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, November 25, 2008

Opening a bottle of Champagne

Champagne, of course, doesn't require a corkscrew. But there is still a careful technique required to opening, which doesn't involve emulating the antics of a Formula One racecar winner and spraying it all over the crowd.
First - chill the Champagne down to 8-10°C for Vintage, Prestige Cuvée and 6-8°C for NV (non-vintage), Méthode Traditionnelle, Sparkling, Cava, Sekt, Prosecco, and Asti.
Start with the bottle standing upright on a table or flat surface. Locate the wire loop beneath the foil capsule; by feeling around the neck of the bottle (some bottles have an easy peel tab on the side). Getting your thumbnail behind the loop, pull it out and downwards, tearing away the capsule as you do so. Proceed to remove the rest of the capsule/ foil.


Grasp the neck of the bottle, keeping your thumb firmly over the top of the cork. This prevents it flying out with the potential to cause damage or even injury.
Then untwist the wire loop, and loosen the cage. Don't loosen your grip though!
In my experience it makes the whole process so much easier if you keep the wire-cage on the cork, as the cage fits nicely into the sides of the cork and gives your hand something to grip and hold onto.
Now, never taking your thumb from its secure position over the top of the cork, pick up the bottle. Firmly grasp the cork and cage between thumb and forefinger, and with the other hand, twist the bottle. (Yes - twist the bottle, it is much easier to twist/ turn the bottle than it is the cork and you also don't loose your tight grip on the cork). As the cork moves, control its release with your thumb. Continue twisting the bottle away from the cork. Its eventual release should be accompanied by a gentle sigh of escaping CO2 gas. A louder pop suggests that you haven't controlled the extraction of the cork adequately, but as long as there is no loss of wine then this doesn't really matter.
Failure to control the cork at all, resulting in a fountain of Champagne, may produce a laugh and cheer, but ultimately this is just an expensive mistake and loss of Champagne.

Related Articles:

Champagne Flute

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Barrel Fermentation

The process of fermenting wines in small barrels instead of large vats or stainless steel tanks. Fermentation = The natural process that turns grape juice into wine, fermentation is actually a chain reaction of chemical responses. During this process, technically called the primary fermentation, the sugars in the grape juice are converted by the enzymes in yeasts into alcohol.
Barrel fermentation requires very careful cellar attention. The barrels are usually made of oak and are about 225 litres in size, although larger ones are used occasionally. Even though barrel fermentation is more expensive (due to the added cost of the wine barrel in making the wine) and less controllable than fermentation in larger, stainless steel tanks, it is thought to imbue certain wines with complexity, rich creamy flavours, delicate oak characteristics, and better aging capabilities, and texture.


Barrel fermentation is especially beneficial to white wines. First, since white wines lack the tannins of reds, the wine can instead draw tannins from the wood barrels. Whites that have been barrel fermented have a less dramatic oaky taste - than those wines that have been fermented in another tank then oak aged. The flavours are better harmonized. The fermentation process, tempers the flavours of the wood, imparting lighter flavours of oak. So in the wine, you will find hints of cinnamon, vanilla, or cloves rather than over whelming harder oak flavours.
In particular, a wine can become more creamy, round, buttery and toasty after being barrel fermented. Barrel fermentation is usually associated with white wine grapes like Chardonnay, but also on occasion with Sauvignon Blanc (e.g. Fume Blanc) and occasionally Chenin Blanc and Semillon are processed in this way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Canopy Management

You will probably ask yourself what is 'canopy management' and why would you need to manage the canopy. A simple answer is to expose the vine to as much direct sunlight as possible and give each cluster of grapes the best possible chance of achieving full physiological ripeness, flavour and character.
A complex series of techniques including: vine spacing, trellising, shoot positioning, and leaf removal to improve both light and air circulation in an effort to create the optimal grape-growing environment for maximum flavour, colour, and ripeness of the grapes.


Such techniques are and should be very specific to each vineyard site, contingent on such things as soil fertility, grape variety, the age of the vine, unique microclimate and seasonal influences. Proper canopy management can affect the colour, flavour, and/or structure of grapes. It can also help prevent disease problems.
For instance, removing leaves and shoots improves aeration, thereby reducing susceptibility to excess moisture inside the canopy - leading to rot and mildew on grape bunches. There is however a fine and careful art to removing excess foliage and it can be different with each new growing season.

Enough leaves must be left on the vine to provide the required energy for grape maturation (i.e. maximum sunlight interception and optimum photosynthesis); excessive leaf removal can bleach the fruit's colour, cause sunburn on the surface of the grapes, or impede ripening of the bunches.
On the other hand, vineyards in warmer/ drier areas require less leaf removal than those in cooler/ moist climates. In the end, good canopy management - with result in the perfect balance between vine growth and grape production - meaning the difference between an ordinary wine and one of distinction.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sur lie

Sur lie (soor Lee) The French expression for "on the lees." Lees are the coarse sediment, which consists mainly of dead yeast cells and small grape particles that accumulate during the fermentation process. Winemakers believe that certain wines benefit from being aged 'sur lie'. Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc wines are thought to gain complexity if aged in this way for a few months. The lees may be stirred (batonnage in French) in order to promote uptake of the lees character.

This happens as a matter of course with Sparkling Wines made via Methode Champenoise because the second fermentation occurs in the bottle where the wine is aged (sometimes for up to 10 years) until the lees are disgorged. Muscat wines from France's Loire region occasionally have the phrase "mis en bouteille sur lie" on the label, which means the wine was bottled from barrels where the lees were not drained (although the sediment has fallen to the bottom of the barrel).


When yeast cells die their cell walls breakdown, gradually releasing compounds into the wine as (e.g. glucose, amino acids, fatty acids, and manno-proteins). The compounds released can influence the structural integration of the wine in terms of; tannins, body, aroma, oxidative buffering and wine stability.

The primary reasons for sur lie ageing are usually based on stylistic goals by the winemaker: to enhance the structure and mouth feel of a wine, give it extra body and increase the aromatic complexity, flavour/aroma depth and length. Lees also absorb oxygen, assisting in maintaining a slow and controlled oxidation during maturation. Lees stirring can increase the release of yeast compounds into the wine. Stirring can result in a creamy, viscous mouth feel, and can enhance flavour complexity.
The lees are also an important component in the making of Ripasso where the left-over lees from Amarone are used to impart more flavour and colour to the partially aged Valpolicello.