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.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stonyridge 'Larose' - Waiheke, NZ

Over the past 20 years, I have had both the opportunity and pleasure to visit many wine regions, meet the winemaker/owner and taste some of the finest wines and vintages in the world. I can imagine that right about now, most of you will be thinking about; Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, Tuscany and many other classic wine regions and Chateaux around the world.
But I think it important to remind each of us, that the opportunity to visit and taste one of the finest wines in the world is located here in our own backyard, on Waiheke Island.
Stonyridge-Larose is an outstanding achievement by Stephen White (owner/ chief winemaker) and the team at Stonyridge to have 27 years of world-class, benchmark quality Cabernet predominant wines here in New Zealand.

     

Stephen planted his vines and started producing these true varietal expressions of Bordeaux grapes, of a quality and with a personality that shows true respect for what one looks for and understands in each of these grapes from Bordeaux and other unique regions around the world. Stephen has embraced and taken on the challenge to express these sophisticated, classic varietals and produced wines of such quality and of interest to so many - we are able to pull the cork on 20 plus years of Stonyridge - and put them through their paces and score them as hard as you would any ‘First Growth’ or vintage wine at prices considerably higher.
It is a credit to Stephens’s foresight, kiwi ingenuity and his passion for excellence in the art and science of wine, and in the blending of ‘terroir’ and the Southern Hemisphere personality into each wine.

I had the pleasure to host a lunch with Hugh Johnson, his wife Judy, Stephen White, John Hawkesby and ‘Grahame Haggart’ at the winery sometime ago, and to have Stephen talk us through each growing season/ vintage and to have Hugh describe his thoughts on the finished wines in turn was another experience that will not be forgotten by all who shared that day for a very long time.
Wine is such a personal experience - it’s such a pleasure to know that we have a library of quality wines from Stonyridge that each of us and many other wine enthusiasts can go to and choose from, to make any occasion, cuisine and conversation with friends come alive.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tétou - Finest Bouillabaisse

There are places in the world that define the meaning of ‘legendary’. One of these is a restaurant in a discreet building on the beach just along from the small Riviera village of Golfe-Juan.
Tétou was opened by Ernest Cirio in 1920 (after he was injured, serving in the French Navy during WW I) - and has been owned and run by the same family ever since.
Famous for hosting celebrates ranging from; Robert De Niro, Mick Jagger, Francis Ford Coppola, Diane Kruger, Bruce Willis just to name a few - and just before our visit Clint Eastwood, Brad & Angelina during the recent Cannes Film Festival and Tétou has also hosted another living legend Sir Sean Connery. Tetou is honoured by many for serving possibly the best bouillabaisse in the world.

    

Dismissed by other French chefs (possibly in envy) - and put on ‘Bucket-Lists’ by the rest of us, this is one of the Côte d'Azur's most famous restaurants, capitalizing on the high society that came here in the 1950s and 1960s. Retaining its Provençal charm despite its high prices, it has thrived for more than 85 years.
Appetizers are limited to platters of charcuterie with slices of fresh melon. The finest bouillabaisse comes at a steep price of just under €100 per person (the version with langoustes comes at €130 is in fact heavenly). Thanks to my 'host' knowing the owners Jacques-Pierre Marquis and his cousin Corrine Cuzzupoli Bruno (grand-daughter of Ernest) and head waiting staff, we had a VIP table at the window / beach side of the restaurant. The Bouillabaisse is served in several courses, first the soup with bread and the famous ‘rouille’ mayonnaise, and then they served us the whole fish and other seafood which was boiled in the soup. The Bouillabaisse has John Dory, red mullet, rascasse and various other local fish, and for a few extra Euros, lobsters as well.
The orange-coloured soup is of a taste and texture that cannot be improved upon, it has been perfected for over 85 years. I must admit a small portion of it went on my trousers, so keen was I - even though it is never ending. This is a feast in itself, trust me - you won't need a starter before and it will be hard to finish a dessert afterwards. Nearly every guest either eats the bouillabaisse or the lobsters as there is little else on the single page menu, that hasn’t changed since they first opened, - don't book if you don't like fish. Nearly all tables enjoy a panoramic view over the sea (possibly the best restaurant on the Côte d'Azur to see dusk).


 

At the end of our dining experience - Jacques was even more generous - as he allowed me to read through the infamous guest-book that has been kept since they first opened, inside you have doodles from Matisse and notes of appreciation from Charlie Chaplin and nearly anyone else you can think of that has been on the silver-screen or in the arts (painters and musicians alike).
Do not try and just turn up and ask for a table, you will be disappointed - book several months in advance. NB: if you are planning to go, beware - they don’t take credit cards. Tétou are still one of the few places in the world that still do not accept plastic - cash only.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Le Colombe d'Or - (Art & Food)

The Colombe d’Or started life in 1920 as “Chez Robinson”, a café bar with an open air-terrace where people would dance at weekends. It soon attracted characters from the near and far. The friendly atmosphere together with the owner’s deep interest in the arts encouraged the visit of many famous poets, writers and artists and the walls are now covered by paintings, which were often exchanged for accommodation, meals or a bar tab. The grand wood panelled restaurant happens to be one of the world’s best art galleries. Picasso, Matisse and a host of other struggling artists used to stay here and settled their bills with paintings. The Roux family currently take care of the Colombe d’Or.

       

There are a number of restaurants around the world which claim celebrity clientele but La Colombe d’Or really does; Elton John, Michael Caine, Roger Moore (whom we sat next to on this occasion), to name but just a few, are all regular visitors who mix with every day diners on the crowded restaurant terrace. The valet parking is a godsend if you arrive by car. Pull up outside the small wooden door and hand over your keys to one of the valets.
The Hotel is located at the entrance of the village of Saint-Paul de Vence - (Picasso couldn’t have dreamt a more stunning place).
The food is traditional fare - but words struggle to describe the theatre and attention to detail from the staff that prepare and serve at your table the freshest of seasonal ingredients, the restaurant seats approximately seventy people in the main dining hall, thirty in a private room and one hundred on the garden terrace.
I would suggest to book weeks, if not months, in advance to secure a lunchtime or evening table. After we had enjoyed hors d’oeuvres - a magnificent basket of raw vegetables arrived - artichokes, radishes, cucumbers, carrots and celery appear in abundance. Among their number were sardines en escabèche, chickpeas, celeriac remoulade, black pudding, rice, couscous, potato salad, lentils, artichoke hearts, aubergines and squid, a banquet, even before our chosen fish mains arrived.
The Colombe d’Or remains one of the world's great experiences, the cuisine is simple - but a very memorable event, the atmosphere is unique and whether you are a film star or an ordinary diner they make you feel special. The food is good even if no Michelin stars and when you take into account the history, traditions, the quality of service and the setting - it is affordable.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The World's Best Gelato

San Gimignano (in Tuscany / Italy) is home to the world’s best gelato - “trust me”. The Pluripremiata Gelato Shop - located in the ‘Piazza della Cisterna in San Gimignano’, has won the world’s best gelato competition in 2006, 2007, 2008, and again 2009.
So there was a very good reason for the long queue outside of the Gelato shop, all waiting patiently under the Tuscan sun to sample for the first time, and for people like myself, my second for the day, the best Gelato in the world. Sergio Dondoli is the owner and master ice cream maker of the ‘Gelateria di Piazza’, known all over the world and visited by a great number of celebrities.


 

His ice cream parlour is mentioned in the most important world gastronomic guides and is continuously visited by local and international guests. Due to his experience and partiality to experiment he has created original and unusual gelato flavours. Sergio’s creations have become famous (in fact registered trademarks): Crema di Santa Fina (cream with saffron and pine nuts), Champelmo (pink grapefruit and sparkling wine), Dolceamaro (cream with aromatic herbs) and Vernaccia Sorbet enhance his already highly extensive selection.
Sergio's creations continue to excite: and his inventions include very original and successful combinations of flavours, like sorbets flavoured with aromatic herbs such as Raspberry and Rosemary, Blackberries and Lavender, Gorgonzola cheese and Walnuts, Curva Fiesole (ricotta and bilberries), Sangue di Bue (spicy chocolate and sour cherries) - just to name a few.
All his ice cream creations involve using only the highest quality ingredients, particularly typical to the region - like ‘DOP’ Saffron with has a protected designation of origin from San Gimignano and Vinsanto; Also the ‘Tonda Gentile’ Hazelnut from the Langhe region and the Bronte Pistachio. Sergio is also the only one to offer ice cream with Amedei chocolate, awarded the Oscar in London for being the best chocolate in the world for 5 years running (2005 to 2009).
Sergio takes part in many events and is also a member of the Italian Team that won the last two editions of the Ice Cream World Championship. He also tries to share his incredible knowledge of ice cream making - by hosting courses all over the world. During my 4 days staying in a Tuscan Villa across on top of the adjacent hill to San Gimignano - I found myself enjoying at least 10 flavours - ranging from a 1.70 Euro (a great price and an irresistible size to sample two at a time) through to 4 Euro’s. If in Tuscany - do all that you can to find you way here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Languedoc in 24 hours

On this most recent visit to Languedoc-Roussillon the world’s largest wine-producing region, it was a whirlwind 24 hours.
One needs to sit down when you think about the volume of wine that is produced in this sun drenched part of France. The Languedoc’s wine production exceeds that of Bordeaux, of Australia,  of South Africa and Chile combined, mind boggling - I think I need a glass of wine, so we found a small village that cooked fresh local cuisine and sampled a few of the local wines that can only be found in these village brasseries and local wine shops.
The region comprises some 290,000 hectares of vines, this equates to ten times the size of New Zealand under vine.

 

Today, and for several years now Languedoc-Roussillon’s wine production is all about quality rather than quantity: In the past this area was infamous for its' poorer quality viticulture with high production yielding large quantities of ‘vin de table’. This is no longer the case for many wineries, yields have been significantly reduced and quality is now their focus.
To accommodate all of the options available to winegrowers and winemakers here, there are some thirty appellations and crus included within the Languedoc region, including white, red, rosé, sparkling and sweet wines.
There are roughly 2,800 producers in Languedoc-Roussillon; between them, they make around two billion bottles of wine a year.
There are 15 main wine regions (each made up of many domains) in Languedoc-Roussillon, these appellations include; Coteaux du Languedoc, Faugeres, St Chinian, Corbieres, Minervois, Fitou, Muscats du Languedoc, Limoux, Collioure, Cotes du Roussillon and Banyuls to name but a few and many more areas of Vin de Pays.
The soils and ‘terroirs’ area are varied, from Schist, Sandstone, Marl, Gravel, Pebbles, Limestone, to Granit and Alluvial soil; thus making many splendid and diverse styles of wine. Working in harmony with the modern varietal approach and a new wave of young, passionate and dynamic winemakers have established themselves.
In this vast area there are many different grape varieties, the reds include Carignon, Cinsault, Grenache Noir, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. The whites, Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, Picpoul, Marsanne, Roussanne, Vermantino, Mauzac, Chenin and Clairette.
The region stretches from the Spanish border in the west to Nimes in the east, an area sandwiched between the mountains and the Mediterranean ocean. I had the fortune of taking the train from Barcelona in Spain through to Nice in France last year 2008, definitely one of those train-trips of a lifetime.
A new banner, 'South of France' has been created to cover the whole of the Languedoc-Roussillon area. Set-up in the hope of creating a single, defined, modern identity that will enable the Appellation and the ‘Vin de Pays’ producers to work together to present a united message to the world's wine market.
The breathtaking landscape of sea and mountains, together with the sunny climate and the rich local flavours of Mediterranean cuisine, express the characteristics of Languedoc's unique and wonderful wines.
So after a full day of travelling, vineyard, winery visits and tastings - it was time to find a hotel, restaurant to take it all in - and sample some more of these dynamic, early drinking styles of wine.
So we found our way to ‘St Guilhem’ and a small hotel ‘Le Guilhaume d’Orange’ hanging to the steep sided gorge of the Hérault River and enjoyed the evening until we found ourselves closing up the place then waking up before we even had time to fall asleep to hit the road again.
If you have a wish list of places to visit before you move on from this mortal-coil - ‘St Guilhem’ should be on your list, plus sampling some local Languedoc cuisine and wine on a summers afternoon.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summer in Provence

If you are looking for a ‘Garden of Eden’, look no further than Provence, in the south of France. I must admit this was not my first visit to this stunning part of the world, or my first visit to Routas Winery. They say you can’t get enough of a good thing - the people and the wines here at Routas are something special, both have a unique character and personality that are intertwined. I think it will take me a lifetime of visits before I can say I truely understand the unique wines made here.
The location of Routas is spectacular; in the heart of Provence, halfway between the French Riviera and the Alps. It is surrounded by small medieval villages that cling to steep cliffs and kilometers of spectacular hillsides, forests and rivers.

       

These estate-grown and bottled wines have had positive reviews from all corners of the wine world. One of the many comments: "One of the best wine producers in Provence" - Robert Parker Jr.
In 2005 Scotland's Sir David Murray bought the estate, ushering in a dynamic new period for Chateau Routas. Due to the variable soils and intense summers, the reds from Routas can display a robust, Rhone-like richness, and its whites (e.g. Viognier) show maturity and vitality. Some soils are red like crushed brick, while others are crumbly grey limestone mixed with red stones that bleach in the hot sun. At 1,300ft above sea level, the elevation is among the appellation's highest, providing cool nights that slow the ripening of the grapes, contributing complexity and dictating harvests that are up to a month later than other nearby vineyards.
The estate's 260 hectares encompass wheat fields, olive trees, and truffles. Red poppies give way to brilliant yellow sunflowers, and in the autumn, the surrounding forests yield abundant mushrooms, that the local wild boar population feed upon, when they are not able to eat the grapes due to the electric fences.
Jean Louis Bavay - the winemaker was raised five hours north in Chablis. Jean Louis learned the art of making delicate rose at Bandol's Domaine Ott, a skill he has developed upon to produce the acclaimed Chateau Routas rose.
Jean Louis speaks of grape varieties in almost human terms.  He is not a strong advocate of 50/50 blends; he feels that they fight with each other for dominance in the bottle. Jean Louis is looking for finer tannins, concentration and greater complexity in his wines.
Local born Philippe Saraciva - the vineyard manager has the soils under his fingernails. He discovered his life's work early on, learning from his grandfather, joining Chateau Routas fresh from school.
Philippe sees his challenge as producing the best possible grapes for Jean Louis. With over eighteen years' experience working together, the two have a near-telepathic relationship, timing the harvest for optimum complexity of flavour and adopting the time honoured method of hand picking their grapes. Routas only produce small volumes of; Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah, Viognier and Rose, so when in Europe keep your eyes open for the opportunity to sample these exciting and vibrant early drinking wines.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Gleneagles Hotel - Perthshire

After a relaxing train journey from Edinburgh to Perth - I was met at the station and we made our way along traditional stone walled lanes to the grand Gleneagles Hotel. The surrounding scenery doesn’t quite prepare you for the impressive setting and architecture of one of the world’s most coveted 5 star resorts, currently owned by ‘Diageo Plc’ and also a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. Set in 850 acres of Perthshire countryside, Gleneagles is home to three of the top Scottish Championship Golf Courses and a wide range of exciting outdoor leisure activities.

        

We were here to host a vertical tasting and training for the staff and assist them to find the best matches with the current menu at a long lunch - to be held in the conservatory, off the Strathearn Restaurant. Gleneagles has an international reputation for excellent cuisine and fine dining. Each of the restaurants has its own style, but their trademark is the use of the finest fresh produce available locally in Perthshire and Scotland, as well as from specialist suppliers abroad.
After the wine tasting; we moved through the Strathearn Restaurant - where half the staff (waiters & sommeliers) at the tasting - took care of all our needs throughout the long lunch - and yes the other half joined us.
But before we enjoyed the first course; Guillaume Gorichon - head sommelier took me on a guided tour behind the scenes, through the wine and food stores, the kitchen areas and then the temperature controlled, glass-walled fine wine cellar, where they have wines that you generally only see at a Sotheby Auctions. The wine list has over 700 wines to choose from and some very special wines at that, and to finish a collection of some of the rarest malt whiskies in Scotland.
Whether you are dining for lunch, or dinner you will experience the very best of Scotland's fare with a touch of the unexpected. A detail that I was very pleased has lasted - is the dress code, not too formal, as smart casual is accepted, but no denim or shorts, so it encourages you to prepare for the experience you are about to have. On this occasion we didn’t dine in the ‘Andrew Fairlie’ restaurant: which is a two Michelin-starred restaurant, where every detail has been carefully planned to create a truly special experience, from the original artwork on the walls and stunning decor to the specially selected French cheeses and locally-grown herbs. The signature dish 'Smoked Lobster', which involves smoking lobster shells over old whisky barrels for up to twelve hours.
After lunch we quickly visited ‘Deseo’ a Mediterranean Food Market restaurant, offers informal, delicious dining, which is perfect for a quick bite. It was a pleasure to meet all the highly trained staff and get a very personal insight into what makes the cuisine and service leading edge.
So whatever your preference a casual bite or a world class dining experience - if you find yourself in the heart of Scotland - try to book at Gleneagles - one of world’s most coveted establishments.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Balmoral tastes Bordeaux

While I was in Edinburgh, I had the opportunity to spend the day at one of Scotland’s most well-known historic landmarks - plus sample some of the world’s finest wines from Bordeaux. Hosted and run by ‘Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux’ (CIVB) - Bordeaux Wine Association - a private association with a very public interest. It is under the responsibility of the French Ministry of Agricultural Affairs - and is behind the new direction and drive to design more and more opportunities for the Trade (the session that I was attending) and for the public to sample and learn more about Bordeaux wines.

   
 

The Balmoral Hotel sits proud and grand in the city centre of Edinburgh - able to be scene from nearly all vantage points as you travel around the city. The Balmoral Hotel is from a time gone by, but has been lovingly, respectfully and appropriately brought along into the 21st century. Located in the heart of the city at No. 1 Princes Street, next to the Waverley Railway Station (the second largest train station in the UK) and very close to Edinburgh’s historic Old Town and also overlooks Edinburgh Castle - or is that the other way around.
All 168 spacious bedrooms and 20 suites have been individually designed with particular attention to comfort and style. A number of dining experiences are available and include fine dining in the Michelin starred ‘Number One’ restaurant, more informal dining in Hadrian's Brasserie and several other areas to enjoy a light bite a fine glass of wine or a cocktail.
The CIVB was also here to promote the interests of its members - and it has chosen a grand stage to do so. It was a technical as well as a practical session - as they shared a great deal of their research and knowledge, from production to sales.
The session took us through a close look at the Bordeaux vineyards to discover the four prestigious soils: Médoc, Sauternes, Graves and Saint-Emilion. Most of the information was a gentle refresher on the origins and history of the classified growths of the Bordeaux region, as well as the origins of the classifications and appellations. So the best way to get your head (plus taste-buds around a topic that will take a lifetime to feel comfortable with) - we went through several flights of wines, to help understand the 4 soils and regions.
Starting with giving clarity to many on the 16th Century, when the Médoc was yet only vast marshland, - through to the birth of the Pessac-Léognan appellation in 1987, - simply it was a great chance for all to embrace the history of these exceptional vineyards and what they produce. Yes we enjoyed flights of white and red wines, plus we finished on a great flight of Barsac and Sauterne wines. A good day, I must admit, with a wry smile.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Vinsobres Master Class - London

On the 13th of this month - at the London International Wine Festival 2009 - I had the opportunity to be part of a 'Master Class' on the newest 'cru' within the Cotes du Rhone. Located north-east from the ancient-walled city of Avignon, Vinsobres wines are as dynamic as the geographical topography that they are grown.
The vineyards of Vinsobres have always been modest in size. After the big frost in 1956 which destroyed the olive trees, the vines once more regained their place. Vinsobres was classified Cotes du Rhone Villages in 1957, then Cotes du Rhone Villages Vinsobres in 1967. The vineyards then obtained the local cru status - appellation Vinsobres in 2005.
The soils in the region consist of rocky soils on the hillsides, and quatenary rocky alluvial soils on the terraces.

      

The grape variety mix includes: (only red wines): Grenache Noir - 50% minimum in the blend, Syrah 25% up to 50% and or Mourvedre, other grape varieties allowed can be no more than 25% maximum.
During the master class we sampled 6 exceptional examples of terroir, local weather, winemaking and vintage understanding and respect.
Without listing each wine in turn - each wine showed clearly the percentage influence and age of the vines of Grenache and their resulting personality and character in each glass. On the nose you had notes of ripe red fruits, blackcurrant and cherry, with spicy notes, through to vanilla and pepper. The palate of each wine varied and expressed power and finesse at the same time, with a refreshing mouth feel, well-balanced with ever present tannins, that lingered long in the mouth.
Each wine - as with all good wine - was made to best express itself with good local cuisine, and these red wines would go well with; red meats, game and a loaf of crusty bread and cheese. Many people will be unsure on the ageing potential of Grenache predominant wines, and these 6 wines varied from early drinking between 3-6 years and 2 wines could age gracefully for 10 to even 25 years.
If you have not had the pleasure of sharing a good bottle of Vinsobre wine with a good friend and a good meal, I encourage you to visit your local fine wine retailer today and see what you can find, it will be a well worthwhile adventure.