About Me

Gavin Hubble - (BSc & Post Grad. Business Marketing) - I started working in the wine industry over 23 years ago in New Zealand. Working in; wine retail, sales, wine production, label & packaging design, marketing, wine buying, consulting and wine education. I am responsible for the Brand Health of 60+ wine brands distributed here in New Zealand. Wine Brands from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. I work closely with the Trade Industry - (Retail Stores & Restaurants) introducing, educating and positioning exciting and unique brands to wine enthusiasts all over the world.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Burgundy is in some ways the most 'terroir' oriented region in France, and possibly the most complicated. Immense attention is paid to the area of origin, and in which of the region's 400 types of soil grapes are grown.
As opposed to Bordeaux, where classifications are producer-driven and awarded to individual Chateaux, Burgundy classifications are geographically-focused. A specific vineyard or region will bear a given classification, regardless of the producer. This focus is shown on the wine's label where appellations are most prominent and producer's names often appear at the bottom in smaller text.


Burgundy is composed of thousands of small-scale growers, often with only tiny parcels of land, who may make a range of different wines, both red and white.
In total, there are around 150 separate AOC's in Burgundy, including those of Chablis and Beaujolais. While an impressive number, it does not include the several hundred named vineyards at the Village and Premier Cru level which may be displayed on the label, since at the Village and Premier Cru level, there is only one set of appellation rules per village. The total number of vineyard-differentiated AOC's that may be displayed is well in excess of 500.
Burgundy as a whole; Grands and Premiers Crus account for about 12% of all the wine produced. Village wines approx 23% and less prestigious Bourgogne Appellations account for the bulk at approx 65%.
About 600 vineyards merit the appellation 'Premier Cru'. The name of the village, followed by the vineyard name in the same lettering, appears on the label of a "Premier Cru".
Only 33 vineyards have the privilege of being agreed as "Grand Cru". They used to be called "Tete de Cuvee". They are the best among the best.

The Cote de Nuits home of the great red Burgundies. White is also produced, but the reds are the region's glory.
The Cote de Beaune known for both red and white wines, but the greatest white Burgundies (other than Chablis) are from here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wine Barrels

The art of barrel making, known as cooperage, is an ancient skill. Despite improvement from modern research, analysis, machinery and wood selection techniques, the actual barrel making process has changed very little over the years and is extremely time intensive. To achieve the highest standards of quality, most of the work must still be done by hand by a highly skilled cooper.
Most French Oak comes from one or more of the forests planted in the days of Napoleon for ship building. Five of those forests are primarily used for wine barrel making. Allier, Limousin, Nevers, Troncais and Vosges forests produce woods with distinctive characteristics and winemakers select their barrels based on the desired effect for the finished wine.


What's the difference between French and American oak?

Simply put, French oak adds more subtle flavour to wine, while American oak is more aggressively flavoured. Once again, the use of French and American barrels of various ages provides a broad spectrum aromas, flavours, and textures to the blend; in much the same way as cooking with many ingredients improves the flavour of food.
In the past, American barrels were known to be overly aggressive, which was blamed on the character of the wood itself. It was then learned that the methods used to make barrels in America, while suitable for whiskey, were leaving too much flavouring in the wood. When American coopers began applying French methods to American oak, the resulting barrels, while still more powerful than the French, were very well suited for wine.

Since new barrels impart more flavours to the wine than previously used barrels, the percentage of new barrels used by a winery each year is an important piece of information when reviewing and enjoying a wine. By the time a barrel is about 5 years old, it is virtually neutral as far as its influence on the taste of the wine.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rhone Valley

The Rhone Valley in southeastern France is a wine producing area famed for its red wines. The region lies between the cities of Lyon in the north and Avignon in the south. A wide variety of grapes are grown and blended in this region but the two most commonly used are Syrah and Grenache. The Rhone Valley is split into Northern and Southern Rhone. Almost 90% of the wines come from the southern areas but the northern areas create the best quality. Some of the major appellations in the region are Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Condrieu, Châteauneuf du Pape, and Côtes du Rhône (means 'Slopes of the Rhone').


The northern sub-region produces red wines from the Syrah grape, sometimes blended with white grapes (Viognier). The southern sub-region produces an array of red, white and rose wines, often blends of several grapes such as in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Rhone does not have an official classification using "Grand cru" or similar terms, different to Bordeaux or Burgundy. There is however four categories of AOC's:

Côtes du Rhône only displays the region, and may be used in the entire region, in 171 communes. It is the lowest classification for Rhone AOC wine.

Côtes du Rhône-Villages is an AOC allowed for 95 communes, with a higher minimum requirement for grape maturity than basic Cotes du Rhone. In general, the appellation does not allow the village name to be displayed.

Côtes du Rhône-Villages together with 'village' name is allowed for 19 communes.
Cru are the 15 named appellations which display only the name of the cru, and not Côtes du Rhône. These include the most famous Rhone wines, such as Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There is no official classification differentiating between different crus, sometimes, individual vineyard names (such as La Chapelle) are displayed on the labels. Most producers will only do this for top wines, but vineyard-labeled wines enjoy no different official status from other cru wines.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What is Grappa?

Grappa is a fragrant grape-based spirit of between 40% and 60% alcohol by volume (80 to 120 proof), of Italian origin. Literally a word for "grape stalk", grappa is made by distilling pomace, grape residue (primarily the skins, but also stems and seeds) left over from winemaking after pressing.
It was originally made to prevent wastage by using leftovers at the end of the wine season. It quickly became commercialised, mass-produced, and sold worldwide. The flavour of grappa, like that of wine, depends on the type and quality of the grape used as well the specifics of the distillation process.


In Italy, grappa is primarily served as a 'digestivo' or after dinner drink. Its purpose is to aid in the digestion after a meal. Grappa may also be added to espresso coffee to create a caffe corretto. Another variation of this is the "amazza caffe" (literally, "coffee-killer"): the espresso is drunk first, followed by a few ounces of grappa served in its own glass.
While these Grappa's are produced in significant quantities and exported, there are many thousands of smaller local Grappa's, all with distinct character.
Most grappa is clear, indicating that it is an un-aged distillate, though some may retain very faint pigments from their original fruit pomace. Lately, aged Grappa's have become more common, and these take on a yellow or red-brown hue from the barrels in which they are stored.

Although grappa does not generally require such a long aging as some other alcoholic drinks, Italian law requires six months of aging after the production itself is complete.
However, there are distilleries that not only age grappa for six months in wooden barrels, but also add another six months of aging in airtight glass flasks or stainless-steel tanks.
This added step in the production process allows producers subsequently to add more prestigious label designations such as invecchiata (i.e. aged), stravecchia (very old) or riserva (reserve).