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.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gleneagles Hotel - Perthshire

After a relaxing train journey from Edinburgh to Perth - I was met at the station and we made our way along traditional stone walled lanes to the grand Gleneagles Hotel. The surrounding scenery doesn’t quite prepare you for the impressive setting and architecture of one of the world’s most coveted 5 star resorts, currently owned by ‘Diageo Plc’ and also a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. Set in 850 acres of Perthshire countryside, Gleneagles is home to three of the top Scottish Championship Golf Courses and a wide range of exciting outdoor leisure activities.

        

We were here to host a vertical tasting and training for the staff and assist them to find the best matches with the current menu at a long lunch - to be held in the conservatory, off the Strathearn Restaurant. Gleneagles has an international reputation for excellent cuisine and fine dining. Each of the restaurants has its own style, but their trademark is the use of the finest fresh produce available locally in Perthshire and Scotland, as well as from specialist suppliers abroad.
After the wine tasting; we moved through the Strathearn Restaurant - where half the staff (waiters & sommeliers) at the tasting - took care of all our needs throughout the long lunch - and yes the other half joined us.
But before we enjoyed the first course; Guillaume Gorichon - head sommelier took me on a guided tour behind the scenes, through the wine and food stores, the kitchen areas and then the temperature controlled, glass-walled fine wine cellar, where they have wines that you generally only see at a Sotheby Auctions. The wine list has over 700 wines to choose from and some very special wines at that, and to finish a collection of some of the rarest malt whiskies in Scotland.
Whether you are dining for lunch, or dinner you will experience the very best of Scotland's fare with a touch of the unexpected. A detail that I was very pleased has lasted - is the dress code, not too formal, as smart casual is accepted, but no denim or shorts, so it encourages you to prepare for the experience you are about to have. On this occasion we didn’t dine in the ‘Andrew Fairlie’ restaurant: which is a two Michelin-starred restaurant, where every detail has been carefully planned to create a truly special experience, from the original artwork on the walls and stunning decor to the specially selected French cheeses and locally-grown herbs. The signature dish 'Smoked Lobster', which involves smoking lobster shells over old whisky barrels for up to twelve hours.
After lunch we quickly visited ‘Deseo’ a Mediterranean Food Market restaurant, offers informal, delicious dining, which is perfect for a quick bite. It was a pleasure to meet all the highly trained staff and get a very personal insight into what makes the cuisine and service leading edge.
So whatever your preference a casual bite or a world class dining experience - if you find yourself in the heart of Scotland - try to book at Gleneagles - one of world’s most coveted establishments.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Languedoc

Languedoc has a very long history and colourful history with grapes and wine. The Greeks planted there probably the first vine in France. It was 500 years B.C. A long time before the Romans, although they dramatically improved the wine making process themselves.
The regional area of Roussillon, Languedoc and Provence is one very large wine area, stretching all the way from the Spanish border, along the Mediterranean almost to the Italian border. It is one of the biggest wine growing regions in the world, and consists of more than a third of France's vineyard area, producing outstanding wines in a perfect grape growing climate and terrain that extends from the sea to the mountains.

 

There are 15 main wine regions (each region made up of many smaller domains) in Languedoc Roussillon, South France. The soils and 'terroirs' in this huge area are very varied, ranging from; Schist, Sandstone, Marl, Gravel, Pebbles, Limestone, to Granit and Alluvial soil; thus diversity resulting in the making of many marvelous and different styles of wine.
Also in this massive area are many different grape varieties, the reds include; Carignon (some of the oldest vines in France are Carignan grapes), Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
The whites include; Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Marsanne, Roussanne, Vermantino, Mauzac, Chenin, Rolle and Clairette.
In the past this area was infamous for its' poorer quality viticulture with over high production yielding copious quantities of vin-de-table wines. This is no longer the case, yields have been significantly reduced and quality is now the name of the game.
Whether it be a personal preference, an experiment, a surprise for a friend, or a wine which fits the occasion, the season, the mood or the cuisine being served, I'm sure it will be a pleasant voyage of discovery - enjoy!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Balmoral tastes Bordeaux

While I was in Edinburgh, I had the opportunity to spend the day at one of Scotland’s most well-known historic landmarks - plus sample some of the world’s finest wines from Bordeaux. Hosted and run by ‘Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux’ (CIVB) - Bordeaux Wine Association - a private association with a very public interest. It is under the responsibility of the French Ministry of Agricultural Affairs - and is behind the new direction and drive to design more and more opportunities for the Trade (the session that I was attending) and for the public to sample and learn more about Bordeaux wines.

   
 

The Balmoral Hotel sits proud and grand in the city centre of Edinburgh - able to be scene from nearly all vantage points as you travel around the city. The Balmoral Hotel is from a time gone by, but has been lovingly, respectfully and appropriately brought along into the 21st century. Located in the heart of the city at No. 1 Princes Street, next to the Waverley Railway Station (the second largest train station in the UK) and very close to Edinburgh’s historic Old Town and also overlooks Edinburgh Castle - or is that the other way around.
All 168 spacious bedrooms and 20 suites have been individually designed with particular attention to comfort and style. A number of dining experiences are available and include fine dining in the Michelin starred ‘Number One’ restaurant, more informal dining in Hadrian's Brasserie and several other areas to enjoy a light bite a fine glass of wine or a cocktail.
The CIVB was also here to promote the interests of its members - and it has chosen a grand stage to do so. It was a technical as well as a practical session - as they shared a great deal of their research and knowledge, from production to sales.
The session took us through a close look at the Bordeaux vineyards to discover the four prestigious soils: Médoc, Sauternes, Graves and Saint-Emilion. Most of the information was a gentle refresher on the origins and history of the classified growths of the Bordeaux region, as well as the origins of the classifications and appellations. So the best way to get your head (plus taste-buds around a topic that will take a lifetime to feel comfortable with) - we went through several flights of wines, to help understand the 4 soils and regions.
Starting with giving clarity to many on the 16th Century, when the Médoc was yet only vast marshland, - through to the birth of the Pessac-Léognan appellation in 1987, - simply it was a great chance for all to embrace the history of these exceptional vineyards and what they produce. Yes we enjoyed flights of white and red wines, plus we finished on a great flight of Barsac and Sauterne wines. A good day, I must admit, with a wry smile.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vinsobres Master Class - London

On the 13th of this month - at the London International Wine Festival 2009 - I had the opportunity to be part of a 'Master Class' on the newest 'cru' within the Cotes du Rhone. Located north-east from the ancient-walled city of Avignon, Vinsobres wines are as dynamic as the geographical topography that they are grown.
The vineyards of Vinsobres have always been modest in size. After the big frost in 1956 which destroyed the olive trees, the vines once more regained their place. Vinsobres was classified Cotes du Rhone Villages in 1957, then Cotes du Rhone Villages Vinsobres in 1967. The vineyards then obtained the local cru status - appellation Vinsobres in 2005.
The soils in the region consist of rocky soils on the hillsides, and quatenary rocky alluvial soils on the terraces.

      

The grape variety mix includes: (only red wines): Grenache Noir - 50% minimum in the blend, Syrah 25% up to 50% and or Mourvedre, other grape varieties allowed can be no more than 25% maximum.
During the master class we sampled 6 exceptional examples of terroir, local weather, winemaking and vintage understanding and respect.
Without listing each wine in turn - each wine showed clearly the percentage influence and age of the vines of Grenache and their resulting personality and character in each glass. On the nose you had notes of ripe red fruits, blackcurrant and cherry, with spicy notes, through to vanilla and pepper. The palate of each wine varied and expressed power and finesse at the same time, with a refreshing mouth feel, well-balanced with ever present tannins, that lingered long in the mouth.
Each wine - as with all good wine - was made to best express itself with good local cuisine, and these red wines would go well with; red meats, game and a loaf of crusty bread and cheese. Many people will be unsure on the ageing potential of Grenache predominant wines, and these 6 wines varied from early drinking between 3-6 years and 2 wines could age gracefully for 10 to even 25 years.
If you have not had the pleasure of sharing a good bottle of Vinsobre wine with a good friend and a good meal, I encourage you to visit your local fine wine retailer today and see what you can find, it will be a well worthwhile adventure.

Sulphur Dioxide

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is the most widely used and controversial additive in winemaking. Its main functions are to inhibit or kill unwanted yeasts and bacteria, and to protect wine from oxidation.
SO2 is added at several points in the process of conventional vinification and is present in the finished wine in the form of sulphites. Sulphites occur naturally in all living things and are present in small quantities even in unsulphured wines. They can cause allergic reactions.
Sulphur dioxide should not be confused with the powdered sulphur which is sometimes dusted onto vines to protect them from powdery mildew, even used in organic viticulture.
The first definite mention of its use in winemaking is a German royal decree of 1487. This permitted winemakers to burn sulphured woodchips in barrels used for storing wine.

 

This is an effective way of disinfection and is still practiced (using pure powdered sulphur rather than woodchips) although steam-cleaning is now an alternative. The systematic use of sulphur to control fermentation and to stabilise the wine at bottling was perfected by the French in North Africa early in the 20th century. It was a way of making wine in conditions that were very hot. This approach caught on in other climates, as a way of making wine without having to worry about it.
In the winery it may be used as a disinfectant in between vintages, and may be added to 'must' and finished wines as an antibacterial agent to prevent spoilage. It may also be used in winemaking as a method of stopping fermentation. Excessive use may result in an unpleasant mothball or burnt match aroma in the wine.
The amount of wine sulphur (potassium metabisulphite) to add to a wine is not a simple matter. An accurate set of scales are needed to weigh 1 or 2 grams.
White wines, and sparkling wines, are treated completely differently from red wines. Different varieties consume SO2 at different rates, so it is necessary to measure the SO2 regularly with a test such as the Sulfacor.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Ice Wine

Ice wine (or in German, Eiswein) is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine.
Unlike the grapes from which other dessert wines, such as Sauternes, Tokaji, or Trockenbeerenauslese, are made, ice wine grapes should not be affected by Botrytis or noble rot, at least not to any great degree. Only healthy grapes stay in good shape until the opportunity arises for an ice wine harvest.

 

The discovery of Ice wine was accidental. Due to a cool summer and exceptionally cold winter in 1794, wine producers in Franconia, Germany, by virtue of necessity, created Ice wine by pressing juice from frozen grapes. They were amazed by the high sugar concentration. It was not until the mid 1800's, however, that Ice wine was intentionally made.
Grapes are left on the vine well into the winter months. The resulting freezing and thawing of the grapes dehydrates the fruit and concentrates the sugars and acids in the grapes, Thereby intensifying the flavours and adding complexity. This juice is then fermented very slowly for several months, stopping naturally. Genuine Ice wine must be naturally produced; no artificial freezing is permitted.
The Ice wine harvest, done entirely by hand, commences once the temperature drops below -10 degrees Celsius and the grapes have frozen naturally on the vines. As the frozen grapes are pressed, the natural water portion of the juice remains within the grape skins in the form of ice crystals. A tiny but precious ration of highly concentrated juice is expressed. The juice from ice wine grapes is about one-fifth the amount you would normally get if you pressed unfrozen grapes. To put it another way, a vine will normally produce sufficient grapes to make a bottle of wine; but frozen grapes would produce only one glass of Ice wine. This explains the difference in price between the two.
Grapes used: Riesling, Vidal Blanc and interestingly Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc Ice-wine is a light pink colour.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Pumping Over

The French term or phrase: 'remontage' - (pumping over) is the drawing off of the grape juice or must from the bottom of a tank or open fermenters and pumping it over the cap (composed of grape skins that forms on the top) to extract colour, create even temperature distribution, more flavour and tannins when making red wine, plus ensure optimal extraction and that the cap doesn't dry out and develop unwanted bacterial spoilage.
Not all pump-over's are equal. There are many ways to pump over. Ask a number of winemakers how to handle a pump-over and be prepared to hear an array of answers.

 

With pump-over's, you have to decide on: how often, how many, how long, how warm, how many litres, how fast, how gentle...for each tank...and then adjust it to each stage of fermentation and to how the flavours and tannins progress. It is best if you also remember how you did it last year and how it tasted yesterday...and last year. Simply put, there are lots of reasons and ways to tinker with the pump over at each stage of fermentation.
Generally, pump-over's are more gentle and shorter when the grapes first go into the tank. At the start of fermentation it is effective, it is less so when done towards the end of fermentation. It is at this stage where the colour is slowly coming out of the skins and there isn't any heat or alcohol to help with extraction. Once the fermentation begins, the pump-over's become more frequent and longer in an attempt to pull out the best of the flavours by moving larger volumes of juice through the warm skins but the warmer it is, the faster the fermentation progresses and the less time it leaves to get all that the grapes have to offer. It can be common practice to pump-over a third to a half of the tank each time.
Whether it is once or five times a day, this is the time that we are hooking up to each tank, climbing on top, checking the cap, recording its Brix level, measuring temperature, tasting its progress and enjoying the most obvious sounds and smells of crafting red wine.