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, July 30, 2010

Paul Jaboulet Aine - Rhone Valley

My return visit to Paul Jaboulet was well over-due. Like many wine enthusiasts around the world and here in New Zealand - I have an incurable fascination with Syrah and the myriad of complex, though complimentary combinations with other Rhone reds. Jaboulet has a world-renowned reputation for excellence across a range of Rhone wines. Jaboulet is well known for producing a range of wines from vineyard sites in some of the best appellations in the Rhone.
Over 3 days I experienced what can only be described as an ‘epiphany’ in the Rhone Valley. Thanks to 'Frédéric Jaboulet' - I was given an unprecedented Rhone experience; from cutting through the soil profile of nearly every known elevation in the Rhone Valley to visiting some of the most remote and sort-after vineyards - guided by 3 of the most passionate and knowledgeable viticulturists; Ralph Garcin, Coralie Houarner-Rassin, and Sébastien Baillon. Then with Frédéric - Jacques Desvernois (winemaker) took us through a comprehensive and insightful tasting through all the individual vineyards and the finished / blended wines from the previous and current vintages.

       

Jacques and I slowly worked our way through the full flight of wines - from the popular Cotes-du-Rhone ‘Parallele 45’, a Grenache and Syrah blend, that defines the best of the Valley, through to their highly-regarded Syrah, ‘La Chapelle’, from a tiny 21-hectare vineyard on the famous Hermitage hill, which earlier that day I had made it to the top of.
I also had the repeated pleasure to meet with the charming Caroline Frey the chief oenologist at Jaboulet - since her family purchased the winery in 2006, whom I first met in September of the same year at Ch. La Lagune in the Medoc.


The passion and attention to detail in the vineyards (where they are practicing sustainable methods) through to the quality winemaking - which will have an improved edge this vintage - as a new winery facility will be completed before this year’s harvest. Jaboulet embodies all that is great about this extraordinary region. While there is an enduring Jaboulet character in all their wines, the key to them, is that their wines authentically reflect exactly their terroir. After all, when you own and manage some of the most expensive pieces of wine real estate in the world, you want that unique character and quality to show through.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Umia - Cooking with Chocolate

Recently the Rhone Wine Co-operative - ‘La Cave de Tain’ opened a visitor centre, in a vineyard on the hill of Hermitage, only a short distance out of town. Next too and part of the centre in a classic styled building is one of the world’s most innovative fine restaurants, called Umia, run by an enterprising couple, Rika and Frédéric Bau.
The night that I was invited to dine - the restaurant (well Frédéric to be precise) was hosting 20 of the world’s finest patisserie chefs - who had won the chance to dine here and be part of a few days of special classes with Frédéric on the art of chocolate confectionary (Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona). They enjoyed the main dining room, banquet table and the three of us were shown to a table right outside the sliding glass door to the kitchen - which was to be a perfect spot to enjoy the coming evening events. We were perfectly taken care of by a very knowledgeable waiter who enjoyed telling us how every dish was crafted here on the premises from local and abroad ingredients.

    

We were tempted by all that was on the menu - but we decided to take direction from our waiter and Frédéric chimed in with a few creative suggestions. Frédéric invited me to go back stage - well into the kitchen and watch how he and Rika crafted and plated their creations. It simply doesn’t get any better or closer than this - to watch one of the world’s best chefs in action, in his kitchen - which as you would expect was spotless and well appointed - and both were proud to show off their wood oven, manufactured locally.
We enjoyed a mixed selection of entrees, and then our mains were both visually fulfilling as were the layers of flavours - from our wood-roasted whole fish through to duck and other seasonal fare. Then it was a shame to say after such wonderful dishes that had just been served - I must admit I was looking forward to dessert more than I ever had. Neither of us were disappointed, the hard part was where to start - we matched them with a special ‘slighted fortified’ bottle of 1959 Grenache.

Umia is wholeheartedly endorsed by all the local wineries, as you will find the best wines from the region, that match Frédéric’s ever changing menu - and is very much part of the local vinous community, with a wall encouraging the local vignerons to add their comments. It is a stunning setting to pause for a fine meal, be it the full menu or the speedy express menu that is no less special, but more manageable on the waistline - plus if you are wanting a speedy lunch, or a lighter evening experience. An effort is required to get to Tain-Hermitage - but the scenery, unique ‘terroir’ wines (the home of Paul Jaboulet wines) and the cuisine in the region is very much worth the effort.

Frédéric Bau, is also the illustrious executive pastry chef and director of l’Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona. He is also the author of the illustrious publication, ‘Au Coeur des Saveurs’ - already a classic, devoted to patisserie and dessert making. Frédéric Bau probably knows more about cooking with chocolate better than most - if you asked his guests, they would say he has taken the art of chocolate to another level. If in the Rhone Valley, I recommend you book a table at Umia.
 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kosher Wine

Kosher wine (Hebrew - yayin kasher) is wine produced according to Judaism's religious law, specifically, the Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) regarding wine. However, some non-Orthodox branches of Judaism may be more 'relaxed'. When kosher wine is produced and sold to Orthodox Jews, it must have the hechsher (seal of approval) of a supervising authority (e.g. the 'OU' sign of the Orthodox Union), or of an authoritative rabbi who is preferably also a posek ('decisor' of Jewish law) or be supervised by a beth din (Jewish religious court of law) according to Orthodox Judaism. In general, kashrut deals with avoiding specific forbidden foods, none of which are normally used in winemaking, so it might seem that all wines are automatically 'kosher'.

      

Recently there has been a demand for kosher wines and a number of wine countries now produce a variety of kosher wines under strict rabbinical supervision; Israel, USA, France, Germany, Italy, South Africa, and Australia.
The use of wine has a long history in Judaism, dating back to biblical times. Evidence shows that wine was produced throughout Israel until at least 636 AD when the area came under Muslim control which prohibited alcohol.
While none of the ingredients that make up wine (alcohol, sugars, acidity and phenols) are considered non-kosher, the kashrut laws involving wine are concerned more with who handles the wine and what they use to make it. To be considered kosher, a Sabbath-observant Jew has to be involved in the entire winemaking process from the harvesting, through fermentation to bottling.
Any ingredients used, including fining agents, need to be kosher. This requirement can exclude certain fining agents such as casein (derived from dairy), gelatin (from non-kosher animals) and isinglass (from non-kosher fish). Egg whites can be used in the clarification of kosher wine but would not be appropriate for Vegan kosher wine. Wine that is described as kosher for 'Passover' must have been kept free from contact with grain, bread and dough.

Montes 'Alpha' Syrah 2007

Grape Variety: 90% Syrah, 7% Cabernet & 3% Viognier

Growing Region: Apalta Vineyards, Colchagua Valley, Chile

Chief Winemaker: Aurelio Montes

90 pts - Wine Spectator: Issue: July 31, 2009

TASTING NOTE:
The fruit for this wine comes from 'La Finca' Estate, in the Apalta Valley, the Montes Alpha Syrah shows how suited the Apalta Valley slopes are, in providing a perfect environment to control Syrah's vines natural vigor while presenting its sort after elegance.
Crop levels were very low, with only six tons per hectare (2.4 tons per acre). After a typical vinification process, the wine was aged in French oak for one year and has had only one soft filtering.
In the glass you have an intense ruby red colour. On the nose you find ripe fruit characters of black cherries, hints of strawberries, and all combined with a smoky spiciness, which adds elegance and complexity. Aurelio has added 3% of Viognier to the final blend to enhance the wine's floral notes. The palate is powerful and full-bodied, with integrated soft and mature tannins and an elegant long finish. The French oak is well balanced and combines well with this strong, soft, velvety wine.
Decanter for at least 30 minutes. Serve at 17-18C.

CELLARING POTENTIAL:
Drinking well this season; and will repay another 7-8 years.

SUGGESTED FOOD MATCHES:
Perfect wine match with slow roasted meats and spices, also rich pasta dishes and ripe cheeses, enjoy.

     

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Macelleria Cecchini - Tuscany

For the past 35 years Dario Cecchini has been a butcher, seeking to better himself in his chosen art, and to discover the best cutting and cooking methods for each piece of meat. Cecchini respects the animal by using every part in the best way possible. In his butcher shop, where hospitality is second-to-none, you can buy possibly the best beef, pork, and when in season, lamb.
In his 2 restaurants located in Panzano in Chianti - halfway between Florence and Siena, you dine as he says “in convivio” together with other guests, you have the opportunity to appreciate, the cooking results of his many years of search for quality meat. All the wine, olive oil, herbs and many other produce come from my small estates located only 3 kilometres from the butcher shop and restaurants.
Cecchini greeted us at our table - as he does with all his guests I’m sure, - he asked us to trust in what he suggests, or at any rate, he made is clear that after many years of research and passion for meat - we should trust his knowledge and experience.

   
    

Everything here reflects his personal philosophy on life, the passion he brings is all his own idea of quality. He does everything his own way, and asks that you enjoy what he serves even if you don’t understand why he does what he does. Dario Cecchini is something of a celebrity chef and none other than Jamie Oliver has sent one of his butchers over to Dario to learn the ropes in Tuscany.
Unlike most restaurants - here you don’t choose from a menu, though you will be treated well, and with great respect, only if you return the favour. At the communal table - there will be six perfectly served meat courses, chosen at Dario’s discretion, with seasonal vegetables, white beans with olive oil, focaccia, bread or Panzano, olive oil cake, coffee, a carafe of their own wine, and to end a potent Italian Military after-dinner liqueur.
All of the above is served for a very reasonable 30€, with exactly two hours dining, at the end of which you will turn over your seat to the next guests. It is important to note that they don’t serve steak - so please don’t ask. All the meat is of Spanish origin, served as a T-shaped bone, filet (top loin) and tenderloin, of mature beef, are all aged for at least 20 days, with just the right amount of fat and never straight from the fridge, standing on a wooden board while waiting for the grill.
For the hot coals under the grill they use red or evergreen oak. The purpose built grill is low to the coals and the ‘Grill Master’ ready to begin the ceremony, with a glass of good Chianti on hand for courage and inspiration. Due to the sheer size and quality of the meat - five quick minutes per side and then fifteen minutes standing on edge. Note: no salt or other seasoning is used to offend this culinary alchemy. The cooked to perfection meat is then returned to the chopping board, let to stand, - though on many occasions like this one, Dario performed a short opera to the meat - then sliced into chunks for all to enjoy!
To describe what this place means for a good healthy carnivore is impossible. It has to be experienced to be believed and sealed with good glass of Chianti. Buon appetito!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Frantoio Franci - Olive Oil

The Frantoio Franci Olive Oil Company and family home is set in Montenero d’Orcia, a small hilltop town on the slopes of the Amiata Mountains, overlooking the splendid valley of the River Orcia. To say that this area looks like a picture-postcard gives a slight insight into this stunningly beautiful part of Tuscany. The Olive Oil Company was founded in 1958, in that year brothers Franco and Fernando Franci purchased the famous Villa Magra olive grove proceeding to transform the old barn into an oil-mill - where I first met Giorgio Franci and his 82 year old father Fernando.
Giorgio spoke about 1995 a turning-point in the history of the family business; as this is when a valued collaboration between his father, with a lifetime of experience and Giorgio began, who quickly brought a new energy and his modern ideas on the family business.

     

Their main priority was to establish a place for their oils on the international market, which has been achieved with careful thought and an obvious passion and attention to detail in everything that they do.
“We were virtually unknown. Our size and structure did not allow us to be competitive with the big producers. Furthermore our skills in producing great oils, was not matched by our commercial ability. It was then that we decided to make quality our goal; a challenging prospect, but a challenge which we eagerly embraced as the only way forward; true, genuine quality, absolute with no compromise.” - Giorgio.
To give you some understanding to the quality of olive oil that they craft here at Frantoio Franci - and the olive oils that I sampled on my tour and tasting in this compact, but state of the art and custom-made oil-mill:
The Guide to the World Best Extra Virgin Olive Oils ‘Flos Olei’ edited by renowned expert Marco Oreggia named Frantoio Franci ‘The Olive Oil Mill of the Year’ - as they achieved the best oil producer in 2003, 2008 and again in 2010. This is from a worldwide selection of more than 3000 oils from producers in 34 participating countries. This is just one an unprecedented list of achievements.
They are ‘by the people in the know’ - at the top of the olive oil industry, not just here in Italy but a benchmark for the oil world. To say it was a pleasure to spend time with Giorgio and have him guide me through his oils - doesn’t quite do the experience justice – but to say if you enjoy good food, these oils are a must on your table.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Maremma - Wines of Cecchi

I was looking forward to returning to Maremma and the ‘Val delle Rose’ Winery owned by Cecchi. During my first visit several years previous - I was taken with its unassuming charm, approachable wines and the simple beauty of the surrounding area. Very few places in the world can compare with its splendour and tranquillity, its breathtaking landscape, picturesque coastline, delicious food and historical towns.
Geographically, the Maremma wine region located in southern Tuscany - can be divided into three parts: Maremma Laziale in the far south, bordering the region of Lazio; Maremma Grossetana, land within the province of Grosseto; and Maremma Alta, from the area around Follonica north to Bolgheri and beyond. But on a wine map, ‘Maremma’ can be taken to mean the central part, in the province of Grosseto.


    

Grapes used in Maremma wines include; Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Vermentino, Cabernet Franc, Alicante and Aleatico to name a few.
In 1996, the Cecchi family embarked on a new challenge, investing in new sites, and after careful research aimed at identifying the most suitable areas they purchased the ‘Val delle Rose’ vineyards at Poggio la Mozza, within the area of Morellino di Scansano. After a great deal of hard work, they have increased the vineyard area from 25 hectares to 90 ha with sustainable practices a key focus in everything that they do.
I had enjoyed the wines on my first visit and back then Cesare & Andrea Cecchi were planning to develop a state of the art winery and cellars on the property. Coming back to Maremma, I didn't know what to expect, as construction was still very much in its early stages. But as we bounced our way in our four-wheel drive and came closer to the site, it was clear that a grand facility was being built. I was given a very careful inspection of the site - as there was scaffolding and heavy construction all around us, but what I was saw was impressive to say the least.


After taking in the sheer size of the development and its stunning setting amongst the vineyards, we made our way back to the reception/tasting room and with Chiara we sampled the current vintages of the following wines: Litorale (Vermentino Maremma Toscana I.G.T.), Morellino Di Scansano, Morellino Di Scansano Riserva. Each wine in their own right was bright and dynamic, with enough fruit character and personality to match a wide range of cuisine and occasions. Wines from Maremma have already excited the taste buds of many wine enthusiasts and those in the know, and the quality of wines to come out of these vineyards in the future is looking very exciting - watch this space for things to only improve.

 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pinzani - Raw Milk Pecorino

Located half way between the striking Volterra Cliffs and the rolling hills of San Gimignano, the Pinzani Cheese Dairy benefits from one of the world’s most stunning and unique locations. The ancient craft of cheese-making lives again in ways that reveal the artisans’ attention to craftsmanship and the deliberate choice to use exclusively raw milk.
Owner and founder Guido Pinzani took me through his new state of the factory (yes wrapped from head to toe in hygienic protective uniforms). Starting in 1969 - it was clear to see that Guido had lost none of the passion that prompted him to give life to the Caseificio Pinzani after a chance meeting with an old retired cheese maker. Then in 1972, during one of the regular gatherings of shepherds in Siena’s Market Square, he heard the news of the sale of an ancient cottage dairy near Pontignano, the last one to continue the classic Sienese manufacture of raw milk pecorino. The acquisition of that cottage dairy marked the beginning of a long and focused journey that has led Guido Pinzani to specialise exclusively in the production of raw milk pecorino cheese.

       

In 1975 the dairy moved to an area rich in pastures amid the lovely municipalities of Colle Val d’Elsa, Casole, Castel San Gimignano, and Volterra, starting a gradual, but steady increase in production that offered the company an opening into the distribution market.
The sheep, all Sardinian, graze in a free range amid these hills, free to enjoy an exceptional environment and a unique territory. Today Pinzani is the only one to produce raw milk pecorino in a structured way. I had the rare opportunity to watch the entire process that the cheese goes through, plus visited the impressive ageing rooms, where thousands of rounds of cheese mature to produce these award winning cheeses.
Just like the importance of ‘terroir’ in wine - these carefully chosen pastures impart a unique sensory trait, an integral part first on the milk, then on the cheese. The peculiarities of the area, the soil, the climate, and the vegetation characterise and leave an enduring trace on the cheeses.
Pinzani pecorino cheese has a rich and special taste, of broad and complex aromas and of outstanding quality. The chesses we worked through included: Classico Pecorino Senese, Classico Riserva, I' Serbo, I' Rugoso, I' Blu, Marzolino, Pecorino Nero, Pecorino al Pepe, Pecorino al Tartufo, Tartufo Riserva, Pecorino allo Zafferano and Ricotta di Pecora.
The use of raw milk demands greater skill and attention in manufacturing. For this reason Pinzani follow with extreme care of all phases of the process, the utmost hygiene in production, storage, and manufacturing are a guarantee for the customer and an essential requirement for producing a high quality pecorino.

Lake Chalice 'Raptor' Chardonnay 2009

Grape Variety: 100% Chardonnay

Growing Region: Marlborough, New Zealand

Chief Winemaker: Matt Thomson

Silver Medal - Royal Easter Wine Show 2010

TASTING NOTE:
The people behind any successful winery need to be able to multi-task and have an unlimited amount of energy and passion, plus a clear direction for what they can achieve. Chris, Phil and Matt have all of these attributes in spades and have the added ability to share their enthusiasm for wine and life with all they meet. Their attention to detail to craft quality wine can be easily seen in this Chardonnay.
The majority of the fruit was handpicked from the Renwick vineyard of Peter and Anne Reed. The balance being machine harvested and coming from their own Falcon Vineyard. Grapes were whole bunch pressed and then fermented in barrels, a mixture of new and one year old French oak. 100% malolactic fermentation and 8 months maturing on light lees before blending and bottling in December 2009.
In the glass you are greeted by a bright, straw, light gold colour. Lifted aromas of white peach, nectarine and underlying nutty, spicy oak notes. The medium bodied palate is elegant and creamy with well balanced acidity that leads to a warm lingering finish. Limited release: 478 cases.
Decant for approx 20mins and serve at 10C.

CELLARING POTENTIAL:
Drinking perfectly well this season; and will age gracefully for 3-4 years.

SUGGESTED FOOD MATCHES:
Perfect wine match with white meats, light cream pasta dishes and rich cheeses, enjoy.

 

Grenache

Grenache (in Spanish, Garnacha) is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It ripens late, so needs hot, dry conditions such as those found in Spain, the south of France, California and Barossa. It is generally spicy, berry-flavoured and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. It tends to lack acid, tannin and colour, and is usually blended with other varieties such as Syrah, Carignan and Cinsaut.

  
 
Grenache is the dominant variety in most Southern Rhone wines, especially in Châteauneuf-du-Pape where it is typically over 80% of the blend. In Australia it is typically blended in 'GSM' blends with Syrah and Mourvedre. Grenache is also used to make rose wines in France and Spain, notably those of the Tavel district in the Côtes du Rhône. And the high sugar levels of Grenache have led to extensive use in fortified wines, including the red vins doux naturels of Roussillon such as Banyuls, and as the basis of many Australian fortified wines.
Evidence suggests that Grenache is most likely of Spanish origins, with the northern region of Aragon its likely home. Grenache (Garnacha), was already well established on both sides of the Pyrenees. Despite its prevalence in nearby Navarra and Catalonia, Garnacha was not widely planted in the Rioja till the early 20th century as vineyards were replanted following the phylloxera epidemic.
Grenache based wines tend to be made for early consumption with its tendency for oxidation make it a poor candidate for long term aging. However, producers with low yields grown on poor soils can produce dense, concentrated wines that can benefit from cellaring.
The characteristic notes of Grenache are berry fruit such as raspberries and strawberries. When yields are kept in check, Grenache based wines can develop complex and intense notes of black currants, black cherries, black olives, coffee, gingerbread, honey, leather, black pepper, tar, spices and roasted nuts.
 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hostellerie La Briqueterie - Epernay

Occasionally I am invited to a specialty restaurant when I visit a winery - and on this occasion I again had that pleasure. But unlike most situations, when I am in the dark to its location, not so this time, as I had driven past the ‘Hostellerie La Briqueterie’ on my way into Epernay from where I was staying in Provin (a picturesque medieval town 85km to the south-west). Set in the heart of the Champagne region, surrounded by vineyards, the Hotel was founded in 1973 and built on the site of a former bricks factory, and is an exclusive gastronomic residence where one comes to discover the Champagne region.

      

In 1990 the Hotel was enlarged and totally renovated, and in June 2004, Mrs Alix Philipon took over the property. The following two years, she stamped her style on the hotel - with nearly all areas having seen her touch. The brand new Spa and the most important part to me, the gastronomic restaurant and cosy bar were recently opened in 2006.
With its 110 km of cellars, Epernay, the capital of the Champagne region - is located just 4km from the hotel, and one Champagne that has a proud place on the wine-list and hosts many a guest, myself included is Pol Roger.
All the staff are extremely knowledgeable on wine - but particularly so with regards Champagne and all the subtle nuances of the region, each house and what goes well with the menu and the seasons. They will kindly share their passion of Champagne and keep you enthralled with great stories, history and events held at the hotel.
As you walk through the reception and into the restaurant - you are greeted by an army of staff, and the decor has a homely and warm atmosphere, in a traditional style, a grand chimney in the first room, vibrant fabrics in red and yellow tones, and finally a large bay window overlooking a fantastic landscaped garden and its fountains. Our table was in the bay window bathed in sunlight, with a view of the herb garden to the right and in the distance vineyards.
From those in the know - they will say and I was to find out first hand - that the cuisine has never been better than now under the current Head Chef, Gilles Goess, who trained at the Royal Monceau and the Ritz in Paris, so it is no surprise that La Briqueterie regained its one Michelin Star in February 2007. With almost two million euros invested in this establishment, including a new kitchen and restaurant, Goess is well equipped to aim for a second star. Investment has also gone into the hotel side of this country house, bringing it up to 'Relais & Châteaux' standard.
Selecting a dish from the La Briqueterie menu is like accepting an invitation to enjoy the best of nature, and allow yourself to be carried away by the flavours of each dish, as each has aromas and scents that take you on a wonderful sensory journey.
Goess combines traditional cuisine, herbs from the garden and regional Champagne products, to produce cuisine that is a celebration for the senses.

Pol Roger Champagne - Epernay

During the recent European summer - I had the pleasure once again to visit one of the few remaining great family-owned Champagne Houses - Pol Roger. Epernay is at the centre of Champagne and at the centre of Epernay is Pol Roger, with its cellars running under the Avenue de Champagne, the winemaking address of some of the most renowned vintage and non-vintage champagnes to be produced over the past 150 years. With many more waiting quietly maturing underground in over 7 kilometres and in 3 levels of dark cellars. Crafting exquisite wines, so often the first choice of wine writers and connoisseurs, and often described as ‘Sophisticated Simplicity’.

      

I was in the best possible hands for my time at Pol Roger - as Laurent D'Harcourt - the Export Director took me on a guided tour of the newly upgraded winemaking facilities that have been a major project and nearing an end. If you, like other connoisseurs felt that Pol Roger were crafting stunning Champagnes before, with their new facilities and custom made equipment, the future only looks bright for all whom enjoy quality Champagne.
After the winery tour - Laurent took me through a private tasting of the most recent Champagne releases - that will be making their way around the world and to New Zealand in the near future. These included: Pol Roger Pure, Non-Vintage, Blanc de Blancs, Rose and the exquisite Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill.


I always find great attention to detail along with style and finesse in Pol Roger. They craft a number of non-vintage and vintages cuvées. The non-vintage cuvées, of which there are two, are characterised by the inclusion of one-third each of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It was a pleasure to experience the Brut Réserve - an excellent example of the style. So was the Chardonnay Vintage, the Pol Roger ‘Blanc de Blancs’, and the vintage Rosé. But the stand out - were the two wines which the Champagne house has earned such a tremendous reputation - the Vintage Brut and the prestige cuvée, Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill.
As with all visits - one simply don’t wish to leave, but I had to catch a plane in Paris early the next morning, so reluctantly I had to end a memorable day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Gisselbrecht - Alsace

Alsace - a dynamic place for so many reasons - it is always a pleasure to return and spend a few days enjoying the melting pot of both Germanic and French culture, cuisine and wine styles. As with many names of wine regions from around the world - when I hear the name Alsace - my taste buds recall bright white wines - but one comes to the fore slightly faster than the rest - and that can only be the luscious Pinot Gris grape. Alsatian Pinot Gris is an entirely different style to the New Zealand versions of the pink-skinned grape that have captured so much attention here in the past few years.

Many wineries try to show the delights on offer from Alsace, the home of many ‘aromatic’ grapes, but I am still to find someone like Willy Gisselbrecht who knows how to deliver the complexity and astounding richness that the grape can attain. Though one could say that they have a bit of an advantage; as their family have made wine in Alsace since the 1600s.

      

Cousins Christine and Philippe Gisselbrecht (winemaker) were my hosts for the 2 days. Day one was a tour of the winery then an in-depth vertical tasting through their family of dynamic wines. Some if the wines included vertical vintages of: Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Sylvaner, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Schiefferberg, Grand cru Frankstein and to end some Vendanges Tardives. Each had their own unique personality, plus showing their great Alsatian aromatics, be they Pinot Gris, Riesling or Gewurztraminer, all the wines Gisselbrecht produce tend to be richly textured expressions of their respective grape varieties, a thrilling meeting of floral notes, bright fruits, honeyed richness and flinty minerality, a result of the unique terroir and the attention to detail in each vineyard that only centuries of tradition can deliver, plus the ‘natural-sustainable’ care of their vineyards.

 

Day two started with another look at several reserve / vintage wines - then time was spent in the vineyards, getting close to the vines and seeing first hand all the hard work that is required throughout the growing season to fully ripen these particular grape varieties in these trying conditions. The Gisselbrecht Family deserve all of their success and it was easy to understand why they are seen by those in the know - as the bench mark for aromatic varieties that are grown here in New Zealand.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hewitson 'Ned & Henry's' Shiraz 2008

Grape Variety: 100% Shiraz

Growing Region: Barossa Valley, Australia

Chief Winemaker: Dean Hewitson

93pts - Gary Walsh - 'The Wine Front', 2009

TASTING NOTE:
This wine as will all of Dean's wines - was sourced from outstanding vineyard sites grown on red soil over limestone, classic Barossa 'terra rossa', provides the fruit for the Ned & Henry's Shiraz. These vineyards are traditionally dry-grown, low-cropping and produce the desired layers of flavour and tannins for this quality wine.
The 2008 vintage was characterized by warm to very hot conditions, ensuring the Shiraz fruit was fully ripe at harvest time. Perhaps the most striking element of this wine is the rich fruit integration with very good French oak.
In the glass you are greeted by a deep red colour with a purple hue. Aromas of black and red, ripe fruits with a rich, concentrated core. The integrated quality of perfectly ripe fruit and French oak is such a pleasure to behold. The fruit flavours are full and concentrated yet soft and supple. The tannins are gentle yet persistent and completely mould seamlessly into the wine. Ned and Henry's is most definitely full-bodied, with rich chocolate, blackberry and dark-earthy characters. Great balance and poise all wrapped up in what we like to call 'drinkability'. This is possibly the best vintage of this wine to date. Decant for 30-40mins, serve at 18C.

CELLARING POTENTIAL:
Drinking well this season; and will repay another 4-5 years in bottle.

SUGGESTED FOOD MATCHES:
Perfect wine match with prime Angus, game, roasted vegetables and wine-jus, enjoy.

 

Cava

Cava is the name of a style of Spanish white or pink sparkling wine, produced in different areas of Catalonia, Navarra, Rioja, Andalucia, Valencia and Extremadura but mainly in the Penedes region in Catalonia, 40 km to the south west of Barcelona.
Cava is a Greek term that was used to refer to a 'high end' table wine or wine cellar, and comes from the Latin word 'cava' which means cave in English. Caves were used in the early days of Cava production for the preservation or aging of wine. Today Cavas have become integrated with Spanish family traditions and is often consumed at baptism celebrations.

     
The sparkling wine of Cava was created in 1872 by Josep Raventos. The vineyards of Penedes were devastated by the phylloxera plague, and the predominantly red vines were being replaced by large numbers of vines producing white grapes. After seeing the success of the Champagne region, Raventos decided to create the dry sparkling wine that has become the reason for the region's continued success. In the past the wine was referred to as 'Spanish Champagne' (no longer permitted under EU law), or colloquially as 'champana' or 'xampany'.
Cava is produced in varying levels of dryness: brut nature, brut (extra dry), seco (dry), semi-seco (medium) and dulce (sweet). Under Spanish Denominacion de Origen laws, Cava can be produced in six wine regions and must be made according to the Traditional Method with second fermentation in the bottle and uses a selection of the grapes Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Despite being a traditional Champagne grape, Chardonnay was not used in the production of Cava until the 1980s.
Cava is not the only sparkling wine made in Spain and sometimes consumers are fooled into accepting something inferior. You can distinguish cava by the cork, which should be marked with a four-pointed star. Remember that the sweeter the cava, the cooler it needs to be served: a brut nature can be served at approx 10-12C, but a semi-seco should be well chilled 6C.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brettanomyces

Brettanomyces is any one of nine different species of naturally-occurring yeast, and is often colloquially referred to as 'Brett'. In the wild, Brettanomyces lives on the skins of fruit. The term Brettanomyces comes from the Greek for "British fungus" - due to investigating it as a cause of spoilage in English ales.
When Brettanomyces grows in wine it produces several compounds that can alter the palate and bouquet. At low levels some winemakers argue that the presence has a positive effect on wine, contributing to complexity, and giving an aged character to young red wines. Many wines even rely on Brett to give their distinctive character, however when the levels of the sensory compounds exceed the sensory threshold, their perception is almost always negative.

     

As Brett can potentially spoil a wine it is generally seen in wine as a wine fault. Wines that have been contaminated with Brettanomyces taints are often referred to as "Bretty", "mousy", "metallic", or as having "Brett character".
Brett is typically isolated from barrel aged red wines - this is because red wines are far higher in polyphenol content, and generally have a higher pH, both factors which encourages development, but Brett has also been be found in some white wines. In some cases the yeast has caused contamination in sparkling wines produced by the Methode champenoise.
It is thought Brett can be introduced to a winery by insects such as fruit flies, or by purchasing Brett contaminated wine barrels. Once the yeast is in a winery it is hard to remove and is spread readily by unsanitised equipment. Brett is best controlled by the addition of sulphur dioxide to which the yeast is particularly sensitive.  Alternatively the wine can be bottled after sterile filtration, which physically removes the yeast. Wines that are vinified to low residual sugar levels, such as <1.0g/L, are also less likely to be spoiled as the main growth substrate has been limited.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Paul Jaboulet Parallele 45 - 2007

Grape Variety: 60% Grenache, 40% Syrah

Growing Region: Rhone Valley, France

Chief Winemaker: Caroline Frey

Silver Medal - Decanter Magazine 2009

TASTING NOTE:
This Cotes du Rhone takes its name from the 45th Northern parallel which runs two kilometres from the cellars of Maison Paul Jaboulet Aine. In the village of Pont de l'Isere, the wine has had this name since the beginning of the 1950s. The Parallele 45 is a perfect balance between the two great red grape varieties of the Rhone valley; Syrah and Grenache Noir.
Traditional vinification took place with long vatting, the 'must' was fermented slowly in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to extract colour and the right amount of ripe tannins, without becoming too powerful. The wine remained in tank until bottling.
In the glass you are greeted by a deep colour with an attractive brilliance. On the nose you have elegant aromatics, with red fruits blended with spices.
With now nearly 3 years in the bottle - the wine is developing some pepper and spice complexity to go along with its ripe fruit aromas and flavours. The palate is well-structured with rounded tannins from the fruit alone as no oak ageing for this wine, then with a final hint of cassis and a spicy note that gives a good full mouth feel and a well defined fruit focused finish. Serve at approx 16-18C.

CELLARING POTENTIAL:
Drinking perfectly well now; and for another 2+years.

SUGGESTED FOOD MATCHES:
Perfect wine match with seared and roasted meats, tapas, pate and cheeses, enjoy.