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, December 30, 2008


Phylloxera is a pest of grapevines worldwide, originally native to the Mississippi valley in North America. These tiny, pale yellow sap-sucking insects, related to aphids, feed on the roots of grapevines. In grapevines, phylloxera can result in premature defoliation, reduced shoot growth, gradually cutting off the flow of nutrients and water to the vine, reduced yield and quality of the crop. Nymphs also form protective growths on the undersides of grapevine leaves and overwinter under the bark or on the vine roots.
In the late 19th century the phylloxera epidemic destroyed most of the vineyards in Europe, most notably in France. Phylloxera was inadvertently introduced to Europe in the 1860's, on imported North American vine-stocks/ plants. Because Phylloxera is native to North America, the native grape species there are partially resistant.

By contrast, the European wine grape is very susceptible. The epidemic devastated most of the European wine growing industry. In 1863, the first vines began to deteriorate in the southern Rhone region of France. The problem spread rapidly across the continent. In France alone, total wine production fell from 84.5 million hectolitres in 1875 to 23.4 million h/l. Some estimates hold that between 70-90% of all European vineyards were destroyed, almost 2.5 million ha/6.2 million acres.
In France, some grape growers were so desperate that they buried a live toad under each vine. Areas with sandy soils were spared, and the spread was slowed in dry climates, but gradually it spread across the continent. A huge amount of research was devoted to finding a solution to the Phylloxera problem, and two major solutions gradually emerged: hybridization and resistant rootstocks that have been used the world over.
The only European grape that is natively resistant to Phylloxera is the Assyrtiko grape which grows on the volcanic island of Santorini, Greece, although it is not clear if the resistance is due to the rootstock itself or the volcanic ash on which it grows.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bush Vines

To many wine enthusiasts - bush vines (goblet vines) are something unique. Perfectly straight rows - all of uniform height, common place here in NZ - is in fact a recent development. To the rest of the world, many winemakers have only recently thought of moving towards - for their indigenous grapes or new sites that will best suite.
Spain - the country with the largest area of grape vines in the world - it is common place to see low bush vines on the slopes and plains across the arid regions. The bush vines provide a canopy which shades the grapes from direct sunlight. The smaller crop results in smaller berries with thicker skins, and much more concentrated flavours.
The roots of bush vines can grow to 20m deep in search of moisture, making the vines less sensitive to drought (bush vines in any case need less moisture than trellised vines).

Goblet has been used since Roman times, involves no wires or other system of support. The spurs are arranged on short arms in an approximate circle at the top of a short trunk, typically 30 to 50 cm, making the vine resemble a goblet glass. The vines are free standing and the system is best suited to low-vigour vineyards in drier climates.
The goblet is widespread in southern France, Italy, Spain and in Portugal. In many New World countries such as Australia, Chile, South Africa, and California, the traditional and low-vigour goblet-trained vines are often called bush vines.
With low-vigour vineyards the foliage can be relatively erect, but shoots may trail on the ground in high-vigour vineyards, and there can be substantial shade. The system is used widely in many Mediterranean countries and is most suited to low-vigour vineyards. In hot climates this filtered sunlight promotes a slower, more even, ripening of grapes. This system also allows for good air circulation through the canopy, which aids in the prevention of rots and molds due to being so low to the ground. It is generally not used in cooler climates because it can expose grapes to frost.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Rosé wines may be produced in a number of different ways, depending on the desired result. The actual colour varies depending on the grape variety and winemaking process used, and often may seem to be more orange in colour than pink or light red.

Skin contact:
The first is used when rosé wine is the primary product. Red skinned grapes are crushed and the skins are allowed to remain in contact with the juice for a short period, typically two or three days. The grapes are then pressed, and the skins are removed rather than left in contact throughout fermentation (as with red wine making). The skins contain much of the strongly flavoured tannins and other compounds. The longer that the skins are left in contact with the juice, the more intense the colour of the final wine.


Saignee or bleeding, is used when the winemaker desires to impart more tannin and colour to a red wine, and removes some pink juice from the 'must' at an early stage, in a process known as bleeding the vats. The removed juice is then fermented separately, producing the rose as a by-product of the red wine, which is intensified as a result of the bleeding, because the volume of juice in the 'must' is reduced and the 'must' involved in the maceration is concentrated.

In the past, it was fairly common to make rosé wines by simply taking a white wine and adding a bit of red wine. Some winemakers thought this could produce interesting wines that possessed some of the original character of a red wine while retaining the crispness of the white wine. This practice has fallen out of fashion; except in the making of Champagne Rosé where it is a highly respected skill.

Rosé stills remain popular in regions of France and Spain, which have ensured the survival of some quality makers of rosé wine, and now many people in England, United States and New Zealand are turning once again to this refreshing summertime favourite.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc can trace its origins to western France in the Loire Valley and Bordeaux regions, but it was the style of wine made here in New Zealand in the 80's that got people to take notice again and enjoy this expressive grape.
When it comes to making Sauvignon Blanc, winemakers can harvest the grapes at various intervals for different blending characteristics that the grape can impart depending on its ripeness. At its most unripe stage, the grape is high in malic acid. As it progresses towards ripeness the grape develops red & green pepper flavours and in warmer climates, leading towards topical fruits like pineapple. Grapes grown on large sites may exhibit different levels of ripeness over the vineyard, caused by slight unevenness in the land, soil, temperature, sunlight and wind giving a unique flavour profile to the resulting wine.

Sauvignon Blanc can be greatly influenced by decisions in the winemaking process. One decision is the amount of contact that the 'must' has with the skins of the grape. Some winemakers, like in the Loire, intentionally leave a small amount of must to spend time in contact with the skins for later blending. Other winemakers, like in California, generally avoid any contact with the skin due to the reduced aging ability of their resulting wine.
Another important decision is the temperature of fermentation. French winemakers prefer warmer fermentations (around 16-18C) that bring out the mineral flavours in the wine while New World winemakers prefer slightly cooler temperatures to bring out more fruit and tropical notes.
A small minority of Loire winemakers will put the wine through malolactic fermentation, a practice performed here in NZ. Oak aging can have a pronounced effect on the wine, with the oak rounding out the flavours and softening the naturally high acidity of the grape. Some winemakers, like those in New Zealand and Sancerre, prefer stainless steel fermentation tanks over barrels with the intention of maintaining the sharp focus and flavour intensity.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Malolactic Fermentation

Malolactic fermentation (MLF in many tasting notes) - is a process of a change used in winemaking where tart-tasting 'malic' acid (like those found in green apples), naturally present in grape must, is converted to softer-tasting 'lactic' acid (found in milk).
This secondary fermentation is primarily applied to red wines destined for aging, but is also common for some white wines like Chardonnay, particularly those that are aged in oak. Besides reducing the acidity in a wine, malolactic fermentation can also impart buttery or nutty aromas to a wine.
Malolactic fermentation also produces esters in the wine, many of which are responsible for a pleasant "fruity" nose. The lactic acid bacteria responsible for malolactic fermentation are called (Oenocuccus oeni).

This process can occur naturally. However, in commercial wine making, malolactic fermentation typically is initiated by an inoculation of desirable bacteria. This prevents undesirable bacterial strains from producing off-flavours. Conversely, commercial winemakers actively prevent malolactic conversion when it is not desired, to prevent accidental initiation and maintain a fresher, more crisp profile in the finished wine.
Sometimes malolactic fermentation can occur unintentionally after the wine is bottled. This is almost always a fault, and the result is a slightly carbonated wine that typically tastes bad and with a little spritz.
Because it consumes malic acid, which is present at the time the grapes are crushed, malolactic fermentation can take place at any time during or after alcoholic fermentation. A wine undergoing MLF will be cloudy due to the presence of bacteria, and may have the curious smell of buttered popcorn.
So a rich, creamy and well rounded Chardonnay, such as the Sacred Hill 'Riflemans' Chardonnay 2007, which many of you have enjoyed previous vintages over the years, is a result of malolactic fermentation.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Barrel Fermentation

The process of fermenting wines in small barrels instead of large vats or stainless steel tanks. Fermentation = The natural process that turns grape juice into wine, fermentation is actually a chain reaction of chemical responses. During this process, technically called the primary fermentation, the sugars in the grape juice are converted by the enzymes in yeasts into alcohol.
Barrel fermentation requires very careful cellar attention. The barrels are usually made of oak and are about 225 litres in size, although larger ones are used occasionally. Even though barrel fermentation is more expensive (due to the added cost of the wine barrel in making the wine) and less controllable than fermentation in larger, stainless steel tanks, it is thought to imbue certain wines with complexity, rich creamy flavours, delicate oak characteristics, and better aging capabilities, and texture.


Barrel fermentation is especially beneficial to white wines. First, since white wines lack the tannins of reds, the wine can instead draw tannins from the wood barrels. Whites that have been barrel fermented have a less dramatic oaky taste - than those wines that have been fermented in another tank then oak aged. The flavours are better harmonized. The fermentation process, tempers the flavours of the wood, imparting lighter flavours of oak. So in the wine, you will find hints of cinnamon, vanilla, or cloves rather than over whelming harder oak flavours.
In particular, a wine can become more creamy, round, buttery and toasty after being barrel fermented. Barrel fermentation is usually associated with white wine grapes like Chardonnay, but also on occasion with Sauvignon Blanc (e.g. Fume Blanc) and occasionally Chenin Blanc and Semillon are processed in this way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Canopy Management

You will probably ask yourself what is 'canopy management' and why would you need to manage the canopy. A simple answer is to expose the vine to as much direct sunlight as possible and give each cluster of grapes the best possible chance of achieving full physiological ripeness, flavour and character.
A complex series of techniques including: vine spacing, trellising, shoot positioning, and leaf removal to improve both light and air circulation in an effort to create the optimal grape-growing environment for maximum flavour, colour, and ripeness of the grapes.


Such techniques are and should be very specific to each vineyard site, contingent on such things as soil fertility, grape variety, the age of the vine, unique microclimate and seasonal influences. Proper canopy management can affect the colour, flavour, and/or structure of grapes. It can also help prevent disease problems.
For instance, removing leaves and shoots improves aeration, thereby reducing susceptibility to excess moisture inside the canopy - leading to rot and mildew on grape bunches. There is however a fine and careful art to removing excess foliage and it can be different with each new growing season.

Enough leaves must be left on the vine to provide the required energy for grape maturation (i.e. maximum sunlight interception and optimum photosynthesis); excessive leaf removal can bleach the fruit's colour, cause sunburn on the surface of the grapes, or impede ripening of the bunches.
On the other hand, vineyards in warmer/ drier areas require less leaf removal than those in cooler/ moist climates. In the end, good canopy management - with result in the perfect balance between vine growth and grape production - meaning the difference between an ordinary wine and one of distinction.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sur lie

Sur lie (soor Lee) The French expression for "on the lees." Lees are the coarse sediment, which consists mainly of dead yeast cells and small grape particles that accumulate during the fermentation process. Winemakers believe that certain wines benefit from being aged 'sur lie'. Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc wines are thought to gain complexity if aged in this way for a few months. The lees may be stirred (batonnage in French) in order to promote uptake of the lees character.

This happens as a matter of course with Sparkling Wines made via Methode Champenoise because the second fermentation occurs in the bottle where the wine is aged (sometimes for up to 10 years) until the lees are disgorged. Muscat wines from France's Loire region occasionally have the phrase "mis en bouteille sur lie" on the label, which means the wine was bottled from barrels where the lees were not drained (although the sediment has fallen to the bottom of the barrel).


When yeast cells die their cell walls breakdown, gradually releasing compounds into the wine as (e.g. glucose, amino acids, fatty acids, and manno-proteins). The compounds released can influence the structural integration of the wine in terms of; tannins, body, aroma, oxidative buffering and wine stability.

The primary reasons for sur lie ageing are usually based on stylistic goals by the winemaker: to enhance the structure and mouth feel of a wine, give it extra body and increase the aromatic complexity, flavour/aroma depth and length. Lees also absorb oxygen, assisting in maintaining a slow and controlled oxidation during maturation. Lees stirring can increase the release of yeast compounds into the wine. Stirring can result in a creamy, viscous mouth feel, and can enhance flavour complexity.
The lees are also an important component in the making of Ripasso where the left-over lees from Amarone are used to impart more flavour and colour to the partially aged Valpolicello.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bottle Shapes

Bottle shape knowledge can give you a small clue as to what the wine contents might be, even without reading the label. Most people are familiar with the Champagne shape bottle, but many other wine regions also have a preference for a particular shape.

Bordeaux: Straight sides and tall shoulders, with dark green glass for the red wines of the region, lighter green for the dry white wines and for the sweet/dessert white wines clear glass. This bottle shape is widely used in the New World by winemakers bottling Bordeaux varieties, but it is also widely used in Italy and many other countries.

Burgundy: Gently sloping shoulders suggests a wine from Burgundy, with both red and white wines in similar green glass. These are sturdy, heavy bottles, with a slightly fatter girth than other wine bottles. This shape is also widely used throughout the New World for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.


Rhone: Similar in style to the Burgundy, but not so fat. In addition, some may bear a coat of arms on the neck, particularly Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The traditional Côtes du Rhône bottle is similar in shape, but with more angular sloping shoulders. New World Shiraz/ Syrah may use a similar bottle.

Champagne: This bottle design is born out of necessity as much as style. Thick glass, gently sloping shoulders and a deep punt are necessary as the pressure inside the bottle is 80-90psi (6 atm) - two to three times the pressure inside an average car tire.

Alsace: A slender bottle, narrower than other styles, also taller, with a very gentle slope to the shoulders. Green glass suggests either the Mosel in Germany or Alsace in France, and brown glass for some wines in the Rhine. The wine contained may still be of a wide variety of styles, ranging from dry and off-dry, through to lusciously sweet dessert wines.

Fortified wines: Many fortified wines, such as Port, Madeira, Marsala and Sherry, are transported in quite sturdy bottles. The vintage Port bottle may have quite a bulge in the neck, supposedly to help capture the sediment as the aged wine is decanted.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


An essential step in winemaking is to remove/ siphon the wine off the sediments (lees) into another clean secondary, wine barrel, and repeat after another one or two months (depending upon the wine and style) and again before bottling.
This procedure is called racking. It is done when necessary, not just two or three times as stated above. The rule is, as long as there are fresh deposits on the bottom after a regular interval (30 to 60 days), even if they are just a light dusting, the wine should be racked. Only when that interval passes and there are no fresh sediments/ lees - can the wine be left to age - or is the wine ready to be prepared for bottling.


It is not necessary that the interval between racking be 30 days, 45 days or 60 days, but it shouldn't be less than three weeks. It is perfectly fine to leave the wine on the lees for three months. Beyond that and the wine enters a danger zone caused by dead yeast cells breaking down - rotting. While this can cause off-flavours and odours if allowed to go on too long, the bigger danger is the formation of hydrogen-sulfide gas, which smells like rotten eggs and can be the death of the wine. But if the lees are stirred every week or so, neither the off flavours, off odours nor hydrogen-sulfide gas form. Indeed, the wine is actually improved by extended contact with the lees as long as they are stirred frequently.

During racking the wine's exposure to oxygen-lade air should be minimized. Those who are extra cautious can sparge the receiving barrel with carbon dioxide or argon gas before racking the wine into it.
Racking is not as difficult as many new winemakers make it. There is no reason to stress over racking at an exact interval, or leaving the wine in contact with the lees an extra week - or even a month. But it is prudent not to be sloppy about it, and to sanitize all equipment before and after use. Cleanliness in winemaking is everything.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Many believe the Bonarda grape was brought over to Argentina from Italy by 19th century immigrants, and along with Malbec, it is the most widely planted grape in Argentina. Genuine Bonarda Piemontese is, as the name suggests, a red Piedmont grape which is now somewhat rare in its native Italy.

Experts are divided as to whether Argentine Bonarda is indeed actually Bonarda Piemontese, or Bonarda Novarese (another Piedmont grape also known as Uva Rara) - the confusion is not helped by the fact that there are several other varieties that are sometimes known as Bonarda. Argentina's National Institute of Vitiviniculture is, however, clear that the variety is not Croatina, which is a Lombardy grape, also known as Bonarda Oltrepo Pavese.


Whichever it is, Bonarda was until recently the most widely planted wine grape variety in Argentina. It has only recently been surpassed by Malbec in area. Despite this abundance, it has not traditionally been used to produce varietal wines - being used instead for bulk production of blended table wines - though there are some notable and outstanding exceptions to this trend.

Bonarda wines can be lighter-bodied and fruity, full of cherry and plum flavours, with soft tannins and moderate acidity. However with concentrated fruit from older vines, and especially when oak aged, Bonarda's can also be big, fruity, dense and tannic wines with deep colour and fig and raisin characteristics. In most Argentine vineyards, Bonarda is one of the last grapes to be harvested.
Traditionally, Bonarda, from Piedmont, was called upon as a workhorse variety. There it performs at its best when blended with the equally fruity, but more structured Barbera grape.
Bonarda is a perfect match with barbeque meats, pasta dishes, pizza and pate and an antipasti platter with crusty bread.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Machine Harvesting

The impact of machine harvesting on the quality is not something that everyone can agree on. There are many studies investigating the effects of machine harvesting, and like with most studies, the results vary. There are new and improved harvesting machines that can be programmed to accommodate most wine maker's preferences. They can easily be adjusted and pick grapes just as clean as any hand, not to mention with a lot less time. It is also cheaper per acre to use machine harvesting as well. Some winemakers argue that their expensive wines require careful treatment, sticking with the tradition of hand picking.
For many vineyards, dwindling labour has been a main reason for using machinery. But for others, skepticism takes over raising the argument that there's no opportunity to do selective harvesting, or instruct the machine to leave the second crop, or skip bunches with rot and mold.


Machine harvesting substantially brings down the cost of getting the grapes from the vineyard to the winery. The exact saving depends on a number of factors, but approx 60% savings are an average result. However, does this practice lower the quality of the grapes and the finished wine? The ill-informed purist would say yes (as most of the great vineyards of the world are harvested by hand), but the evidence suggests otherwise.
It is worth noting - that machine harvested fruit is not suitable for the production of all styles of wine. For example, some winemakers produce fine delicate Chardonnay & Rieslings by gently squeezing whole bunches using certain types of presses. Their aim is to minimise the degree of phenolic pickup in the juice as much as possible. Obviously this rules out machine harvesting as the majority of machine harvested fruit comes in as individual and partly juiced grapes.
So whether its machine harvesting or the good old traditional hand picking, the on-going battle between man and machine has undoubtedly made its way into the wonderful world of wine.

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

Santenay - a jewel of Burgundy

It was not my first visit to this small, passionate family winery of Domaine Jessiaume. But like each time before, as you drive through southern Burgundy, past the hundred year old brick and tile homes of crop and vineyard owners and see the local village life unfolding in front of you.  It is near impossible not to feel if not start to understand the unique sense of place that each of the wines crafted here show inside each bottle.


As you arrive into the small village of Santenay, it is impossible to miss the small jewel of Domaine Jessiaume - that sits graciously at the entrance to this tiny village, and lies at the southern foot of the Cote de Beaune.
Built in 1850, it comprises over 15 hectares, with a large plot in Santenay, important holdings in the Premiers Crus Santenay Les Gravieres, and the converted vines in Auxey Duresses Les Ecusseaux and Volnay Les Brouillards vineyards, and a terrific section of the Cent Vignes vineyard, just behind the city of Beaune.

Domaine Jessiaume are in fact, the biggest landowners in Santenay. Now owned by the dynamic Sir David Murray since 2006, he brings an infusion of resources and passion to the property; working closely with winemakers, Marc and Pascal Jessiaume (pictured above).
Domaine Jessiaume established their négociants business Maison Jessiaume in 2008 and a formidable reputation as a small négociants of unparalleled quality has been formed to complement the existing Domaine wines.
The old cellars under the Domaine Jessiaume winery twist and turn, like the rabbit warren that writer Clive Coates has likened them to. Within lies an accumulation of older bottles to inspire any Burgundy lover, a collection of 100,000 bottles and magnums reaches back as far as the 1908 vintage.

Today even after five generations the winery is still operated and the daily winemaking responsibilities - by the brothers Marc and Pascal Jessiaume. They aim to follow the traditions of their previous generations, combined with modern techniques. They create wines with elegance, finesse and balance with supple and well integrated tannins. The brother’s philosophy centers on a great respect for the environment, organic practices, and intensive attention to detail in the vineyards, low yields, hand picking and a precise eye for integrating innovative techniques with time-tested methods. No Cellar door as yet - visits by appointment only, and their wines are simply outstanding value for money.

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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Beaujolais is a French AOC wine generally made of the Gamay Noir grape which has a thin skin and few tannins. Gamay Noir is now known to be a cross of Pinot Noir and the ancient white variety Gouais. In contrast to the Pinot Noir variety, Gamay ripens two weeks earlier and is less difficult to cultivate. It also produces a strong, fruitier wine in a much larger abundance.
The region really began to develop an identity distinct from its northern neighbour Burgundy, after Duke of Burgundy - made his famous decree in July 1395, outlawing the Gamay grape and forbidding its cultivation in the great duchy of Burgundy proper.


The edicts had the effect of pushing Gamay plantings south, out of the main region of Burgundy and into the granite based soils of Beaujolais where the grape thrived. So Burgundy went with Pinot Noir and Beaujolais went with Gamay. Although the edict was not at all popular with the growers of his day, it proved to be a good thing for each of the two regions.
Located South of Burgundy proper, between Macon and Lyon, Beaujolais produces an average of 13 million cases annually. Best of all, once a year, when the world falls in love with Beaujolais Nouveau, nearly half of this crop is pressed, fermented, racked, fined, filtered and sold within weeks. The rapid cash flow generated is the envy of winemakers everywhere.
Beaujolais is diverse geographically, but it is unified by the Gamay Noir grape. Ninety-eight percent of the area is planted with it. The other 2% is basically planted with Chardonnay, Aligote and Pinot Noir.
Beaujolais is the young, refreshing, and fruity wine that has been so popular in the French cafes. The fruity, exuberant, intensely aromatic wines produced here, owe a lot not only to the Gamay grape, but to the style of vinification used.
Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages doing well with light fare, like picnics and salads. The lighter Cru Beaujolais pair well with poultry and the heavier Crus pairing better with red meats and hearty dishes.