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, December 30, 2008


Phylloxera is a pest of grapevines worldwide, originally native to the Mississippi valley in North America. These tiny, pale yellow sap-sucking insects, related to aphids, feed on the roots of grapevines. In grapevines, phylloxera can result in premature defoliation, reduced shoot growth, gradually cutting off the flow of nutrients and water to the vine, reduced yield and quality of the crop. Nymphs also form protective growths on the undersides of grapevine leaves and overwinter under the bark or on the vine roots.
In the late 19th century the phylloxera epidemic destroyed most of the vineyards in Europe, most notably in France. Phylloxera was inadvertently introduced to Europe in the 1860's, on imported North American vine-stocks/ plants. Because Phylloxera is native to North America, the native grape species there are partially resistant.

By contrast, the European wine grape is very susceptible. The epidemic devastated most of the European wine growing industry. In 1863, the first vines began to deteriorate in the southern Rhone region of France. The problem spread rapidly across the continent. In France alone, total wine production fell from 84.5 million hectolitres in 1875 to 23.4 million h/l. Some estimates hold that between 70-90% of all European vineyards were destroyed, almost 2.5 million ha/6.2 million acres.
In France, some grape growers were so desperate that they buried a live toad under each vine. Areas with sandy soils were spared, and the spread was slowed in dry climates, but gradually it spread across the continent. A huge amount of research was devoted to finding a solution to the Phylloxera problem, and two major solutions gradually emerged: hybridization and resistant rootstocks that have been used the world over.
The only European grape that is natively resistant to Phylloxera is the Assyrtiko grape which grows on the volcanic island of Santorini, Greece, although it is not clear if the resistance is due to the rootstock itself or the volcanic ash on which it grows.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bush Vines

To many wine enthusiasts - bush vines (goblet vines) are something unique. Perfectly straight rows - all of uniform height, common place here in NZ - is in fact a recent development. To the rest of the world, many winemakers have only recently thought of moving towards - for their indigenous grapes or new sites that will best suite.
Spain - the country with the largest area of grape vines in the world - it is common place to see low bush vines on the slopes and plains across the arid regions. The bush vines provide a canopy which shades the grapes from direct sunlight. The smaller crop results in smaller berries with thicker skins, and much more concentrated flavours.
The roots of bush vines can grow to 20m deep in search of moisture, making the vines less sensitive to drought (bush vines in any case need less moisture than trellised vines).

Goblet has been used since Roman times, involves no wires or other system of support. The spurs are arranged on short arms in an approximate circle at the top of a short trunk, typically 30 to 50 cm, making the vine resemble a goblet glass. The vines are free standing and the system is best suited to low-vigour vineyards in drier climates.
The goblet is widespread in southern France, Italy, Spain and in Portugal. In many New World countries such as Australia, Chile, South Africa, and California, the traditional and low-vigour goblet-trained vines are often called bush vines.
With low-vigour vineyards the foliage can be relatively erect, but shoots may trail on the ground in high-vigour vineyards, and there can be substantial shade. The system is used widely in many Mediterranean countries and is most suited to low-vigour vineyards. In hot climates this filtered sunlight promotes a slower, more even, ripening of grapes. This system also allows for good air circulation through the canopy, which aids in the prevention of rots and molds due to being so low to the ground. It is generally not used in cooler climates because it can expose grapes to frost.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Rosé wines may be produced in a number of different ways, depending on the desired result. The actual colour varies depending on the grape variety and winemaking process used, and often may seem to be more orange in colour than pink or light red.

Skin contact:
The first is used when rosé wine is the primary product. Red skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, typically two or three days. The grapes are then pressed, and the skins are removed rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain much of the strongly flavoured tannins and other compounds. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the colour of the final wine.


Saignee or bleeding, is used when the winemaker desires to impart more tannin and colour to a red wine, and removes some pink juice from the 'must' at an early stage, in a process known as bleeding the vats. The removed juice is then fermented separately, producing the rose as a by-product of the red wine, which is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice in the 'must' is reduced and the 'must' involved in the maceration is concentrated.

In the past, it was fairly common to make rosé wines by simply taking a white wine and adding a bit of red wine. Some winemakers thought this could produce interesting wines that possessed some of the original character of a red wine while retaining the crispness of the white wine. This practice has fallen out of fashion; except in the making of Champagne Rosé where it is a highly respected skill.

Rosé stills remain popular in regions of France and Spain, which have ensured the survival of some quality makers of rosé wine, and now many people in England, United States and New Zealand are turning once again to this refreshing summertime favourite.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc can trace its origins to western France in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions, but it was the style of wine made here in New Zealand in the 80's that got people to take notice again and enjoy this expressive grape.
When it comes to making Sauvignon Blanc, winemakers can harvest the grapes at various intervals for different blending characteristics that the grape can impart depending on its ripeness. At its most unripe stage, the grape is high in malic acid. As it progresses towards ripeness the grape develops red & green pepper flavours and in warmer climates, leading towards topical fruits like pineapple. Grapes grown on large sites may exhibit different levels of ripeness over the vineyard, caused by slight unevenness in the land, soil, temperature, sunlight and wind giving a unique flavour profile to the resulting wine.

Sauvignon Blanc can be greatly influenced by decisions in the winemaking process. One decision is the amount of contact that the 'must' has with the skins of the grape. Some winemakers, like in the Loire, intentionally leave a small amount of must to spend time in contact with the skins for later blending. Other winemakers, like in California, generally avoid any contact with the skin due to the reduced aging ability of their resulting wine.
Another important decision is the temperature of fermentation. French winemakers prefer warmer fermentations (around 16-18C) that bring out the mineral flavours in the wine while New World winemakers prefer slightly cooler temperatures to bring out more fruit and tropical notes.
A small minority of Loire winemakers will put the wine through malolactic fermentation, a practice performed here in NZ. Oak aging can have a pronounced effect on the wine, with the oak rounding out the flavours and softening the naturally high acidity of the grape. Some winemakers, like those in New Zealand and Sancerre, prefer stainless steel fermentation tanks over barrels with the intention of maintaining the sharp focus and flavour intensity.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Malolactic Fermentation

Malolactic fermentation (MLF in many tasting notes) - is a process of a change used in winemaking where tart-tasting 'malic' acid (like those found in green apples), naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting 'lactic' acid (found in milk).
This secondary fermentation is primarily applied to red wines destined for aging, but is also common for some white wines like Chardonnay, particularly those that are aged in oak. Besides reducing the acidity in a wine, malolactic fermentation can also impart buttery or nutty aromas to a wine.
Malolactic fermentation also produces esters in the wine, many of which are responsible for a pleasant "fruity" nose. The lactic acid bacteria responsible for malolactic fermentation are called (Oenocuccus oeni).

This process can occur naturally. However, in commercial wine making, malolactic fermentation typically is initiated by an inoculation of desirable bacteria. This prevents undesirable bacterial strains from producing off-flavours. Conversely, commercial winemakers actively prevent malolactic conversion when it is not desired, to prevent accidental initiation and maintain a fresher, more crisp profile in the finished wine.
Sometimes malolactic fermentation can occur unintentionally after the wine is bottled. This is almost always a fault, and the result is a slightly carbonated wine that typically tastes bad and with a little spritz.
Because it consumes malic acid, which is present at the time the grapes are crushed, malolactic fermentation can take place at any time during or after alcoholic fermentation. A wine undergoing MLF will be cloudy due to the presence of bacteria, and may have the curious smell of buttered popcorn.
So a rich, creamy and well rounded Chardonnay, such as the Sacred Hill 'Riflemans' Chardonnay 2007, which many of you have enjoyed previous vintages over the years, is a result of malolactic fermentation.