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.

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.