, example of an iconic appellation is an inevitable suggestion. As it happens, this is also an incredible-value wine – you might want to stock up for the Winter season. Also such an elegant and budget-friendly gift!
Domaine des Forges, Côteaux du Layon, Chaume 2018
This dessert wine from Claude Branchereau’s 25 hectares of Chenin Blanc on the steep St Aubin and Chaume slopes in the Côteaux du Layon appellation will be perfect to round off your Christmas dinner. “Now ably assisted by his son, Stéphan, Claude produces what must be one of the most uplifting, vibrant and best-value dessert wines in the world,” claims Julian. “At harvest times, several ‘Tris’ (a term given to the process of going through the vineyard and picking off the best grapes) are undertaken and, together with minute yields that barely reach 25hl/ha, culminate in intense, concentrated wines.”
£7.50/bottle (50cl) available here
Justerini & Brooks, established in 1749, is well-known for its unrivalled portfolio from some of the world’s greatest Châteaux, estates and domaines. The fine wine merchant is also committed to unearthing and championing young, new talent, as well as offering its customers an extensive range of immediate drinking wines.