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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


An amphora is a type of ceramic vase with two handles and a long neck narrower than the body. The word amphora is Latin, derived from the Greek 'amphoreus', an abbreviation of 'amphiphoreus', a compound word combining 'amphi' - ('on both sides') plus 'phoreus' ('carrier'), from 'pherein' ('to carry').
Amphorae first appeared on the Syrian coast around the 15th century BC and spread around the ancient world, being used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as the principal means for transporting and storing grapes, olive oil, wine, oil, olives, grain, fish, and other supplies. They were used around the Mediterranean until about the 7th century, then wooden and skin containers seem to have taken the place of amphorae thereafter.


Amphorae were so cheap and plentiful, when empty, they were broken up at their destination. In Rome this happened in an area named Testaccio, close to Tiber, in such a way that the fragments, later wetted with Calcium hydroxide, remained to create a hill now named Monte Testaccio 45 metres tall and more than 1 km in circumference.
High-quality painted amphorae were produced in significant numbers for a variety of social and ceremonial purposes. Their design differs significantly from the more functional versions; they are typified by wide mouth and a ring base, with a glazed surface and decorated with figures or geometric shapes.
Two principal types of amphora existed: the neck amphora, in which the neck and body meet at a sharp angle; and the one-piece amphora, in which the neck and body form a continuous curve. Neck amphorae were commonly used in the early history of ancient Greece but were gradually replaced by the one-piece type from around the 7th century BC onwards. Most were produced with a pointed base to allow them to be stored in an upright position by being partly embedded in sand or soft ground.
Amphorae varied greatly in height. The largest could stand as much as 1.5 metres high; while some were less than 30 cm high, most were around 45 cm high.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Lagare

The Lagare is an open shallow concrete vat, perhaps one metre deep and several metres square. After the grapes are picked during the day, they are spread across the bottom of the Lagare until they reach a depth of about knee-height. Each Lagare contains a large drain connected directly to the fermentation vats and all are filled with the grapes every harvest day. Treading is taken very seriously as it is this process which lends Quinta de la Rosa wine a very special quality.


The local pickers, many of whom spent the day hauling the same grapes up and down the mountainside, bare footed and bare legged, clad in T-shirts and shorts, climb carefully into the open vat of freshly picked grapes. The individuals in each team link or place arms around each other's shoulders, thus, forming a continuous treading line. One designated individual quite loudly begins to call the treading rhythm, as he does so the left and then right leg of each of the individuals rises and falls in unison compressing the fruit with the bare soles of their feet.
The team continue relentlessly on for two full hours without a break. Once this first stage known as the 'Military' is completed, a further one hour of 'free' treading follows, this usually occurs at night, and often to the accompanied by music.
The end result (other than a number of purple workers) resembles nothing more than a port-filled stone tub. The naked human foot is actually ideal in that it applies just enough pressure to crush the grapes, but at the same time is soft enough to avoid shattering any of the grape seeds, releasing bitter flavours into the juice (a common flaw of mechanical presses).
While foot-treading is unusual, it is the fermentation process - or more accurately the practice of what might be called 'fermentus interruptus' - that makes port unique. This unnatural technique dates back nearly 300 years.
Though not unique to Quinta de la Rosa only a handful of properties in the Douro maintain this labour intensive tradition.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vin Doux Naturel

Vin doux naturel translates as 'naturally sweet', but this is hardly the case, we are talking about wines made using 'mutage', the addition of grape spirit to the must, added before completion of fermentation. This action kills the yeast, and the unfermented sugar causes the wine to be sweet. With 'mutage', however, the yeast action is halted by the addition of alcohol, resulting in what is really a blend of wine, unfermented grape juice and added grape spirit. The most common styles involve Muscat usually 'Muscat a Petits Grains', as in Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, and Grenache, as in Banyuls an appellation of Roussillon.


This region might be regarded as the birthplace of the vin doux naturel method in France, as it was here, in the 13th Century, that Arnaud de Villeneuve, of the medical school at Montpellier University, perfected the technique. Arnaud a renowned doctor demonstrated that the addition of spirit to the must halted fermentation, and so won a patent from the king of Majorca, who then ruled Roussillon.
Despite this great success, this particular use of grape spirit was of no great interest to Arnaud; like many physicians, he valued the relatively new process of distillation because of the medicinal properties of the alcohol obtained. Yet centuries later, Arnaud's method of mutage remains essentially unchanged.
With vin doux naturel (VDN), the spirit accounts for up to 10% or the total volume, but it is traditionally a very strong spirit that is added, often around (190 proof); as a result the total alcohol content of the finished product is typically 15%. Nowadays, the grape spirit is likely to come from the same source, the European wine lake, rather than local distillation, but whatever the source, the blending is such to give the final desired ABV in keeping with local tradition and, of course, wine laws. The resulting wines are usually 15 to 18% alcohol but can range as high as 21%. VDNs vary in sweetness, with white wines generally being sweeter and less alcoholic than reds.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Solera System

The Solera process is the aging of liquids like wine, vinegar and brandy, by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years. A solera is literally the set of barrels or containers used in the process. Products which are often solera aged include; Sherry, Madeira, Marsala, Mavrodafni, Muscat, Balsamic, Commandaria, Sherry vinegars, Spanish brandy and rums.


This process known as solera (a Spanish word), was developed by the producers of sherry. In a Spanish sherry solera, the vintner may transfer up to a third of each barrel, each year. A solero sherry has to be at least three years old when bottled. The traditional Sherry Solera is exposed to the sun, hence the name. The warmth of the sun encourages an active fermentation and aging. This unique blending system consists of several rows of small oak barrels stacked upon one another grouped by vintages. The oldest is at the bottom and the most recent at the top.
At bottling, approximately one third of the contents of each of the barrels on the bottom level is removed. Sherry from the row immediately above will replace what was removed and so on until a complete transfer is made from top to bottom.
No container is ever drained, so some of the earlier product always remains in each barrel. This remnant diminishes to a tiny level, but there can be significant traces of product much older than the average, depending on the transfer fraction. In theory traces of the very first product placed in the solera may be present even after 50 or 100 years.
In Sicily, where Marsala wine is made, the system is called 'in perpetuum' (Latin - forever).
Some Sherry and especially Madeira can be labelled with the word 'Solera' and a date. This is a marketing strategy, as it simply means the year that the Solera was started, and the bottle may contain trace amounts from that year, at best.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Riddling is one step in the traditional method of making Champagne or sparkling wine that is required for bottle fermented wines.
After aging the bottles undergo a process known as riddling (remuage in French). In this stage the bottles are placed on special racks called 'pupitres'. Riddling racks consists of two rectangular boards with a hinged top. On both sides of the rack have six rows, each row has ten holes designed to hold the champagne bottles by its neck. The riddling rack is capable of holding 120 bottles of champagne; however, there are some that are able to hold more.


The person that places the bottles in the racks is called the riddler. Each bottle is then marked on its base; generally that of a white line. On a daily basis, the riddler must turn each bottle a few degrees. After placing each bottle at a 45 degree angle with the cork pointing down. The shake and twist is intended to dislodge particles that have clung to the glass and prevent the sediments from caking in one spot; the tilt and drop encourage the particles, assisted by gravity, to move downward towards the neck; the time in between riddlings allows the particles to settle out of solution again. In about 6 to 8 weeks the position of the bottle is pointed straight down with sediment in the neck of the bottle.
This manual way of riddling sparkling wine is still used for Prestige Cuvees, but has otherwise been largely abandoned because of the high labour costs. Today this process is nearly entirely done by a machine invented in Spain in the 1970s. Since they handle hundreds of bottles simultaneously, gyro-palettes are both more efficient and more consistent at consolidating sediments than the traditional hand process.
When riddling is finished, the sediment collected in the bottle neck is frozen to form a 'plug' which the next step in the process removes (degorgement or 'disgorging'). After adjusting the level of fill and setting the sweetness, it is corked, caged, labelled, rested and then shipped to market.