The Society of Wine Educators

SWE New logo wtext



The Society of Wine Educators is a membership-based nonprofit organization focused on providing wine and spirits education along with the conferral of several certifications. The Society is internationally recognized, and its programs are highly regarded both for their quality and relevance to the industry. 

The mission of the SWE is to set the standard for quality and responsible wine and spirits education and professional certification. 

Re-scheduled: Exploring Aquavit Webinar



We have re-scheduled our “Exploring Aquavit” with Christer Andre Olsen  webinar to Thursday, January 26th at 8:00 am (central time) – and yes, that’s a Thursday morning webinar!!

Here’s how Christer describes the session:  Explore the versatility of Aquavit, the spirit of the Nordics. We cover the national product differences among Danish, Norwegian and Swedish Aquavits incl. distillation, herbs and spice mix and barrel maturation techniques. You will also learn how to use Aquavit as replacement for gin and/or whisky in mixed drinks including an explanation as to why and how to go about making Aquavit cocktails. You will leave the Webinar with an understanding of how to use Aquavit for both cocktails and food-pairings.

Click here to download the session handout: Christer Andre Olsen Akquavit – Handout



Login Instructions: At the appointed time, just click on this link: January 26th 8:00 am central time -Exploring Aquavit with Christer Andre Olsen. There is no need to register in advance.

When the SWE Adobe Connect homepage appears, click on “enter as a guest,” type in your name, and click “enter room.” Remember that each session is limited to 100 attendees, and that several of our past sessions have reached capacity. We are hoping to avoid this issue in the future by offering more SWEbinars, but it is still a good idea to log on early!

  • If you have never attended an Adobe Connect event before, it is also a good idea to test your connection ahead of time (just click on the link).
  • If you are having any trouble with your Adobe Connect connection, please see our SWEbinar Trouble-shooting page.
  • If you have any questions, please contact Jane Nickles:

Click here for the 2017 SWEbinar Calendar

SWE’s SWEbinar series is unique in that it is offered free-of-charge, and open to the public! We also try to accommodate all schedules by offering sessions on weekdays and weekends, as well as daytime and evening hours. Sessions last for about one hour, and are live, interactive events.  If you have a topic you would like to see addressed, or a time-of-day that would work for you, please let our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles know via email at

Guest Post/Book Review: Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine



Today we have a guest post and book review brought to us by Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSE. Read on as Harriet reviews a new book about a very old wine region!

Book Review: Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine, by Bill Nesto, MW and Frances Di Savino.

Here is a well-researched history book that reads like a novel, telling the story of the ancient land named Chianti and the modern wine appellation known as Chianti Classico. In 1716, Tuscany’s next-to-last Medici ruler, Cosimo III, granted the region of Chianti as one of the world’s first legal appellations of origin for wine. However, as these things often go, by the late nineteenth century, the name Chianti—rather than signifying this historic region and its celebrated wine—identified a simple Italian red table wine in a straw-covered flask.

This telling of the story of the Chianti Classico region confirms many ideas of Chianti and the Classico region, and overturns many others. Nesto and Di Savino have translated original documents and studied old master paintings of the region, even noting how older vineyards were planted by training on trees.

Stories of notable producers famous to this day, including Baron Ricasoli and the Antinori family, tell us much about history, regulations, and commerce relating to Chianti Classico. The Ricasoli original formula for the grapes used in Chianti has been unearthed, with Malvasia being the main white grape—not the currently assumed Trebbiano. Further, Canaiolo Nero was the main grape of Chianti for years, not necessarily the Sangiovese that is so well-known and loved today.

The authors also claim that new research has revealed that there are no regional differences between Sangiovese Piccolo and Sangiovese Grosso, whose different sizes are more the result of climate and vintage conditions, rather than their use in specific regional wines.

The publication of this book coincides with the three hundredth anniversary of the Medici decree delimiting the region of Chianti on September 24, 1716. The authors conclude, happily, that the Black Rooster still reigns supreme.

As for the authors of this book, Bill Nesto is a Master of Wine and a founder of the Wine Studies Program at Boston University, where he is also a Senior Lecturer. Frances Di Savino is an attorney with a background in medieval and Renaissance studies and is Bill’s partner in life and on the wine road. Bill and Frances coauthored The World of Sicilian Wine, which won the André Simon Book Award in 2013.

Bibliographical information: Chianti Classico: The Search for Tuscany’s Noblest Wine. Bill Nesto, MW and Frances Di Savino. Oakland, University of California Press, 2016.

340 pages, hard cover, $39.95. This encyclopedic book has a 26 page Index, a selected bibliography, and works cited listed. Click here to find this book on Amazon.

HarrietHarriet Lembeck is a CWE (Certified Wine Educator) and a CSE (Certified Spirits Educator – a new designation). She is President of the Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years. She can be reached at h.lembeck@

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Zakynthos, Verdea, and Skiadopoulo

Map of the Ionian Islands (via Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain

Map of the Ionian Islands (via Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain)

Zakynthos, Verdea, and Skiadopoulo…if it all sounds like gibberish to you, it you are not alone. However, as convoluted as these words may sound (to the unaccustomed ear), they are meaningful to aficionados and students of wine. Read on to find out the meaning of these terms!

For starters—Zakynthos: If you know your Greek geography, perhaps you recognized Zakynthos (also known as Zante) as one of the Ionian Islands. Located in the eastern part of the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos is about 12 miles (20 km) west of the Greek mainland. The island is said to have the shape of an arrowhead, and is about 25 miles (40 km) long and 12 miles (20 km) wide. The island is a popular tourist destination, with over 76 miles (123 km) of coastline and a mild, Mediterranean climate.

The island’s climate and topography (a mountainous plateau to the west and flat, fertile plains interrupted by isolated hills in the east) also provide for an abundance of lush agriculture. Olive oil, citrus fruit, wine grapes (more on this later), and the eponymous Zante currant are among the island’s leading agricultural products. Zante currants are the dried berries of the small and seedless Black Corinth (vinifera) grape variety. Greece produces over 80% of the world’s currants and Zante currants (Stafida Zakynthou) are a PDO product of Greece.

FYI: The Ionian Islands are traditionally called “the Seven Islands” (although the group includes several smaller islands in addition to the seven main islands). Zakynthos is the third largest of the Ionian islands; the others include Kerkyra (Corfu in English), Paxi (Paxos), Lefkada (Lefkas), Ithaki (Ithaca), Kefalonia (Cephalonia), and Kythira (Cythera).



Next up—Verdea: Wine lovers surely recognized the name of several of the Ionain Islands, as wine production is a main part of the islands’ history, traditions, and economy. Kefalonia (Cephalonia), the home of the Robola OPAP (PDO) region, is perhaps the most well-known of the seven islands in terms of wine production.

However, Zakynthos has its own claim to fame as the birthplace of Verdea, a Traditional Designation (onomasía kata oínos [OKP]) white wine produced on the island since the nineteenth century. The name “Verdea” is thought to be derived from verde, the Italian word for green (Zakynthos was once a part of the Venetian Empire). Verde is both a description of the color of the grapes, as well as an indication that under-ripe grapes were often used in order to produce a high-acid wine.

Traditionally, Verdea was a very acidic, dry white wine that was extensively aged in oak barrels—to the point where the wine was amber in color and oxidized. In modern times, the wines are produced in a more moderate style while still (in most cases) maintaining the oxidized “edge.” Verdea must be made from grapes grown on the island of Zakynthos and must be produced on the island; however, it may be bottled off the island. Verdea received its OKP designation in 1992.



There are only two Greek wines entitled to the PGI category of onomasía kata oínos [OKP]: Verdea and Retsina (the traditional pine-scented wine of ancient Greece). The OKP designation protects both the name and the production method of these wines.

While Verdea is by far most important wine made on the island of Zakynthos, a small amount of red wines (primarily made with Avgoustiatis and Xynomavro grapes) are also produced. Lianoroidi, a sweet white wine made from a range of grapes, is another specialty of the island.

Finally—Skiadopoulo: Verdea is based on a blend of grapes. An ancient list contains up to 34 varieties that are (or were) planted on the island of Zakynthos. While all of the white grapes planted on the island are permitted to be used in Verdea, the majority (minimum 50%) must be of the Skiadopoulo variety. Skiadopoulo is a vigorous, high-yield vine that is capable of producing very sweet, ripe grapes. It is grown throughout the Ionian Islands and used in a range of white wine styles. Other grapes that are most often a part of the Verdea blend include Pavlos, Robola, and Goustolidi.

References/for more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE – your blog administrator

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!



And then there were Twenty (Côtes du Rhône-Villages subzones)

..As of just a few days ago (November 25, 2016) the National Institute for Appellations of Origin (INAO) of France announced the promotion of three communes (villages) within the Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOC area to the status of “Côtes du Rhône-Villages with a specific subzone indication” (or, to put it more simply, as new official subzones of the AOC). The new subzones are: Sainte-Cecile, Suze-la-Rousse, and Vaison-la-Romaine. With this change, there are twenty approved subzones of the Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOC. Most of the twenty subzones produce red, white, and rosé wines, although a few are only approved for red and rosé.

The newly designation subzones will be able to market their qualifying wines with the term “Côtes du Rhône-Villages” followed by the name of their commune and the “AOC” designation beginning with the release of the wines of the 2016 vintage.



The last such change in the specific geographical designations allowed for use with the Côtes du Rhône-Villages appellation occurred in 2015, when the former subzone of Cairanne was promoted to a separate AOC designation (announced by the INAO in March of 2015 and approved by the EU in June of 2016 for the 2015 vintage onward). This change lowered the number of Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOC subzones from 18 to 17.

For the record, the twenty subzones of the Côtes du Rhône-Villages AOC (as of December 2016) are as follows:

  1. Chusclan
  2. Gadagne
  3. Laudun
  4. Massif d’Uchaux
  5. Plan de Dieu
  6. Puyméras
  7. Roaix
  8. Rochegude
  9. Rousset-les-Vignes
  10. Sablet
  11. Saint-Gervais
  12. Saint-Maurice
  13. Saint-Pantaléon-les-Vignes
  14. Sainte-Cécile
  15. Séguret
  16. Signargues
  17. Suze-la-Rousse
  18. Vaison-la-Romaine
  19. Valréas
  20. Visan

References/for more information:


Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE – your blog administrator

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Guest Post: Cruising from Barcelona to Châteauneuf-du-Pape



Today we have a guest post from SWE’s president, Barry Wiss. Barry writes to us from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, during a stop on a wine-themed river cruise!

Like most professional wine educators, I love to travel to all of the world’s amazing wine regions. Luckily, my wife and I have found a way to combine our love of wine with our love of travel, and for the past six years; we have served as wine hosts for AMA Waterways’ wine-themed river cruises.

In prior years, Kim and I have cruised some of the world’s greatest wine regions via some of the world’s greatest rivers, including the Rhine, the Mosel, the Danube, the Seine, the Douro, and this year, the Rhône.

We started our wine adventure in Barcelona where we enjoyed some amazing vintage Cavas. We rented an Airbnb; it was amazing. We thoroughly enjoyed the tapas and the rest of the Barcelona dining scene,  and had a local chef teach us how to make real paella. (Hint: it’s all about the saffron.)



A few days later, we arrived in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Kim and I have been to many (too many to count) wineries over many years; the best are the small no-frills family operations. We just visited one—Domaine le Pointu.

This is a small (27-hectare) estate owned by Patrick Coste and his wife Karine. The estate is located in the commune of Courthézon (one of the five communes that make up the Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC).

The estate produces several different versions of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, including a blanc (white) version, but do yourself a favor and do not try to find this one outside of the local area!

After a warm welcome at the estate, we began our tasting. The first wine we tasted was their rich and perfectly balanced Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc, made from a majority of Grenache Blanc and a bit of Clairette; both from 90-year-old vines. This delicious wine was aged for one year in used Château d’Yquem barrels. What a beautiful wine, full of memorizing aromas of ripe red apple, pear, and honeysuckle. I could drink this wine all day…no joking.



This was followed by a vertical of the Domaine le Pointu 2007, 2009, and 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape reds…2008 was sold out, of course. These red wines are all produced using Grenache Noir grapes, with a bit of Cinsault. The wines are between 90 and 105 years old. All the reds were spectacular, but the 2009 is coming home with me.

Domaine le Pointu also produces a range of Côtes du Rhône AOC wines in red, white, and rosé. These are based on the younger vines of the estate—some as “young” as 50 years old!

Wine-themed river cruises by AMA Waterways scheduled for 2017 include Provence & Spain, Melodies of the Danube, the Enticing Douro, Paris & Normandy, a Taste of Bordeaux, Port Wine & Flamenco, and the Enchanting Rhine. For more information, visit the website of AMA Waterways.

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Guest Post: The Lone Star Burns Bright for Texas Wine (part two)

This is part two in Elizabeth Miller’s tale of touring and tasting through the Texas Hill Country. For part one, click here. 


Rivers and lakes are known to form great wine regions, and for the next visit in our Texas Hill Country tour, we headed out to Lake Travis, just northwest of Austin.  Perched on the lake is a parcel of land, an amphitheater like valley with gently sloping land, with a creek running from north of the property and ending in Lake Travis.  That creek’s namesake, Flat Creek Estate Winery and Vineyard, calls this area home.

I met with owners Madelyn and Rick Naber who lived in several regions of the US, including California, before setting in Texas. Once in central Texas, they began to notice that the pace of housing development was accelerating drastically, with developers snatching up premier property in the Lake Travis area.  In 1998, the Nabers purchased an idyllic 80 acres on the lake, with a commitment to maintain its use as a sustainable agricultural endeavor.

For the Nabers, April fool’s Day in 2000 became a legend (but in this case, it was no joke). On that day, 60 people planted 6,000 vines on 6 acres, thus beginning commercial grape growing at Flat Creek Estate.  Later, the endeavor grew to 20 acres of vineyards, a wine production facility, a wine tasting room, and a restaurant.  Many of the varieties planted at Duchman—including Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Tempranillo—also thrive at Flat Creek Estate, along with several Portuguese Port varietals.

photo of Flat Creek Estate via: (Peary Photography)

photo of Flat Creek Estate via: (Peary Photography)

Madelyn and Rick sat down with me to share their wines, popping their 2014 Super Texan.  This wine is based on the Italian Super Tuscan concept and features a blend of Italian and non-Italian grapes.  At Flat Creek, they start with Texas Hill Plains AVA fruit, blending Sangiovese with Tempranillo and Syrah (although the blends may vary by year).  The Nabers shared with me that their 2003 Super Texan was awarded a Double Gold in the San Francisco International Wine Competition, marking the first time a Texas red wine was awarded this prestigious accolade.

Another outstanding wine and indicator of Flat Creek’s full viticultural and winemaking potential is their Port VII.  The Flat Creek Estate Port is crafted from traditional Portuguese port wine grapes grown on the estate specifically for this purpose.  Each vintage is aged in oak barrels and then added to the Port Solera which includes multiple vintage years spanning 2002 through 2014.  Bottled in 2015, the Port VII is rich dark chocolate, blackberry, sweet spices and prunes.  What a winemaking undertaking!

The Future of Texas Wine: All of my conversations at Duchman Family Winery and Flat Creek Estate hovered around the current state of Texas wines.  What are the challenges?  How do they overcome these challenges?  What is the fullest potential of Texas?

photo of Flat Creek estate via: (Peary Photography)

photo of Flat Creek estate via: (Peary Photography)

Even though Texas is one of the top ten wine-producing states in the United States, it is still grappling with an underdog status.  Much of this is self-imposed, because when the industry started anew after Prohibition in the 1970s, many producers were pushing for sweeter profiles and easier sells like Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet—and in Texas, many of these varieties suffer from climate challenges you’d never find in Napa Valley.  Today, Texas winemakers are focusing more on terroir appropriate varieties, and learning how to manage weather challenges that seem to be the norm.

These days, the Texas wine industry is about unlimited possibilities.  With 170+ million available acres in a state the size of France, there are so many places to make great wine.  The current acreage is likely to explode in coming years.

However, as any Texan will tell you, Texas’ greatest asset is its people.  Those who make wine are bold and ambitious in a young industry.  Those who promote wine are realizing the fullest potential of Texas wine.  As Rick Naber wisely told me, “Until you get sommeliers to wrap their arms around Texas, nothing is going to happen.”

Learn about Texas and other emerging wine regions in Elizabeth’s December 7th SWEbinar: Wednesday, December 7, 7:00 pm central time – Emerging Wine Regions of the US – presented by Elizabeth Miller, CSW, CSS.  Who knew that Texas had such a long history of wine production, and that the state grows more Vitis species that any other region on earth?  Or that one of Virginia’s oldest wineries is exporting its wine to China.  Did you know that Idaho has some of the highest elevation vineyards in the country, or that one of the best domestic Méthode Champenoise wines comes from New Mexico?  This webinar covers the lesser known wine producing states, their terroirs, grapes and future growth.  Elizabeth Miller is a retailer whose home state of New York is a successful emerging wine region.


Guest Post: The Lone Star Burns Bright for Texas Wine (part one)



Today we have a guest post from Elizabeth Miller, CSS, CSW. Elizabeth tells us about her recent trip to the Texas wine country.

“Nature seemed to have intended Texas for a vineyard to supply America with vines.” -Stephen F. Austin

The “Father of Texas” saw the potential…. the future of Texas wine.  Stephen F. Austin came to Texas with the first colonizing families in the early 1800s.  When he made that statement, he likely didn’t expect two centuries would pass until the Texas wine industry would begin to reach its full potential.

Today, a tourist can drive just a few miles out of the city of Austin, the namesake of Stephen F. Austin, and find a burgeoning wine scene… not quite there, but on its way to becoming a major American wine region!  I took that drive recently to visit the bold new producers that are making Texas one of the most exciting and underrated wine destinations in the country.

photo of Duchman Winery via:

photo of Duchman Winery via:

There is another timely impetus for my Texas travels: I am presenting a SWEbinar on December 7th “Emerging Wine Regions of the US.”  In the webinar promo, I tease: “Who knew that Texas had such a long history of wine production, and that the state grows more Vitis species that any other region on earth?”  I had research to do, and my curiosity was piqued!

A Long Lone Star History: With most of today’s Texas producers under a decade old, it’s easy to forget that the history of the Texas industry dates back to the 1600s!  One of the earliest vineyards planted in North America lies in Texas, planted by Franciscan priests in 1662.   As European settlers followed, the industry developed, and by 1900 Texas had more than twenty-five wineries.  However, just like everywhere else in America, Prohibition brought an end to this momentum.

It wouldn’t be until the 1970s that Texas would witness a revival of its wine industry.  It was a bit of a later start, compared to California, but commercial vineyards and wineries started popping up.

On my journey into Texas wines, I was happily led to Duchman Family Winery and Flat Creek Estate. These two wineries are among the 350-plus Texas wineries that are changing that are, slowly but surely, changing the public perception about Texas wines.

Duchman Family Winery: To begin our visit, we left the pavement of urban Austin for the rolling hills and ‘peaking’ vineyards of Driftwood, Texas.  For our first stop, we arrived at Duchman Family Winery’s beautiful Italianate villa and were greet by Jeff Ogle, the estate’s General Manager. The Duchman winery story began, Jeff told us, in 2004 when Drs. Stan and Lisa Duchman founded the winery with an aim for world-class winemaking.  They hired Dave Reilly—a native Texan—as their winemaker, and quickly started seeing their wines medal in some of the most prestigious wine competitions.  They have become one of the most renown and quality minded producers in Texas.

photo of Duchman Winery via:

photo of Duchman Winery via:

Given the infant state of Texas, Duchman’s motto is not to be taken lightly:  100% Texas Grapes, 100% Texas Wine…and 100% Texas Farmers.  A day will come, hopefully sooner rather than later, that all Texas labeled wines will be from 100% Texas fruit.  Texas is not quite there yet, as the demand for grapes exceeds the current acreage of the productive vineyards (which is growing, but not quite there yet).

Duchman is growing grapes in two of the state’s 8 AVAs: Texas High Plains and Texas Hill Country.  The Texas Hill Country AVA is one of the largest AVA in the US, covering 9 million acres and as such, it has a number of unique microclimates. Many wineries and a good deal of wine tourism are located within this area. The Texas High Plains AVA is located up in the Texas panhandle, where the climate is very cool and dry, with an elevation of 3,000-4,000 feet.

Back in the tasting room at Duchman, we started with the 2015 Duchman Family Vermentino, crisp, nuanced, truly a world class palate.  Another Italian variety, Montepulciano, has been produced at Duchman since almost day one.  In tasting the 2012 Duchman Family Montepulciano, I realized why it’s one of the most popular wines in their selection, with balanced acidity, rich blackberry, plum, and aromas of vanilla and spice.  There is no true consensus on which grape is the grape of Texas, but tasting these varieties would stand the test in a global blind comparison!

Parting from Duchman was not without another Texas lesson: the wine growler.  That 2015 Montepulciano walked out the door with us in a 750ml growler.  Growlers typically make us think of beer, which has historically been approved by federal regulations.  In Texas, Whole Foods has been a promoter of keg wine and in reusable containers, and helped pave the way for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to rule in favor of wine growlers.  Only two states, Oregon and Texas, specifically allow retailers and wineries to fill growlers with wine for sale off-premise.  Personally, I hope this legislation comes to New York State.

photo of Duchman Winery via:

photo of Duchman Winery via:

Our Duchman Family Winery growler traveled quite a bit and proved the quality of Duchman’s winemaking.  After the tasting room, we immediately headed to the nearby Salt Lick BBQ, a Texas Hill Country BBQ restaurant with recipes that have roots back to the wagon trains in the mid-1800s!  That Montepulciano shined with the rich slabs of barbecue.  Surprisingly, we didn’t finish the growler, and some Montepulciano accidentally made its way back to New York in our checked suitcase, where a few days later, it was discovered and tasted.  Would you know, the Duchman Family Winery Montepulciano held up through the travels, and it was delicious!

Learn about Texas and other emerging wine regions in Elizabeth’s December 7th SWEbinar: Wednesday, December 7, 7:00 pm central time – Emerging Wine Regions of the US – presented by Elizabeth Miller, CSW, CSS.  Who knew that Texas had such a long history of wine production, and that the state grows more Vitis species that any other region on earth?  Or that one of Virginia’s oldest wineries is exporting its wine to China.  Did you know that Idaho has some of the highest elevation vineyards in the country, or that one of the best domestic Méthode Champenoise wines comes from New Mexico?  This webinar covers the lesser known wine producing states, their terroirs, grapes and future growth.  Elizabeth Miller is a retailer whose home state of New York is a successful emerging wine region.

Check back in a few days for part two of Elizabeth’s tour of Texas Hill Country wineries!

The 2017 CSW is now available for pre-order!


The 2017 CSW Exam and Study Guide is now available for pre-order!

The latest edition of the CSW Study Guide and Workbook will be available for shipping in the early part of January of 2017 (it sounds like it is a way off, but that is just a month away)!

The CSW Exam 2017 (which includes a copy of the 2017 CSW Study Guide in the price) is now available for pre-order, and the books will be shipped as soon as they are published in January. The 2017 CSW Workbook is also available for pre-order.

The 2017 CSW Exam will be available at Pearson Vue Learning Centers on January 3rd, however, candidates that Candidates that pre-order will have through March 1, 2018 to take the exam.

If you are currently studying for the CSW exam using the 2015 Study Guide, have no fear! Your exam authorization code specifies that you be given the 2015 version of the exam, which will remain available until February of 2018 (for those that already have the 2015 authorization code).

The 2017 version of the CSW Study Guide includes the latest updates to the world of wine—new rules and regulations as well as new AVAs, AOCs, and DOCGs—as well as additional new material on the wines of Asia, Corsica, Bulgaria, and Slovenia—to name a few!

Note: The CSW Study Guide 2017 will be available as an ebook in early 2017. The specific date of publication will be announced as soon as it is confirmed.

For more information, see the Catalog and Store page on the SWE Website.

If you have any questions, please contact Jane Nickles:

Guest Post: Aged Syrah: a Treasure, a Tasting, a Tribute


Today we have a guest post by an anonymous writer, who we know by the name Candi, CSW. In this essay, Candi tells us a touching story of family, friends, remembrances, and how the appreciation of wine can bring us all together! We thought this was perfect to share at the beginning of the holiday season!  

During a recent vacation, my husband and I stayed at the home of a dear relative. Our gracious host opened his wine collection to us. My job as the family geek: to select wines to enjoy in the evenings during the visit. It’s a tough job, I know, but someone has to do it.

His “cellar”, so to speak, is a cool basement with quite adequate storage for wine. So within an hour of our arrival, one of us is clearly ready to check out the vino. All three of us go downstairs.

A bit of background here. Our relative is a young widower. About five years ago, his wife passed away before her time. I remember how pleased she was when the family geek enjoyed wines that she had selected.

So there I am, sitting on the carpeted floor of the basement, carefully going through all of the bottles while the men folk are standing behind the bar, out of my way during an important mission. There are 30 to 40 bottles total; almost all of these are relatively sweet wines, including some dessert wines and some wines that blend other fruits with grapes. That is consistent with our host’s palate; he prefers sweeter vino.


Most usually, I am described as an introvert who avoids being the center of attention. But as I pull out two bottles that are clearly outliers in this particular collection, I can’t help it. I either exclaim joyfully or squeal. Take your pick. Of course, the men folk are both surprised and greatly amused at this point.

There are two, ahem, well-aged Syrahs in the collection. One is a 2003 California wine from a major, well-known producer. Another is a 2005 Australian Shiraz from a vintner that is on my list to try. Since I know my host quite well, I am well aware that it is unlikely that he chose these wines. But I remember who was quite the fan of Syrah.

Up come the two bottles. And, as I suspected, our host confirms that these are wines selected by his deceased wife, probably within a year of her death. One even has the original price tag with the wine shop listed.

I apparently have a very good relationship with our host. He made perfectly clear that he had no intention of drinking the wine, as it was not to his taste. He truly wanted us to enjoy them, however. My husband and I do like Syrah. In the past, we have enjoyed 6- to 8-year old versions. It’s also a fact that compared to most of the other wines in the collection, these were the best matches for my husband and me.

So be it. We would have aged Syrah. I found what I consider to be the equivalent of buried treasure. Except it’s even better – it’s wine! I stood the two bottles upright in anticipation of future evenings on the trip.


After a full day of sightseeing, we got takeout food for a relaxed evening in. Syrah- friendly menu, of course. First up: the 2003 California Syrah. The rather dry cork comes out with some difficulty, in two big pieces. This requires two different types of corkscrews and two operators, but we were determined.

The wine is, as expected, a bit brownish. Distinct legs. Aromas are faint, muted, but there. And the wine is clearly past its prime. Like so many reds made with decent fruit, however, it is still drinkable. Not fresh, not juicy, but drinkable. Over two evenings, we enjoy our tasting experience with a 13 year-old Syrah. And, we reminisce about the young woman who purchased the wine. And we share other family memories.

We depart for the rest of our trip with the 2005 Aussie Shiraz. It has a screw top for ease of opening during the trip, our host insists, I can’t turn it down. On the last night of our trip, we stay at a hotel convenient to the airport for the next day’s departure. Complete with a refrigerator and microwave. One of our favorite restaurants near the airport features bison. Shiraz and bison seemed a perfect pairing.

Takeout, again. Have to relax and enjoy our last night….


Two different bison entrees chosen and hauled back to the room. I anticipate another wine past its prime, but drinkable, if we are lucky.

We were fortunate; I was wrong. The wine was not past its prime. It was excellent. Fruit- forward, long finish, an excellent dinner pairing. At 11 years old, the wine was the oldest under screw cap I have ever experienced. The wine was so delicious that I will most definitely buy a few future vintages. Just for confirmation purposes, of course.

Tragically, our relative lost a wife. All of us lost a friend and a kind soul. With respect to wine, I lost a kindred spirit with a similar palate. Somehow, I think she is okay with my husband and I enjoying her last two bottles, and I will always remember those wines, with full appreciation of their significance.

Here’s to good memories. Cheers!

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!

Bucket List Travel: The d’Arenberg Cube

Photo of Chester Osborne and the Cube via:

Photo of Chester Osborne and the Cube via:

Just when you think you’ve been everywhere and seen everything, someone comes up with something new! In case you are looking to travel to the newest (and some might say weirdest, or to use a kinder term, most unique) tasting room in the wine world, book your tickets to South Australia and stop by the d’Arenberg Winery in McLaren Vale.

At the winery, you’ll find a plethora of creative wines, ranging from “Lucky Lizard Chardonnay,” the “Feral Fox Pinot Noir” and their range of “Stump Jump” wines, named after a plow that can plow through tree stumps.

If your visit is timed right (sometime in early part of 2017), you’ll also be able to visit their new tasting room—or, as they might prefer we call it, their new tasting cube. What’s a tasting cube, you ask? Well, at d’Arenberg it is a five-story, glass-encased steel and concrete structure inspired by the Rubik’s Cube.

Rendition of the completed Cube via:

Rendition of the completed Cube via:

The d’Arenberg Cube is the brainchild of Chester Osborn, the chief winemaker for d’Arenberg and the great-great grandson of founder Joseph Osborn. Chester describes the new cube/tasting room as “an architectural puzzle four modules wide, four high and four deep, is already soaring above the Mourvèdre vineyards in the heart of McLaren Vale.”  In addition of offering wines sales and tasting, the cube will host curated art exhibits as a permanent art installation room designed to give the impression of being inside a wine fermenter and featuring the work of Australian artist Jane Skeer to include hundreds of dangling VHS video tapes combined with projections of people treading grapes.

The cube will also feature a restaurant and a rooftop balcony. However, the most interesting feature just might the glass-surrounded “wine fog room,” set to feature a series of large aroma-filled containers attached to bicycle horns designed to “beep” the aromas of wine out to the room.

Some people are referring to the new construction as “Chester’s folly,” and Osborne himself admits that he has given d’Arry, his father, more than a few sleepless nights. But in my humble opinion, he’s going to have folks lining up for a look, a sniff, and a taste of the new d’Arenberg tasting room.

References/for more information:

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click here for more information!