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, August 25, 2009

Super Tuscans

It may seem contradictory that Tuscany, a region once constrained by viticultural traditions dating back three millennia to the Etruscans, is today much-admired by wine enthusiasts around the world for the revolutionary reds known as 'Super Tuscans'.
That term came into use in the 1980s in reference to wines devoid of official appellations, yet often the classic reds of Tuscany in prestige and price. Tuscan winemakers, happily abandoning age-old practices, began to put their best efforts into reds styled for modern palates. They replaced their massive old casks with new French barriques, while planting Cabernet Sauvignon and other popular varieties alongside the ancestral Sangiovese.


Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) - Denotes wine from a more specific region within Italy. This appellation was created for the 'new' Super Tuscan wines of Italy. Before the IGT was created, quality 'Super Tuscan' wines such as Tignanello and Sassicaia were labeled 'Vino da Tavola'. The wines they made were so avant-garde that they fell outside of the D.O.C laws and were labeled simply 'VdT' - table wines - the lowest of the low. These wines were and are some of the finest wines ever made in Italy, and their prices were 10 or 20 times higher than an everyday 'VdT'.
Despite being categorized 'VdT', the Super Tuscans were sold in elegant bottles and with designer labels. To Italians the lack of official credentials clearly heightened their allure. In a region where individual daring in the arts and crafts has always been more admired than collective accomplishments, the Super Tuscan paradox makes perfect sense.

Recently, producers have come to realize that they'll need to comply with EU regulations requiring that wines be officially classified. Yet even as the once fiercely independent Super Tuscans become classified in years to come, they'll be remembered for having revolutionized concepts of viticulture and oenology while building Tuscany's reputation as one of the world's great wine regions.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Corkscrew

The corkscrew; generally, it consists of a pointed metallic helix (often called the 'worm') attached to a handle. The user grips the handle and screws the metal point through the cork, entwining the cork and corkscrew so that moving one moves the other.
The handle of the corkscrew, allows for a commanding grip to ease removal of the cork-stopper. It is thought that the design derived from the 'gun worm' which was a device used by musket-men to remove unspent charges from a musket's barrel in a similar fashion, from at least the early 1630s.


The corkscrew is possibly an English invention, due to the tradition of beer and cider, and 'Treatise on Cider' by John Worlidge in 1676 describes 'binning of tightly corked cider bottles on their sides', although the earliest reference to a corkscrew is, 'steel worm used for the drawing of Corks out of Bottles' from 1681.
In 1795, the first corkscrew patent was granted to the 'Reverend Samuell Henshall', in England. The clergyman affixed a simple disk, now known as the 'Henshall Button', between the worm and the shank. The disk prevents the worm from going too deep into the cork, forces the cork to turn with the turning of the crosspiece, and thus breaks the adhesion between the cork and the neck of the bottle. The disk is designed and manufactured slightly concave on the underside, which compresses the top of the cork and helps keep it from breaking apart.
A 'sommelier knife' or 'waiter's friend' is a corkscrew in a folding body similar to a pocket knife. It was conceived by the German Karl Wienke in 1882 and patented in Germany, England, and America. An arm extends to brace against the lip of the bottle for leverage when removing the cork. Some sommelier knives have two steps on the lever, but take care not to chip the edge. A small hinged knife blade is housed in the handle for removing the foil wrapping around the neck of many wine bottles.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

En Primeur

En Primeur or 'Wine Futures', is a method of purchasing wine while a vintage is still in the barrel, offering the customer the opportunity to invest in a particular wine before it is bottled. Payment can be made a year or 18 months prior to the official release of the vintage.
An advantage of buying wines 'en primeur' is that the wines can be considerably cheaper than they will be once bottled and released. However, this is not guaranteed and some wines may lose value over time. Wine experts, recommend buying 'en primeur' for wines with very limited quantities and will most likely sell out instantly on released. The wines most commonly offered 'en primeur' are from Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley and Port, although other regions are adopting the practice.


In the following spring after the harvest, merchants will taste barrel samples of wine that are often only 6-8 months old. In the case of Bordeaux, where the final wine is often a blend of several grape varieties, the winemaker will try to craft an approximate blend to sample. The composition of the final wine may differ from the sample depending on how each barrel matures during aging. Based on the initial sample, the wines will be giving an initial 'score' or rating based on the expected quality of the wine once it is bottled, released and has had time to mature.
Wine bought 'en primeur' is often directly placed into custom-free storage holding, 'in bond'. Known as a delicate method of investment, a purchase may ultimately be deemed a loss, or there may be considerable profit. E.g. the 1982 vintage of Chateau Latour, was sold at $630 a case 'en primeur' in 1983, and then valued in 2007 at $22,770.
This concept has existed in Bordeaux for centuries and was only occasionally used in other areas such as Burgundy, Piedmont, Tuscany, Ribera del Duero, and Rioja. In Italy some work is being done to promote the development of Italian 'en primeur' market. This is definitely something to think about when you are next looking to buy some fine wines.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Sagrantino is an Italian red grape variety that is indigenous to the region of Umbria in Central Italy, in the province of Perugia, in the commune of Montefalco and makes some of that region's most distinctive and exciting red wines.
It is grown primarily in the village of Montefalco and its surrounding areas, there are a dozen or so producers that work with this grape, with only about 250 acres planted in total. With such small production, the wine is not widely known outside of Italy, even though it was granted DOCG status in 1991.


The origins of the Sagrantino grape are widely disputed, but what is known is that it was used primarily for dessert wines for many years, the grapes being dried in the 'passito' style, much like a 'Recioto di Valpolicella'. At some point, the wines were made in a dry style, and that is how they are predominantly made today.

The Sagrantino grape is one of the most tannic varieties in the world, and creates wines that are inky purple with an almost-black centre. Sagrantino has higher tannin levels than almost any other variety, including Nebbiolo. Thus a well made Sagrantino has excellent aging potential; indeed, given its firm tannins, Sagrantino demands sometime in the bottle before it is opened. The bouquet is one of dark, rich berries and fruits with hints of plum, spices, cinnamon, and earthy undertones.
The Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG requires 100 percent Sagrantino grapes to be used, with a required 30 months aging before release, of which at least 12 in oak barrels. Sagrantino has as excellent ageing ability. A more approachable and affordable 'Montefalco Rosso' usually contains only 10-15% Sagrantino and allows up to 70 percent Sangiovese with the remainder being Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, though some winemakers also use Colorino in the blend. A dynamic and exciting wine to look out for on your travels, best enjoyed with red meats and rich cheeses.