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, July 29, 2008

Cellaring Wine

Your wine 'cellar' might be an underground cellar filled with expensive rarities, to a few bottles kept on a rack in the kitchen. In either case, there are certain requirements for maintaining wine in good condition that you should know. In modern, well heated houses, some of these conditions are hard to find, though this is only really a problem if you have wines you intend to keep for the mid to long term - say 3 to 10 years or more.
The wines below (left) are shown lying in an underground cellar at a cool 10 - 12°Celsius, having no wild fluctuations in temperature, are dark and are free from vibrations; in addition, it is relatively humid. These are the ideal conditions for cellaring wines long term; modern homes can be rather unfriendly places in which to cellar wine.

 

The bottles are placed horizontally, this is vital for all wines with a cork closure that are being stored for more than a month or two. This means that the cork is kept in contact with the wine, preventing it from drying out. If they are stored upright (which you can and should do with screw-caps), the cork will eventually shrink, allowing air to enter and spoil the wine.
Constant temperature is far more important than absolute coolness. Ideally, an unheated cupboard where the central heating will not be constantly raising and lowering the temperature. Ideally keep the temperature down below 17°C, at home preferrably 13 - 15°C. Garages and sheds are not a good idea, as they freeze in winter and over-heat in summer. Dark conditions will avoid the wine's colour being spoiled, again a cupboard might be a good choice, but in any event try to ensure the wine is not in direct sunlight. Freedom from vibration is important. Constant agitation doesn't give the wine time to mature slowly. Don't site your wine rack next to the washing machine or spin-dryer!

Strong smells can taint the wine over long periods of storage - another reason why the kitchen or garage might not be the ideal site. Finally - keep a journal of all your wines, so you know what you have and when best to enjoy them. Do all that you can to keep your wine-log up-to-date, as the last thing you wish is to find a wine in years to come that is well past its best. Not only a lose of money, but missing an opportunity to share a special occasion with good food and friends.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Malbec

Malbec was once a major component in the great wines of Bordeaux (where it is known as Cot), but more recently it has also been relegated to a minor role there. It has been steadily replaced by Merlot and the other two Cabernets in most parts of Bordeaux. In the Medoc, it is mainly used to add colour and tannin to the encepagement. In fact, if Petit Verdot was easier to grow, Malbec would likely have even less acreage under vine than it does today. It is the key grape only in the small appellation of Cahors (south west France), where it is known as Auxerrois. In Cahors, the wines are dark, rustic, full and soft, with earthy tobacco aromas alluding to Bordeaux.

 

Argentina is now regarded as the new home of Malbec. In Mendoza, under the shadow of the Andes Mountains, the grape enjoys its vacation from the more moderate climate of the Medoc. Here, there are hot summer temperatures and the grape is left hanging long into the growing season to ripen and soften its rough tannins. The Malbec grape is a thin skinned grape (in warm climates, thick skinned at high altitudes) and needs more sun and heat than either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to mature. It ripens mid to late harvest and it can bring very deep colour, robust tannin, and a particular plum-like flavour component to add complexity to red blends.

The best of Argentine Malbecs' are deep inky reds with juicy dark fruit and soft tannins, making a very approachable, early drinking style of wine. Malbec is also found in Chile, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand (Waiheke Island and Hawke's Bay are producing some interesting examples), and it is used as a blending grape in Bordeaux-style blends - (one of the famous five red grapes).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tannins

Tannins are a family of natural organic compounds that are found in grape skins, seeds (which are particularly harsh), and stems. Additionally, during the aging process, new oak barrels infuse tannin into the juice. They are an excellent antioxidant and natural preservative; also helping give the wine structure and texture. Tannins also provide an important flavour profile in wine.
Winemakers have a good degree of control, and use tannin to enhance the wine. They use specific juice extraction techniques to reduce or increase the amount excreted. Specifically, they can very gently squeeze the grapes to extract the juice; winemakers take great care to minimize undesirable tannins from seeds by crushing grapes gently, to avoid crushing the seeds. In the case of red wine, grape skin contact is essential and longer, the crushing of the grapes is more violent, and barrel aging is more common and again longer - resulting in a stronger tannin structure in the wine.

 

In concentrated quantities, the astringency from the tannins is what causes the dry and puckering feeling in the mouth, even described as 'furriness' around the mouth and on the teeth following the consumption of red wine. This is sometimes accompanied by a bitter aftertaste, which is referred to as tannic. Visually, tannin forms part of the natural sediment found in the bottom of the bottle as the wine ages.
A strongly tannic wine is well-matched to rich food courses, in particular game and red meats; the tannins help break down the fat, with a salutary impact on both the wine and the cooked steak. A red wine that should age and improve for several years' even decades requires a lot of tannin. As the wine ages, the tannin softens and becomes less noticeable. In many regions (such as in Bordeaux, France), tannic grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon are blended with lower-tannin grapes such as Merlot, Malbec or Cabernet-Franc, diluting the tannic characteristics. Plus wines that are vinified to be drunk young typically have lower tannin levels.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pinot Noir - in search of the Holy Grail.

Pinot Noir is often described as being a 'difficult' grape, to grow, to deal with in the winery, and to find truly great examples of, but fans are passionate about this variety, as expressed by the dialogue between Miles and Maya in the 2004 movie 'Sideways'.
The reputation that gets Pinot Noir so much attention, however, is owed to the wines of Burgundy France. For most of wine history, this 3.5km-wide, 50km-long stretch of hills, called the Cote d'Or ("Slope of Gold"), is the only region to achieve consistent success from the Pinot Noir vine. The quality of Burgundy is due to a number of factors. Its vineyards slope gently down toward the east, providing the vines with long sun exposure yet avoiding afternoon heat. The soil there is very calcareous, offering good drainage. Pinot Noir seems to reflect more pronounced Gout de Terroir, or flavour of the soil, than other black grapes, making vineyard site selection critical.

 

There are some 200 recognized clones (genetic variants) of Pinot Noir in the Burgundy region. There is estimated as many as *800+ clones of Pinot Noir worldwide. Nearly every affliction known to affect vines is common among Pinot Noir vineyards. There is one component in which Pinot Noir is naturally quite rich, three to four times higher than other varieties: resveratrol. While this may not affect the aspects enjoyment, it may draw the attention of health-conscious consumers.

Great Pinot Noir creates a lasting impression, its aroma is often one of the most complex of all varietals and can be intense with a ripe-grape or black cherry aroma, frequently accented by a pronounced spiciness that suggests cinnamon, and dried herbs. Ripe tomato, mushroom, and forest floor are also common descriptors for Pinot Noir. Full-bodied and rich but not heavy, high in alcohol, yet neither acidic nor tannic, with substantial flavour despite its delicacy. The most appealing quality of Pinot Noir may be its soft, velvety texture. When right, it is like liquid silk.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

As Wine Ages...

Wine, like any fresh food, changes with time. But whereas most consumables deteriorate from the moment we buy them, wine is one of the very few things we buy that has the capacity to change for the better. Perhaps the top 10 per cent of all reds and 5 per cent of all whites (these are generous estimates) will be more pleasurable and interesting to drink when they are five years old than at one year old.
The top one per cent of all wine made has the ability to improve for a decade or two or, in some cases, even more. The great majority of all wine, however, will actually start to lose the fruitiness that gives it youthful appeal within six-twelve months of being bottled.

 

The more fruit, acid and phenolics that go into a bottle of wine at the beginning, the more complex interactions there can be between all these compounds and the more rewarding it can be to age. This means that the less water there is in the grape, the more likely it is that the resulting wine will repay cellaring.

Tannins and colouring matter known as anthocyanins are the most obvious types of phenolics and what preserves red wine as these interactions occur. These and other compounds continue to interact, forming bigger and bigger complex compounds which after a few years are too big to remain in solution and are precipitated as sediment. So as good quality, concentrated red wine ages it becomes paler and softer to taste, while gaining considerably in the range of flavours it presents (which by now constitute a bouquet rather than simple aromas).
Any red wine with visible sediment is likely to have completed quite a bit of its ageing process. Even less is known about how white wine ages, although acidity is thought to be the preservative white counterpart to tannin. Certainly, the longest-lived white wines are those with good extract but good acidity. The fact that white wines have far fewer phenolics explains why fewer of them can last as long in bottle (although botrytis can preserve sweet white wines for decades).