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, September 30, 2008


Beaujolais is a French AOC wine generally made of the Gamay Noir grape which has a thin skin and few tannins. Gamay Noir is now known to be a cross of Pinot Noir and the ancient white variety Gouais. In contrast to the Pinot Noir variety, Gamay ripens two weeks earlier and is less difficult to cultivate. It also produces a strong, fruitier wine in a much larger abundance.
The region really began to develop an identity distinct from its northern neighbour Burgundy, after Duke of Burgundy - made his famous decree in July 1395, outlawing the Gamay grape and forbidding its cultivation in the great duchy of Burgundy proper.


The edicts had the effect of pushing Gamay plantings south, out of the main region of Burgundy and into the granite based soils of Beaujolais where the grape thrived. So Burgundy went with Pinot Noir and Beaujolais went with Gamay. Although the edict was not at all popular with the growers of his day, it proved to be a good thing for each of the two regions.
Located South of Burgundy proper, between Macon and Lyon, Beaujolais produces an average of 13 million cases annually. Best of all, once a year, when the world falls in love with Beaujolais Nouveau, nearly half of this crop is pressed, fermented, racked, fined, filtered and sold within weeks. The rapid cash flow generated is the envy of winemakers everywhere.
Beaujolais is diverse geographically, but it is unified by the Gamay Noir grape. Ninety-eight percent of the area is planted with it. The other 2% is basically planted with Chardonnay, Aligote and Pinot Noir.
Beaujolais is the young, refreshing, and fruity wine that has been so popular in the French cafes. The fruity, exuberant, intensely aromatic wines produced here, owe a lot not only to the Gamay grape, but to the style of vinification used.
Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages doing well with light fare, like picnics and salads. The lighter Cru Beaujolais pair well with poultry and the heavier Crus pairing better with red meats and hearty dishes.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Perfect with Paella

My first day in Valencia - I headed for the old part of the town in search of the famous local dish and a glass of wine. Paella is the internationally renowned rice dish from Valencia in Spain. If you want genuine paella, you will find it in Valencia, or (sometimes) in a quality restaurant in Madrid, Logrono or Barcelona, but it doesn’t get any better than here in Valencia the home of paella.

As with many local dishes, the typical tourist paella bears little (or no) resemblance to the real thing. It originated in the rice paddies around Valencia. Today paella is made in every region of Spain, and imitated around the world using just about any kind of ingredient that goes well with rice.


There are as many versions of paella as there are cooks. It can contain chicken, pork, shellfish, fish, eel, squid, beans, peas, artichokes or peppers. Saffron, the spice that also turns the rice a wonderful golden colour is an essential ingredient of the dish, and sometimes forgotten by many.
Rich in flavour but rustic by nature, paella is best matched with a wine with similar qualities. The Spanish wines I chose over the 3 days I was exploring the region were straightforward - though far from uninteresting. Made from the locally grown grape varieties like; Albarino, Verdejo, Monastrell and even Syrah all from the south west in Jumilla. The wines firm acidity in the whites and earthy, tannic notes from the reds compliment nicely with the earthy flavours of the rice, while the sweet berry flavours marry nicely with pork, chorizo and saffron sauce.
With choosing a wine - look for a wine with vibrant acidity that will help to cut through the richness of the chicken and chorizo that are added to so many paellas.
On one occasion when I ordered paella relatively early one evening - the chef encouraged me to match a dry fino sherry with the dish. It was no surprise why his restaurant was full of locals and that he had owned it for many successful years, as the match was sublime.

On a hot summer’s day on the Mediterranean coast in Spain, one would like to enjoy a white wine, so when looking to match a white wine with paella – look for a crisp white with good natural acidity. This is usually the best match for so many complex and spicy flavours that can be added to many dishes.
With fresh, light seafood paella, locally in New Zealand a good suggestion is a Sauvignon Blanc, plus depending upon the winery style don’t forget to try a glass of Viognier, Riesling, or even a nice sparkling wine. Depending upon the degree of spiciness, whites with a bit of residual sugar can be a nice way to offset the spice, like a Pinot Gris.  
If you are like me and when in Spain I was determined to enjoy a local glass of red, I’d go with relatively light-bodied, integrated oak, fruit driven reds such as Tempranillo, a Crianza Rioja or even a soft Monastrell.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Freixenet - Cava

When in Barcelona / Spain (the Catalan region) - one must enjoy many local customs, one being a glass of the local Cava (sparkling wine) - I was able to do one better and had a guided tour and tasting at Freixenet.
Freixenet is the ‘World’s Leading Sparkling Wine’ located west of Barcelona in the Catalonia / Penedes region. When I was given the option to visit the winery by train - to say I was a little worried – (as most wineries are usually located a distance outside of the town centre) - my worries were unfounded on this occasion as the winery is situated literally opposite the main train station in the Catalonian village of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia. Around 95% of Spain's total Cava production is from Catalonia and Sant Sadurní d'Anoia is home to many of Spain's largest Cava houses, with Freixenet right at the heart.


Back in 1941, Freixenet launched what in time has become one of its leading products, the cava Carta Nevada and then in 1974 the cava Cordon Negro. Jose Ferrer CEO - his direction has taken the company to extreme heights, now semi-retired, José’s son Pedro, fourth generation Ferrer runs the multinational operation. Under his guidance, the Freixenet Company continues to expand by purchasing wine estates in some of the world’s most prominent appellations.
First we made our way out to ‘Segura Viudas’ to see the harvested grapes come in from some of the 1200 carefully managed growers. While we were there, we sampled the current releases with Gabriel Suberviola (chief winemaker) - who took us through a memorable tasting. We then made our way back to the head-office / winery and cellars, where there are over 150 million bottles of Freixenet maturing in approx 17km of Limestone caves. We only had time to drive (yes drive) around 2 of the 5 levels - I lost count of riddling racks and tunnels full of Sparkling wine after the 9th or 10th bend.
I then had an unexpected / but very pleasing meeting with the legendary Josep Bujan - the technical director for Freixenet since 1980. Bujan is responsible for developing and refining the technical procedures that have allowed méthode champenoise production of Freixenet cavas to soar to nearly 12 million cases per year. Bujan knows more about Cava the grapes and soils of the region than anyone and is a living oracle of the history and winemaking.
Freixenet is produced in the same meticulous manner, just like French Champagne all the grapes are handpicked and gently pressed, fermented in bottle to produce a high quality sparkling wine. After a tour of the production facilities, cellars and a detailed tasting and a late lunch it was unfortunately time to say farewell and return to Barcelona - to try and find the best Tapas’ (oh what a problem...he says with smile).


Viognier - (vee-ohn-yay); once fairly common in France; now is a rare white grape grown almost exclusively in the Northern Rhone. In 1965, the grape was almost extinct when there were only eight acres.
Viognier can be a difficult grape to grow because it is prone to powdery mildew. It has low and unpredictable yields and should be picked only when fully ripe. The grape prefers warmer environments and a long growing season, but can grow in selected cooler areas as well.
The age of the vine also has an effect on the quality of the wine produced. Viognier vines start to hit their peak after 15-20 years (the Northern Rhone have vines of 70 years and older). The majority of the plantings outside the Northern Rhone are less than 10 years old which mean their potential has yet to be realised. Although low-acidity Viogniers do not require heavy oaking to provide balance, some light use of oak can enhance the overall flavour.


In the Rhone region, the grape is often blended with Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, and Rolle. In the Côte-Rôtie AOC up to 20% of red wine blends can include Viognier, though most growers add no more than 5%. One of the benefits of adding Viognier is the process of co-pigmentation that is produced which stabilizes the colour of red wine.
Viognier is meant to be consumed relatively young and typically loses its aroma as it ages. Depending on the winemaking style the grape can often hit its peak at one year of age though some can stay at a high quality up to ten years.
Viognier is best known for its apricot, peach and spice flavours, together with high alcohol and low acidity. The highly aromatic and fruit forward nature of the grape allows Viognier to pair well with spicy foods such as Thai or Vietnamese cuisine. The subtle floral notes in some wines made of Viognier and vinified without the use of oak make them a perfect match with sushi and sashimi. Viognier pairs equally well with many outspoken cheeses. Also, shellfish, such as crab and crayfish, are an ideal combination.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rioja and Tapas' - Olé!

After driving some 500km’s from Barcelona to Logrono across some of the hottest, driest and dramatic scenery, I thought it time for a glass of Rioja and Tapas.
There are few places better in Spain than the main street through Logrono's old quarter, Calle Portales, and the surrounding streets, for great tapas bars and a local glass of typical Rioja wine. Yes - you can imagine I was in my oven version of heaven.

Rioja is a wine, with Denominación de Origen Calificada (Protected designation of origin), from a region named after the Rio Oja in Spain, a tributary of the Ebro. Rioja is made from grapes grown in the autonomous communities of La Rioja, Navarre and the Basque province of Alava. La Rioja is further subdivided into three zones Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja.
Located south of the Cantabrian Mountains, Rioja benefits from a continental climate. The mountains help to isolate the region, moderate the climate, plus protect the vineyards from the fierce winds typical of northern Spain. Most of the region is situated on a plateau, approx 1500ft above sea level. The Rioja Alavesa and Alta, located closer to the mountains are at slightly higher elevations and have a cooler climate. The Rioja Baja to the southeast is warmer and drier.


Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red (tinto) - of which 85% of the wine produced is red, white (blanco) or rose (rosado).
Marques de Caceres over several days introduced me to this stunning wine region of Spain, showing me an array of vineyards, including some ‘old vines’ 100+ years of age - which produce very concentrated grapes with low yields.
Among the Tintos, the most widely-used variety is Tempranillo. Other grapes used include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo. A typical blend will consist of approx 60% Tempranillo and up to 20% Garnacha, with much smaller proportions of Mazuelo and Graciano. Each grape adds a unique component to the wine with Tempranillo contributing the main flavours and aging potential to the wine; Garnache adding body and alcohol; Mazuelo adding seasoning flavours and Graciano adding additional aromas.

With Rioja Blanco, Viura is the prominent grape (a.k.a Macabeo) and is normally blended with some Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. In the white wines the Viura contributes mild fruitiness, acidity and some aroma to the blend with Garnacha Blanca adding body and Malvasia adding aroma. Rosados are mostly derived from Garnacha grapes. The ‘international varieties’ of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have gained some attention and use through experimental plantings by some bodegas but their use has created wines distinctly different from the typical Rioja.
A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging. In the past, it was not uncommon for some bodegas to age their red wines for 15-20 years or even more before their release. One notable example of this was Marqués de Caceres which owns up to 40,000 oak barrels.
Rioja red wines are classified into four categories. The first, simply labeled ‘Rioja’, is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak barrel.
A ‘crianza’ is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak.
‘Rioja Reserva’ is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak.
Finally, ‘Rioja Gran Reserva’ wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle. Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year.
Also produced are wines in a semi-crianza style, those that have had a couple of months oak influence but not enough to be called a full crianza. The designation of crianza, Reserva etc might not always appear on the front label but may appear on a neck or back label in the form of a stamp designation known as Consejo.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Serving Temperature for Wine

The wine serving temperature can greatly influence the taste and enjoyment of a wine. Serving a wine cool can help mask the flaws seen in young or cheap wines, whereas serving wine warmer can allow the bouquet and complexity to be expressed, which is ideal for aged or full bodied wines. Lower temperatures also repress the 'bite' that alcohol can give in lighter bodied wines.

Wine Serving Temperatures:
°C - Wine Style:
19 - Brandy, Cognac
18 - Full-bodied red wines, Vintage Port
17 - Syrah, Tawny Port
15-16 - Medium bodied red wines - Rioja, G.S.M, Merlot, Malbec
14 - Amontillado Sherry
13 - Light bodied reds - 'Beaujolais'
12 - Full bodied whites - 'Barrel fermented Chardonnay'
11 - Medium bodied white wines - 'Oak aged Chardonnay'
10 - Rosé, light bodied white wines, Botrytis dessert wines
9 - Vintage Champagne
8 - Fino Sherry
7 - NV Champagne/ Méthodes/ Late Harvest dessert wines
6 - Sparkling wine, Cava, Prosecco, Asti, Sekt


Have you ever tasted a full-bodied/oaked Chardonnay at room temperature? If so, it probably tasted mostly of oak and the fruit was missing. If you've had it too cold, you've probably tasted nothing but acidity, again no fruit. In both cases, extreme temperature caused components to overpower/mask the fruit, and the wine was out of balance. To experience a wine's aroma and flavour, it needs to be served at the correct temperature.
Most white wines will chill to a good drinking temperature after one and a half hours in the fridge. If you need to cool it faster, an ice bucket filled with ice and water will do the trick in about 30 min.
Most reds, if cellared at 13-14°C, will need to be brought up to temperature. Ideally, you want your full-bodied reds served at 18°C. Remember the average room temperature is about 21-22°C even warmer in summer. Standing red wine at room temperature for two to three hours, well away from ovens and heaters, will warm them sufficiently. If time is of the essence, you can immerse the bottle in a basin of warm water for several minutes. (I am not a fan of the microwave option, especially wines with screw-cap closures).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Botrytis cinerea is a fungus that affects many plant species, although its most notable hosts may be wine grapes. In viticulture, it is commonly known as 'botrytis bunch rot'; in horticulture, it is usually called 'grey mould'. The fungus gives rise to two different kinds of infections on grapes. The first, grey rot is the result of consistently wet or humid conditions, and typically results in the loss of the affected bunches.
The second, noble rot, occurs when drier conditions follow wetter, and can result in distinctive sweet dessert wines, such as Sauternes or Aszu of Tokaj. The species name Botrytis cinerea is derived from the Latin for 'grapes like ashes'; although poetic, the 'grapes' refers to the bunching of the fungal spores, and "ashes" just refers to the greyish colour of the spores en masse.

In the Botrytis infection known as 'noble rot' (pourriture noble in French), the fungus removes water from the grapes, leaving behind a higher percent of solids, such as sugars, fruit acids and minerals. This results in a more intense, concentrated final product.
Botrytis complicates wine making by making fermentation more complex. Botrytis produces an anti-fungal that kills yeast and often results in fermentation stopping before the wine has accumulated sufficient levels of alcohol. Makers of fine German dessert wines have been known to take fermenting tubs of wine into their homes to nurture the yeast through the night to assure that the alcohol level reaches legal minimums for the product to be called wine.

Grapes typically become infected with Botrytis when they are ripe, but when then exposed to drier conditions become partially raisined and the form of infection brought about by the partial drying process is known as noble rot. Grapes when picked at a certain point during infestation can produce particularly fine and concentrated sweet wine. Some of the finest Botrytis wines are literally picked berry by berry in successive 'tris' (French for 'selections').

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Riesling is a white grape variety which originates in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling wines are often consumed when young, when they make a fruity and aromatic wine which may have aromas of green or other apples, grapefruit, peach, honey, rose blossom, cut green grass, limes and usually a crisp taste due to the high acidity. However, Riesling's naturally high acidity and range of flavours make it suitable for extended ageing.
It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. Riesling wines are usually varietally pure and are seldom oaked. In terms of importance for quality wines, Riesling is usually included in the "top three" white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling is a variety which is highly "terroir-expressive", meaning that the character of Riesling wines is clearly influenced by the wine's place of origin.


In 2006, Riesling was the most grown variety in Germany with 21,197 hectares, and in the French region of Alsace with 3,350 hectares. There are also significant plantings of Riesling in Austria, northern Italy, Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, China and Ukraine. In the countries where it is cultivated, Riesling is most commonly grown in colder regions and locations.

The most expensive wines made from Riesling are late harvest dessert wines, produced by letting the grapes hang on the vines well past normal picking time. Through evaporation caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea ('noble rot') or by freezing, as in the case of ice wine (in German, Eiswein), water is removed and the resulting wine offers richer layers on the palate. These concentrated wines have more sugar (in extreme cases hundreds of grams per litre), more acid (to give balance to all the sugar), more flavour, and more complexity. These elements combine to make wines which are amongst the most long lived of all white wines. This said; there is nothing more refreshing on a hot day than a glass of Riesling.