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, January 27, 2009

The Cork

Cork that is used in wine bottles is made from the bark that grows on the Cork Oak tree; a medium-sized, evergreen oak tree that is native to southwest Europe and northwest Africa.
The tree forms a thick, rugged and corky bark and over time this bark can be harvested every 9 to 12 years. The harvesting of cork does not harm the tree and a new layer of cork re-grows, making it a renewable resource. The tree is widely cultivated in Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, France, Italy and Tunisia. Portugal accounts for approx 50% of the world cork harvest.
Cork Oaks live about 200 to 250 years. The first cork cut is from generally 25 year old trees, another 9 to 12 years is required for the second harvest, and a tree can be harvested twelve times in its life. Cork harvesting is done entirely without machinery. The European cork industry employs approx 30,000+ people.

Corks elasticity combined with its near-impermeability makes it suitable as a material for wine bottles. As late as the mid 1600s, French vintners did not use cork, instead using oil-soaked rags stuffed into the necks of bottles.
Approximately 13 billion natural corks are produced each year. After a decline in use as wine-closures due to the increase in the use of alternatives, corks are making a come-back; this increase is due to more wine being sealed with cork rather than being sold in bulk. Top quality corks are expensive, and no matter what the cost, have the risk of containing TCA - cork taint and are susceptible to random oxidation due to their mechanical variability.
A study made public in December 2008 by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, commissioned by cork manufacturer Amorim, concluded that cork is the most environmentally responsible closure, in a one-year life cycle analysis comparison with plastic and aluminium screwcaps. The closure debate is complicated and on-going - 'a little knowledge can be more dangerous than none' - so at the end of the day, have confidence in corks and take each bottle as it comes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Garage Wine

The original garage wine is Le Pin, and its grapes grow on a tiny, 5 acre plot in Pomerol, which is near St. Emilion in Bordeaux, France. The first vintage, from 1981, was so astonishingly good that other winemakers soon followed suit to create their own 'boutique wines' (as small wine batches were originally called). Since most of these operations were housed in relatively modest accommodations - the Le Pin wine cellar is in the basement of an old farmhouse. The limited production of Chateau Le Pin ranges from 500-600 cases per year - the French writer Nicholas Baby came up with the name 'vins de garage' and called the vintners 'garagistes'.
This is wine "Haute Couture", says Michel Rolland, internationally acclaimed wine consultant and advocate of garage wines, who orchestrated their expansion into the global market. The first wine to become famous under the name garage wine was Ch. Valandraud from St. Emilion (1.5ha). The name is explained by the fact that because of a lack of a dedicated cellar and the microscopic volume, the wine was made in a garage.

Usually the operation involves a tiny plot, seldom in excess of 2-4ha. With this scale, the vintner works as a gardener, sometimes taking care of vines as if they were pot plants. Low yields, about 20hl from a hectare instead of the standard 50hl. A straightforward recipe; it does, however, require backbreaking labour and almost surgical precision. They make the vine work: as early as July they bring in a green crop, with three-quarters of the bunches removed; following this, they cut the leaves first from the eastern side and then, prior to harvest, all the remaining leaves to achieve maximum exposure to the sun. The harvesting is done by hand, in a very short space of time (one day) and in only the best weather.
Vinification in a garage, or micro-winemaking, is high-precision, intricate work which produces highly concentrated, sophisticated, amazing wines, which so far have no history of their own, with their future behaviour hard to predict.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Colour of Wine

The colour of wine comes from the skin of the grapes. The juice that comes from nearly every variety of grape when pressed is white or clear. This is true of red grapes as well as white wines. The colour or pigments of red grapes are found in the skins of the grapes. In order to make a red wine from red grapes, it is necessary to leave the skins in contact with the juice during fermentation. When the skins are placed in the fermenting 'must', the pigments leech out of the skins and colour the wine. When red grapes are pressed and the skins are kept out, the colour of the wine remains white and is considered a 'Blanc de Noirs' - a white wine made from red grapes; (e.g. Champagne).

White wines do not usually have the skins left in the 'must' during fermentation. If the wine is being made from white grapes, there is no benefit to the colour and if the wine is being made from red grapes, the skin contact would give an undesirable red colour to the wine. Rosé wines can be made with 'limited/short' skin contact (leaving the skins in the fermenting juice for only a short period of time) - this method can be unreliable in obtaining consistent tinting from tank to tank, so blending is required before bottling. Some Rosé wines around the world can be made by adding a specific amount of red wine to an already finished white wine.

Why is the 'colour of a wine' so important to inspect? The colour of a bottle of wine with respect to its age can be an important clue in determining if a wine has been made from quality fruit, or has aged well over time. For example, if a one year old bottle of Sauvignon Blanc is already a dark amber colour when the bottle is first opened, this could signify that the wine has not been made correctly or that the closure was faulty causing the wine to age prematurely and not taste its best. The same can be said for red wines, if a young bottle of Merlot is already a brick red or a brown colour when opened, chances are that there was a problem with the bottle closure, the temperature of cellaring or exposure to sunlight - and it too will not be at its best.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Terroir was originally a French term used to denote the special characteristics that geography bestowed upon wine. It can be very loosely translated as "a sense of place" which is embodied in certain qualities, and the sum of the effects that the local environment has on wine.
The concept of terroir is at the base of the French wine AOC system that has been a model for appellation, wine laws across the globe. At its core is the assumption that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that region. The amount of influence that falls under the description of 'terroir' has been a controversial topic.
The concept of 'terroir' developed through centuries of French winemaking based on observation of what made wines from different regions, vineyards or even different sections of the same vineyard so different from each other.

The French began to crystallize the concept of 'terroir' as a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influences the wine made from it.
While wine experts disagree to the exact definition, a large focus is given to the natural elements that are generally considered beyond the control of man. Some of the components described of 'terroir' include: Climate - Soil type - Topography.
The interaction of climate and 'terroir' is generally broken down from the macroclimate of a larger area (e.g. the Cote de Nuits region of Burgundy), down to the mesoclimate of a smaller subsection of that region (e.g. the village of Vosne-Romanee) and even to the individual microclimate of a particular vineyard or row of vines (like the Grand Cru vineyard of Romanee-Conti). The element of soil relates both to the composition and the intrinsic nature of the vineyard soils, such as fertility, drainage and ability to retain heat. Topography refers to the natural landscape features like mountains, valleys and bodies of water, which affect how the climate interacts with the region, and includes elements of aspect and altitude of the vineyard location.