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, February 23, 2010

Residual Sugar

Residual sugar (or RS) is the measure of the amount of sugar solids that remain unfermented in the wine, plus any sugar added when making a sweet wine, or a 'dosage' added to a sparkling wine. Residual sugar concentration is expressed in grams per litre (g/L) or as a percentage of weight to volume. For example, a wine with 0.2% residual sugar contains two grams of sugar in a litre of wine.


Residual sugar is usually measured in grams of sugar per litre of wine. Even among the driest wines it is rare to find wines with a level of less than 1 g/l, due to the unfermentability of certain types of sugars, such as pentose. Example: Sacred Hill Rifleman's Chardonnay 2007 has approx 2.3g/l. By contrast, any wine with over 45 g/l would be considered sweet, though many of the great sweet wines have levels much higher than this.
For example, the great vintages of Chateau d'Yquem contain between 100 and 150 g/l of residual sugar. De Bortoli 'Noble One' Botrytis Semillon can have anywhere from 150 - 210 g/l of residual sugar. Paul Jaboulet's Muscat Beaumes de Venice 2007 has 252 g/l of residual sugar. The sweetest form of the Hungarian Tokaji wine can contains over 450 g/l, with exceptional vintages registering 900g/l.
Such wines only avoid the cloying taste associated with such elevated levels of sugar by carefully developed use of acidity. This means that the finest sweet wines are made with grape varieties that keep their acidity even at very high ripeness levels, such as Riesling and Chenin Blanc.
Residual sugar typically refers to the sugar remaining after fermentation has stopped (naturally or controlled), but it can also result from the addition of unfermented 'must' (a technique practiced in Germany and known as sussreserve) or ordinary table sugar. The latter technique is generally used on low quality, often non-grape wines, and in most winemaking regions is banned altogether. So regardless of a wine tasting sweet or dry, just about every wine contains a small amount of unfermented or residual sugar.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Biodynamic Wine

The practice of biodynamics in viticulture has become popular in recent years in several growing regions, including France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Canada, United States and here in New Zealand.
There are currently more than 529 biodynamic wine producers worldwide. Currently for a wine to be labelled 'biodynamic' it has to meet the stringent standards laid down by the Demeter Association, which is an internationally recognized certifying body.


Like biodynamic agriculture in general, biodynamic viticulture stems from the ideas and suggestions of Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), who gave his now famous 'Agriculture Course' in 1924. The principles and practices of biodynamics are based on his spiritual/practical philosophy, called anthroposophy, which includes understanding the ecological, the energetic, and the spiritual in nature.
There are nine major preparations used in biodynamic wine, with the first two being some of the most important. Preparation 500, for example, consists of cow manure buried in a cow horn in the soil and preparation 501, is made of powdered quartz silica, which is again buried in a cow horn for six months, then dug up and sprayed on the crops to stimulate growth.
Biodynamics embodies the ideal of ever-increasing ecological self-sufficiency just as with modern agro-ecology, but includes ethical-spiritual considerations. This type of viticulture views the vineyard as a cohesive, interconnected living system.
Some biodynamic grape growers claim to have achieved improvements in the health of their vineyards, specifically in the areas of biodiversity, soil fertility, crop nutrition, and pest, weed, and disease management. They also claim stronger, clearer, and more vibrant wine on the nose and palate, plus a better balance in growth, where the sugar production in the grapes coincides with physiological ripeness, resulting in a wine with the correct balance of flavour and alcohol content, even with changing climate conditions.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Ullage (from the French 'ouillage') is a winemaking term that has several meanings but most commonly refers to the gap of air between wine and the top of the container (barrel or bottle) that it is in. It can also refer to the process of evaporation that creates the gap itself (sometimes referred to as the 'angel's share') - or it can be used as a past tense verb to describe a wine barrel or bottle that has gone through the evaporation process (to be 'ullaged').


The gap of air in a 'wine barrel' is a mixture mostly of alcohol and water vapours with carbon dioxide that is a by-product of the fermentation process. In containers that are not completely air-tight (such as an oak wine barrel or a cork-sealed wine bottle), oxygen can also seep into this space. While some oxygen is beneficial to the aging process of wine, excessive amounts can lead to oxidation and other various wine faults. This is why wine in the barrels is regularly 'topped up' and refilled to the top with wine in order to minimize this gap.
In the bottle - during the bottling process, most wineries strive to have an initial ullage level of between 5-10mm. As wine ages in the bottle, the amount of ullage will continued to increase unless a wine is opened, topped up and recorked. This 'fill level' of the wine can be an important indicator of the kind of care and storage conditions that the wine was kept in.
Generally the greater the amount of ullage, the more potential that the wine has been exposed to harmful levels of oxidation. This is why wine auction houses and retailers of mature wines pay close attention to the ullage levels in determining the resale value of the wine. Wines that have been kept at ambient humidity levels and in temperatures between 10-15C will experience evaporation at a slower rate than wine kept in lesser conditions. In certain wines, such as Bordeaux, ullage levels can be of a greater concern than other wines, such as Ports, Sauternes and very tannic Barolos since some oxidation can be beneficial to the wine.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cold Stabilization

Cold stabilization is a process after fermentation used in winemaking to reduce tartrate crystals (generally potassium bitartrate) in wine. During fermentation, these tartrates bind with the lees, pulp debris and precipitated tannins and pigments. While there is some variance among grape varieties and wine regions, generally about half of the deposits are soluble in the alcoholic mixture of wine.


These tartrate crystals look like grains of clear sand, or sugar crystals - and are also known as 'wine crystals' or 'wine diamonds'. They may appear to be sediment in the wine, but they are not. During the cold stabilizing process, the temperature of the wine, after fermentation, is dropped to close to freezing for 3-4 days. This will cause the crystals to separate from the wine and stick to the sides of the holding vessel. When the wine is drained from the vessels, the tartrates are left behind.
The clarification and stabilization of wine in winemaking involve removing insoluble and suspended materials that may cause a wine to become cloudy, gassy, form unwanted sediment deposit or tartaric crystals, deteriorate quicker or develop assorted wine faults due to physical, chemical or microbiological instability.
After bottling, a wine can be exposed to extremes in temperatures and humidity as well as violent movement during transportation and storage that can encourage the wine to go through additional chemical changes that may produce faults or undesirable traits to emerge in the wine. Eliminating suspended particles in a wine can increase the stability of a wine and prevent some of these undesirable characteristic to emerge.
The process of clarification does, in itself, increase the stability of the wine by removing some of these particles. Conversely, the process of cold stabilization can also increase the clarity and brightness of a wine.