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, November 25, 2008

Opening a bottle of Champagne

Champagne, of course, doesn't require a corkscrew. But there is still a careful technique required to opening, which doesn't involve emulating the antics of a Formula One racecar winner and spraying it all over the crowd.
First - chill the Champagne down to 8-10°C for Vintage, Prestige Cuvée and 6-8°C for NV (non-vintage), Méthode Traditionnelle, Sparkling, Cava, Sekt, Prosecco, and Asti.
Start with the bottle standing upright on a table or flat surface. Locate the wire loop beneath the foil capsule; by feeling around the neck of the bottle (some bottles have an easy peel tab on the side). Getting your thumbnail behind the loop, pull it out and downwards, tearing away the capsule as you do so. Proceed to remove the rest of the capsule/ foil.


Grasp the neck of the bottle, keeping your thumb firmly over the top of the cork. This prevents it flying out with the potential to cause damage or even injury.
Then untwist the wire loop, and loosen the cage. Don't loosen your grip though!
In my experience it makes the whole process so much easier if you keep the wire-cage on the cork, as the cage fits nicely into the sides of the cork and gives your hand something to grip and hold onto.
Now, never taking your thumb from its secure position over the top of the cork, pick up the bottle. Firmly grasp the cork and cage between thumb and forefinger, and with the other hand, twist the bottle. (Yes - twist the bottle, it is much easier to twist/ turn the bottle than it is the cork and you also don't loose your tight grip on the cork). As the cork moves, control its release with your thumb. Continue twisting the bottle away from the cork. Its eventual release should be accompanied by a gentle sigh of escaping CO2 gas. A louder pop suggests that you haven't controlled the extraction of the cork adequately, but as long as there is no loss of wine then this doesn't really matter.
Failure to control the cork at all, resulting in a fountain of Champagne, may produce a laugh and cheer, but ultimately this is just an expensive mistake and loss of Champagne.

Related Articles:

Champagne Flute

Monday, October 6, 2008

Laboure-Roi - Nuits Saint Georges

On this annual visit to our European wineries - I found myself in Burgundy with a free day (normally reserved for catching up on laundry and booking train or plane tickets to my next destination) - So I jumped in the car with my seasoned professional wine traveller ‘Haggie’ - and we made our way to Nuits-Saint Georges to see if we could call on Laboure-Roi.
The history of Laboure-Roi dates back to 1832, when it was founded by Monsieur ‘Laboure’ and Monsieur ‘Roi’. The Burgundy négociants firm of Laboure-Roi, today owned by brothers Armand, Louis and Philippe Cottin, is involved not only in selling wines, but first and foremost, aging - to be released only when they show the ‘terroir’ from which they come. With the expert advice of their five oenologists, they select the grapes and juice, conduct the vinification process and then age the wines in barrels, tanks or bottles.


Laboure-Roi is a new breed of Burgundy négociants, a commercially savvy company and whose exports account for 70% of their business. Enterprising they may be, but they also have a huge respect for the traditions of Burgundy; Louis and Armand are descendants of a long line of Burgundian business families and their focus is to continually lift the status of this renowned region. As they put it themselves: "The team, as a whole, does its best to improve the cultural and sensorial art of the Great Wines of Burgundy, because that is the tradition of our region."
Working closely with top growers, Laboure-Roi have an intimate understanding of the unique terroir of the individual sites; by creating and owning one of the most advanced laboratories in France, they also embrace technology and innovation. The wines themselves are elegant and balanced, often with an appealing feminine edge; Chardonnays have finesse and subtle power, Pinot Noirs complexity and character.
We drove past the original winery / cellars on the main road through Nuits-Saint Georges and found our way through the back streets to their new site and head-office. Being that it was harvest time - I was not expecting to see too many of the winemaking team or have much time to spend with others - but we were warmly welcomed by Helen Holyoak (Sales Administration Manager) - and we spent some time catching up on the vintage with Patrick Sosnowicz (Export Manager) - who talked us through the vintage and the fruit that had already come in and how several of the previous vintages were developing in barrel and bottle.
Time was short, so we excused ourselves, not to delay them any further, and we found time later in the day - to open a bottle or two (or was it three) of the Laboure-Roi wines - just to reacquaint ourselves with these very approachable, easy drinking styles of wine.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

L'Athenaeum - Wine Books & more

This was not my first visit - nor will it be the last time I spend several hours totally engrossed in the sheer volume of literature and information on wine and all that is related in one place. L’Athenaeum was established in 1989 at the Hospices de Beaune, in the heart of the city, the Athenaeum is a multicultural building dedicated to wine and gastronomy.
It was created through a partnership between a famous Parisian publisher and Patriarche. Patriarche is guided by one goal: to make quality wines accessible to all, for sharing unique moments of discovery and taste sensations for all occasions, whether they are out-of-the-ordinary, celebratory or everyday events. The combination of their wine-related activities and their know-how gives them the strength to continue the work started by Jean-Baptiste Patriarche back in 1780!

L’Athenaeum - this unique single store, it is one of the largest libraries in Burgundy and France’s biggest bookshop devoted to wine, the absolute reference for wine lovers.
Books on every topic (historic and current) related to wine and gastronomy, maps of vineyards and regions, objects for the service of wine, and also wines of Burgundy are on show. This establishment is the crossroads where ones passion for all things wine meets tableware, between mankind’s emotion and humour and that of science, from light reading to specialized books...and more - yes even more.
Its reputation extends far beyond France's borders as each day simply hundreds of internet users from around the world visit the L'Athenaeum's website - where they find books available in their language which they are not available in their home country.
A visit to the ultimate multi-levelled book shop opposite the Hospices is an unforgettable experience, as you can find practically everything that has been written about food and wine. A number of works are available in French, English, German, Italian and other languages. If you are just simply curious or a passionate amateur, you will find the book, card or poster that you are looking for as well as numerous wine accessories. You will also find hundreds of Burgundy's top wines to taste or buy.
On this particular occasion I added to both my book and accessory collection, plus I was hunting for a unique ‘Tastevin’ as a thank you gift to a good friend, and it was here that I knew I would find what I was looking for, as you can imagine, I found it difficult to decide on which to buy. If you have any interest in wine or cuisine - this is a must visit destination.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Pierre André - Burgundy

Cote de Or, the ‘golden slopes’ - produces what are arguably the world’s finest, and definitely most expensive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines in the world. So on my continuing journey to understanding this complex wine region, I had the special opportunity to visit and sample the fine wines of Château de Corton André. Pierre André has become synonymous with an endless quest to produce the ultimate wine from each individual vineyard and a symbol for the very best of Burgundy.

Château de Corton André looks out across the Corton Hill and is the heart of Pierre André. The Corton Hill vineyards produce truly rare and marvelous Burgundies which are at the very peak of the region's finest wines. It is also unique, in the fact that it produces both Grand Cru red (Corton) and Grand Cru white (Corton Charlemagne) wines.
These exceptional Grand Cru parcels of land; Corton Chaumes, Corton Renardes, Corton Charlemagne and Corton Clos du Château (monopoly holding). It was in these vineyards that the Pierre André story began and here that they acquired the understanding of the secrets hidden in the soil.


Pierre André wines are all about purity and terroir. Our colourful host Benoit Goujon, (Managing Director of Pierre Andre) - was very generous with his time and the wines that he opened. Each glass of wine that we enjoyed down in the cellars of the winery, were a clear and honest reflection of its origins - the land from which they were grown. During every step, from the vineyard right through to bottling, this purity had been carefully nurtured.
I savoured each wine that was opened, to be honest - I don’t remember spitting out any of them - but all the time - I thought it a shame, as each wine would have been a perfect match with so many fine dishes, their elegance and style providing a sensory sensation.

Their Chardonnay’s are a wonderful expression of Burgundy - full and round on the palate with complex bouquets of fruit, white flowers and subtle hints of spice, and a perfect balance of fresh acidity and richness on the finish.
In Burgundy, Pinot Noir is king and Pierre André's red wines portray all the complex characteristics of this most fussy of grapes. Each of the reds we tasted, were wonderfully concentrated and displayed distinct, fresh red fruit aromas that reached out of the glass. Each wine was ripe with supple tannins; we all talked about how enjoyable it would be to taste these wines again in a number of years, as they will develop much deeper notes, more complex character and personality with time in the bottle.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Perfect with Paella

My first day in Valencia - I headed for the old part of the town in search of the famous local dish and a glass of wine. Paella is the internationally renowned rice dish from Valencia in Spain. If you want genuine paella, you will find it in Valencia, or (sometimes) in a quality restaurant in Madrid, Logrono or Barcelona, but it doesn’t get any better than here in Valencia the home of paella.

As with many local dishes, the typical tourist paella bears little (or no) resemblance to the real thing. It originated in the rice paddies around Valencia. Today paella is made in every region of Spain, and imitated around the world using just about any kind of ingredient that goes well with rice.


There are as many versions of paella as there are cooks. It can contain chicken, pork, shellfish, fish, eel, squid, beans, peas, artichokes or peppers. Saffron, the spice that also turns the rice a wonderful golden colour is an essential ingredient of the dish, and sometimes forgotten by many.
Rich in flavour but rustic by nature, paella is best matched with a wine with similar qualities. The Spanish wines I chose over the 3 days I was exploring the region were straightforward - though far from uninteresting. Made from the locally grown grape varieties like; Albarino, Verdejo, Monastrell and even Syrah all from the south west in Jumilla. The wines firm acidity in the whites and earthy, tannic notes from the reds compliment nicely with the earthy flavours of the rice, while the sweet berry flavours marry nicely with pork, chorizo and saffron sauce.
With choosing a wine - look for a wine with vibrant acidity that will help to cut through the richness of the chicken and chorizo that are added to so many paellas.
On one occasion when I ordered paella relatively early one evening - the chef encouraged me to match a dry fino sherry with the dish. It was no surprise why his restaurant was full of locals and that he had owned it for many successful years, as the match was sublime.

On a hot summer’s day on the Mediterranean coast in Spain, one would like to enjoy a white wine, so when looking to match a white wine with paella – look for a crisp white with good natural acidity. This is usually the best match for so many complex and spicy flavours that can be added to many dishes.
With fresh, light seafood paella, locally in New Zealand a good suggestion is a Sauvignon Blanc, plus depending upon the winery style don’t forget to try a glass of Viognier, Riesling, or even a nice sparkling wine. Depending upon the degree of spiciness, whites with a bit of residual sugar can be a nice way to offset the spice, like a Pinot Gris.  
If you are like me and when in Spain I was determined to enjoy a local glass of red, I’d go with relatively light-bodied, integrated oak, fruit driven reds such as Tempranillo, a Crianza Rioja or even a soft Monastrell.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Freixenet - Cava

When in Barcelona / Spain (the Catalan region) - one must enjoy many local customs, one being a glass of the local Cava (sparkling wine) - I was able to do one better and had a guided tour and tasting at Freixenet.
Freixenet is the ‘World’s Leading Sparkling Wine’ located west of Barcelona in the Catalonia / Penedes region. When I was given the option to visit the winery by train - to say I was a little worried – (as most wineries are usually located a distance outside of the town centre) - my worries were unfounded on this occasion as the winery is situated literally opposite the main train station in the Catalonian village of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia. Around 95% of Spain's total Cava production is from Catalonia and Sant Sadurní d'Anoia is home to many of Spain's largest Cava houses, with Freixenet right at the heart.


Back in 1941, Freixenet launched what in time has become one of its leading products, the cava Carta Nevada and then in 1974 the cava Cordon Negro. Jose Ferrer CEO - his direction has taken the company to extreme heights, now semi-retired, José’s son Pedro, fourth generation Ferrer runs the multinational operation. Under his guidance, the Freixenet Company continues to expand by purchasing wine estates in some of the world’s most prominent appellations.
First we made our way out to ‘Segura Viudas’ to see the harvested grapes come in from some of the 1200 carefully managed growers. While we were there, we sampled the current releases with Gabriel Suberviola (chief winemaker) - who took us through a memorable tasting. We then made our way back to the head-office / winery and cellars, where there are over 150 million bottles of Freixenet maturing in approx 17km of Limestone caves. We only had time to drive (yes drive) around 2 of the 5 levels - I lost count of riddling racks and tunnels full of Sparkling wine after the 9th or 10th bend.
I then had an unexpected / but very pleasing meeting with the legendary Josep Bujan - the technical director for Freixenet since 1980. Bujan is responsible for developing and refining the technical procedures that have allowed méthode champenoise production of Freixenet cavas to soar to nearly 12 million cases per year. Bujan knows more about Cava the grapes and soils of the region than anyone and is a living oracle of the history and winemaking.
Freixenet is produced in the same meticulous manner, just like French Champagne all the grapes are handpicked and gently pressed, fermented in bottle to produce a high quality sparkling wine. After a tour of the production facilities, cellars and a detailed tasting and a late lunch it was unfortunately time to say farewell and return to Barcelona - to try and find the best Tapas’ (oh what a problem...he says with smile).

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rioja and Tapas' - Olé!

After driving some 500km’s from Barcelona to Logrono across some of the hottest, driest and dramatic scenery, I thought it time for a glass of Rioja and Tapas.
There are few places better in Spain than the main street through Logrono's old quarter, Calle Portales, and the surrounding streets, for great tapas bars and a local glass of typical Rioja wine. Yes - you can imagine I was in my oven version of heaven.

Rioja is a wine, with Denominación de Origen Calificada (Protected designation of origin), from a region named after the Rio Oja in Spain, a tributary of the Ebro. Rioja is made from grapes grown in the autonomous communities of La Rioja, Navarre and the Basque province of Alava. La Rioja is further subdivided into three zones Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja.
Located south of the Cantabrian Mountains, Rioja benefits from a continental climate. The mountains help to isolate the region, moderate the climate, plus protect the vineyards from the fierce winds typical of northern Spain. Most of the region is situated on a plateau, approx 1500ft above sea level. The Rioja Alavesa and Alta, located closer to the mountains are at slightly higher elevations and have a cooler climate. The Rioja Baja to the southeast is warmer and drier.


Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red (tinto) - of which 85% of the wine produced is red, white (blanco) or rose (rosado).
Marques de Caceres over several days introduced me to this stunning wine region of Spain, showing me an array of vineyards, including some ‘old vines’ 100+ years of age - which produce very concentrated grapes with low yields.
Among the Tintos, the most widely-used variety is Tempranillo. Other grapes used include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo. A typical blend will consist of approx 60% Tempranillo and up to 20% Garnacha, with much smaller proportions of Mazuelo and Graciano. Each grape adds a unique component to the wine with Tempranillo contributing the main flavours and aging potential to the wine; Garnache adding body and alcohol; Mazuelo adding seasoning flavours and Graciano adding additional aromas.

With Rioja Blanco, Viura is the prominent grape (a.k.a Macabeo) and is normally blended with some Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. In the white wines the Viura contributes mild fruitiness, acidity and some aroma to the blend with Garnacha Blanca adding body and Malvasia adding aroma. Rosados are mostly derived from Garnacha grapes. The ‘international varieties’ of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have gained some attention and use through experimental plantings by some bodegas but their use has created wines distinctly different from the typical Rioja.
A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging. In the past, it was not uncommon for some bodegas to age their red wines for 15-20 years or even more before their release. One notable example of this was Marqués de Caceres which owns up to 40,000 oak barrels.
Rioja red wines are classified into four categories. The first, simply labeled ‘Rioja’, is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak barrel.
A ‘crianza’ is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak.
‘Rioja Reserva’ is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak.
Finally, ‘Rioja Gran Reserva’ wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle. Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year.
Also produced are wines in a semi-crianza style, those that have had a couple of months oak influence but not enough to be called a full crianza. The designation of crianza, Reserva etc might not always appear on the front label but may appear on a neck or back label in the form of a stamp designation known as Consejo.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wine and Cheese

Probably more miss-leading information has been written on the subject of matching wine with ‘cheese’ than on any other aspect of wine enjoyment. In the past without informed knowledge a sensible ‘rule’ of thumb was to decide for yourself what suited your taste-buds - but your own, personal taste does not always match with others and in many occasions the marriage between a cheese selection and a favourite wine was endured rather than enjoyed.

That said - as you gain experience and learn more about wine, you will think of it not just in terms of flavour, but also in other terms such as weight, power, aroma and length. One of the keys to choosing a wine to suit a particular cheese is to take a moment to consider these qualities in relation to the cheese and then try to find a style of wine with qualities to match or complement. Successful wine and cheese matching should be based on similarities rather than contrasts. Match the weight of the wine to the character and intensity of the cheese.

Guidelines - conventional combinations:
Cheese - there are many good cheese and wine matches - mature cheddar and mature red wine, port with stilton, goats' cheese with Sauvignon Blanc, sweet wine with creamy cheeses are all classic pairings. Avoid reds that are very tannic and whites that are heavily oaked.
Another tip is to drink a wine from the same region as the cheese, as many wine styles have been influenced by the cuisine and cheese in that region.

Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio: - Chevre, Feta.
Pinot Gris, Viognier: - Mozzarella, Emmental.
Chardonnay (with oak): - Aged Brie, mature Camembert, Port-Salut.
Beaujolais or Valpolicella: - Mature Brie, Cheshire, Edam, Emmental, Gouda, Gruyere.
New Zealand Pinot Noir, Cru Beaujolais, Merlot: - Raw Milk Aged Brie, ripe Munster.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet-Franc, Syrah / Shiraz, Barolo, Reserve Rioja, Amarone, Chianti DOCG, Malbec, GSM's: - Parmigiano Reggiano, aged Gouda, aged Cheddar, Harvarti and Swiss-styles.
Sauternes or Barsac, Tokay, Dessert wines and Ports: - Gorgonzola, Roquefort, and Stilton.


Just to name and match a few - enjoy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How long to keep a bottle of wine open?

There are lots of variables; the wine type, method of production, age and so on. There are all those considerations and exceptions but for 95% of the wine that people drink every day, the answer is pretty simple.
Three (3) days. At home, I can keep wines up to 3 days after the bottle has been opened. (This doesn't happen very often). Once a bottle of wine is opened, the oxygen in the air starts a process that softens the flavours and opens up the aromas. As this process (oxidation) continues over hours and days, the wine is ultimately made undrinkable; the trick is to drink the wine before this point.


You can (and usually should) refrigerate re-closed (open) bottles. You can buy wine-gadgets to create a slight vacuum in the bottle. You can get systems that put a layer of inert gas in the bottle. All these efforts are aimed at slowing the oxidation that will eventually destroy the wine. What makes the whole thing tricky is that wine will not immediately go from good to bad. Each person has a different point at which they identify the wine as having gone bad.
If you want to play it safe (and who doesn't), use the 3 day rule. Re-close and refrigerate the bottle for up to 3 days. With red wines, pull the bottle out from the fridge at least 1 hour before you want to use it so it will warm up to a temperature of around 18°C. With white wines or roses, depending upon the room temperature/ time of year, give the wine 10-15 minutes or so to get to about 8-9°C.
If you keep a wine for more than 3 days, you will be serving a wine that has lost most of the characteristics that are prized. The aroma will start to change and much of the fresh fruit smells and tastes will subside. At worst, you'll be serving a wine that has oxidized too much and has gone bad.
Dessert wines, Ports and Sherries can last longer but those are special cases (due to the methode of production, increased sugar levels and the higher alcohol content, which can act as a preservative and slow the process). Play it safe with the 3 day rule.