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, 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.