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 29, 2009

Stuck Fermentation

A stuck fermentation occurs in winemaking when the yeast becomes dormant before the fermentation has completed, fermentation has stopped before all the available sugar in the wine has been converted in to alcohol and CO2. If the winemaker was to give up on the wine at this point, it would taste semi-sweet and pretty bad. That would be a shame, and what's more, a waste of good juice!
Unlike an 'arrested fermentation' where the winemaker intentionally stops fermentation (such as in the production of fortified wines, like Port), a stuck fermentation is an unintentional and unwanted occurrence that can lead to the wine being spoiled by bacteria and oxidation.
There are several potential causes of a stuck fermentation; the most common are excessive temperatures killing off the yeast or a 'must' deficient in the nitrogen food source needed for the yeast to thrive. Plus if the sugar concentration level of the 'must' becomes too high at any given point, either at the beginning or during the fermentation, it starts to have an inhibiting effect on the yeast's ability to produce alcohol. Once the fermentation is stuck, it is very difficult to restart due to a chemical compound released by the dying yeast cells that inhibit the future growth of new yeast cells into the batch.
There are various techniques a winemaker can use to minimize the chances of a stuck fermentation happening, such as adding nitrogen to the must in the form diammonium phosphate or using cultured yeast strains with a high temperature and alcohol tolerance, coupled by diligent control of the fermentation temperature. These steps that winemakers may take to prevent a stuck fermentation will each have their own subtle or dramatic affect on the resulting flavours and quality of the wine produced.
Luckily, stuck fermentations don't occur very often - but when they do, it is important to make the right corrections straight away and get the fermentation going again.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Delestage is a great French word, meaning a specific fermentation process for red wine. It is also known as 'rack and return'. Originally aimed at shortening the time for red wine to reach the market, delestage certainly moves the wine in the right direction, but not all the way. However, extended maceration, in combination with delestage and standard fermentation practices to achieve not only a wine ready for the market early, but with high quality and aging potential.
Delestage means the process of fermenting red wine by labour-intensive treatments to the fermenting must to insure not only a complete fermentation, but to achieve a finished wine with good fruit, soft tannins and stable colour.
It consists of draining off the wine after fermentation has begun and straining out the seeds in the process. The removed wine is sprayed into a second tank to aerate it. After all the wine juice is removed from the first tank it is pumped back in over the top of the cap. This achieves a second aeration and helps ensure a complete fermentation.
Whether the delestage process is performed once a day, twice a day, or every other day, it can vary from winery to winery, style of wine being crafted and the vintage, fruit quality. The fermentation is normally completed in five to seven days.
Several benefits occur in this process: First, in any red fermentation the major reason for disturbing the fermenting must (grape pulp and skins) is to re-distribute the heat being produced by the yeast while it converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. That is what either punching down, or 'pigeage,' and the alternative processes, pumping over are all about.
Delestage does well to introduce oxygen into the early process to stabilize fruit and colour, and to encourage the joining up of harsh tannin molecules into softer ones, and minimizes the impact of seed tannins. It is felt that the mid-palate sensation, or body, is fuller, more mouth filling, than the other two methods can generate.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blending wine...

Blending wine can be as simple as taking two separate wines (i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and mixing them together - right through to complicating things and taking multiple varietals from multiple vineyards and even multiple regions and blending them to make a new wine with a unique personality and flavour experience. It takes a lot of experience and a very refined palate to successfully blend wines for today's wine markets. A winemaker may blend wines for a variety of reasons: to adjust pH, acidity, residual sugar, alcohol levels, tannin content or to improve colour, aroma or flavour. As well as understanding all of the differences that exist from more than one vineyard, differences that develop from one fermentation tank to the next, different tannin levels between barrels, etc.
Wines, like Chateauneuf de Pape and Champagne, can be made from a blend of red and white grapes. Also Rose Champagne is often given its' pink colour, from the addition of red wine (Pinot Noir).

Other wines, like Bordeaux are blends of the same grape colour. In the case of Bordeaux, the grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet-Franc and Petit Verdot are blended, in order to add the character of each grape to the final wine.
Even wines of a single variety are (can be) blended. In this case, wines that have been vinified separately (referred to as lots, batches, parcels etc...) are blended together. This blending may come about in order to create a specific style of wine unique to that vintage. At the highest quality level, individual vineyards are vinified separately, each adding their own character to the final blend.
Blending to make a Non-Vintage Champagne, the winemaker will taste all the different lots of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier to figure out what to blend together to make / keep the house style (their unique Champagne style year after year) consistent.
When blending - you are trying to achieve a result where the final blend should be great than the individual parts.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


It is said that 'quality wine is created in the vineyard'. Except for the usual concept of 'terroir', very little is written about the role that viticulture plays in wine quality. It's a huge topic, but what better place to start, than with the vine itself.
It is a little known fact that the majority of vines planted world-wide use the roots of another vine to extract the water and nutrients they need. When you visit a vineyard; the vines you see above ground, whether they be; Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Syrah, actually belong to the European vine species, 'Vitis vinifera'. However below ground, the roots of these vines belong to another species altogether.

The roots of 'Vitis vinifera' are acutely prone to two devastating soil borne pests; the dreaded louse, 'Phylloxera' and the lesser-known but far more widespread microscopic worm 'Nematodes'. European winemakers found this out with devastating effect in the 1860's when Phylloxera, native of the United States, was unintentionally introduced. It resulted in the death of millions of vines across Europe.
A solution was found, as many of the wild vine species native to the US had built up a natural resistance to Phylloxera. These obscure relations to the European grapevine are in fact scrawny, sprawling vines. However, by grafting the wine grape Vitis vinifera onto the roots of these species (or their crosses), it was found that the resulting vine could withstand the damage of phylloxera.
Later it was found that vines grafted onto various rootstocks grew better in saline, acidic, clay, limestone or drought prone soils, and most produced much higher grape yields compared with vines grown on their own roots. Some people claim that they can taste the difference between ungrafted grapes and grafted grapes.
So next time you visit a winery, as well as asking what oak they use, also ask if their vines are on rootstock and if so, which? It's a good question as the rootstock on which the grapes grow, have at least as much impact on the wine you are drinking.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Vertical & Horizontal Wine Tastings

Vertical & horizontal wine tastings are designed to highlight differences between similar wines. In a vertical tasting, different vintages (e.g. 2007, 2006, and 2005 etc...) of the same wine varietal or style of wine from the same winery are tasted. This will emphasize the differences between various vintages. A vertical tasting is a fun way to learn about particular wines, as each vintage has distinct characteristics that set it apart from others.
While some wine critics will rave about one particular vintage; it doesn't mean that others do not have their merits or that a particular producer didn't make amazing wines in other years. So tasting the same wine over several vintages can be educational and enlightening in regards to the subtle, or not so subtle, difference from one vintage to the next. It also gives you a chance to compare older vintages of a wine to younger ones, teaching you about how that wine ages and evolves with time.
Finally, because the wines are all made from the same vineyard and by the same techniques (within reason), you get to learn about that particular vineyard and winemakers style.


In a horizontal tasting, the wines are all from the same vintage but are from different wineries. Keeping the wine variety or style and wine region the same, will help emphasize differences in winery styles, vineyard location, age of vines and the winemakers' style or personality.
There are many ways to design this theme but generally by sticking to wines with some similarity, generally wines from the same region and of course all from the same vintage. Whether you have 3 or 20 wines, try to create a range with some diversity within that region to compare different producers and vineyards. A horizontal tasting can be easier to put together than a vertical wine tasting, particularly if you stick to a current vintage which is still available in wine shops. While a vertical of several vintages can be harder to find (because the older vintages are generally sold out or sparse).