The Society of Wine Educators

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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. 

Guest Blogger: Southwest Sojourn Part 3: Arizona Adventures

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Today we have a guest post—the third and final in a series—by an author we have all gotten to know by the nom de plume of Candi, CSW. Click here to read the first article in the series, as Candi takes us on a tour of the Grand Canyon, and click here for the second stage as she makes her way through New Mexico. Today, Candi takes us on the final leg of her southwest sojourn with a trip through Arizona—with plenty of local wine along the way!

It was time to leave Santa Fe with good memories and ideas for our next trip there. Such a great destination that we were glad we allowed four nights for exploration. On to the final stop: Scottsdale, Arizona.

We had our longest drive of the trip from Santa Fe to Scottsdale. But it was mostly interstate highways with minimal traffic. We took our time, allowed frequent rest and stretch breaks, and enjoyed the view as scenery transitioned from canyons and mesas to deeper red rocks and pure desert. I couldn’t help but wonder if Saguaro cactus is used for margaritas, like the Prickly Pear of the Yellowstone area.

We had traveled to and through the Phoenix area many times for business and family visits. And, while we have enjoyed the Sedona area as a vacation stop, it seemed that Scottsdale had more of a resemblance to Santa Fe. The area offered an opportunity for more museum exploration and shopping. And, once I found that Scottsdale now has a wine trail, the decision was made.

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Many Arizona wineries are located in remote areas of the state, such as Cochise County. Cochise appears to be one of the southernmost counties, with the Mexican border to the south. (For more details and another perspective, see a 2016 SWE blog post titled “Arizona Wines are gaining recognition — Imbibe and take notice!“) Some wineries have tasting rooms in Cochise County. I can see, however, that it would make sense to take some tasting rooms to the populous areas. Scottsdale appears to have the demographics to be a great location for an urban area tasting room.

Multiple wineries had already come to the same conclusion as I did about Scottsdale. The Scottsdale Wine Trail now features five winery tasting rooms/wine bars. I suppose an ambitious sort would be able to walk to all of them for tasting in a single day. That’s not our style, and the trip planner (me) had to account for temperatures of 90+ degrees, arid weather, and sun. Another opportunity for wise pacing. We chose to allow the morning for a museum, and the afternoon for two wine tastings.

We had checked into our hotel on a Friday evening. Quiet in-room dinner, a very good night’s sleep, then great morning coffee. A full Saturday on the agenda. The weather gods had smiled upon us; temperatures in the 80s to about 90. Cooler than expected equated to walk-friendly and wine-friendly.

We found that, unlike Santa Fe, free, underground, shaded parking is readily available in Scottsdale. Secured our shaded, delightfully cool space. Short walk to the Museum of the West, an affiliate of the Smithsonian. This museum was not widely mentioned in mainstream travel guides, so it may qualify as another “hidden gem”. And a valuable gem it is.

Given that we visited the Museum on a Saturday, I was concerned about crowding. Not at all. Very quiet, plenty of helpful docents. Exhibits of, it seemed, anything and everything Western culture-related. Paintings, pottery, ceramics, wildlife. All of these were well-done and enjoyable.

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But two exhibitions were just outstanding. One featured Western clothing, leather goods, and accessories such as spurs and saddles. All of these were items that either were or could be actually used by ranchers, cowboys, law enforcement, etc. And the beautiful leather tooling! Some of the saddles struck me as works of art.

The second standout featured a vast collection of movie posters and film history. OK. This sounds lightweight and even a bit immature, but the depth and breadth of the display had me taking notes. We have since viewed a western movie or two that have demonstrated great acting, scenery, and a touch of history. Before we knew it, we had spent more than 3 hours exploring the Museum.

Meanwhile, the wine tasting rooms had begun the afternoon hours. We left the Museum of the West a bit reluctantly, wearing our stickers so we could get back in if time allowed. But two tasting rooms were calling, and one must have priorities.

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Old Town Scottsdale, a brief walk from the Museum, features shopping, dining, and the Wine Trail. We did a quick reconnaissance of the shops; nothing compelling for us. On to the all-important afternoon stops.

Airidus Wine Company combines a tasting room and wine bar. The wine is produced in Willcox (Cochise County). Five wines of your choice per tasting; a one-bottle purchase of the higher-end bottlings waives the tasting fee. Fair enough. My tasting included Malvasia Blanca, Rose’ of Mourvèdre and Grenache, Grenache, Malbec and Petite Sirah. Service was excellent, with plenty of information volunteered in response to my geeky questions. My only criticism: while my palate is still developing, I clearly recognized that the Petite Sirah was corked. All of the other wines were purchase-worthy.

But it seemed to me that the reds were the most attractive. Overall impressions: deep, compelling, long finish, oak, varietally-correct fruits. So this frugal soul was drawn to not one, but two bottles. Malbec and Grenache. Plus 2 bottles of their version of casual wines, the Tank Blends. One white (Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Malvasia Blanca). One red (Malbec, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Montepulciano). Blends, indeed!

Map of the Scottsdale Wine Trail via: http://www.scottsdalewinetrail.com/

Map of the Scottsdale Wine Trail via: http://www.scottsdalewinetrail.com/

Carlson Creek is another tasting room with wine bar. This venue was very busy, but Wendy, the sole server, was efficient, friendly, informative, and kept moving. She gets credit for noting and understanding my CSW pin. She returned to us frequently so we could learn from each other. What fun!

With a choice of 12 wines, narrowing the field was a challenge. We sampled Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, a Rose’ of Grenache, Sangiovese, Mourvèdre, a GSM blend and Syrah. Okay, maybe I didn’t narrow the field too well; but, I had my trusty designated driver. I was walking a short distance back to the car. I kept hydrated. It was my last wine stop of the trip. I was relaxed and enjoying myself. Did I mention I was on vacation?

Decisions, decisions. The whites were enjoyable, and I can see how a white-only afficianado would have several options. But we enjoy whites, Rose’ (technically a red, but always a bridge wine to me), and reds. The reds of Carlson Creek were even more appealing to me than those of Airidus. Complexity, balance, evolving-over-minutes. Food pairings already in the mind. Evoking memories of a warm to hot climate.

Two bottles waived the tasting. Not. A. Problem. After deliberation, wine one was Mourvèdre, because of the attractive leather aromas and flavors. Could this have been a flashback to the exhibition at the Museum of the West? Possible.

Wine two, Rule of Three as a well-done GSM and for potential food-friendliness. Wine three, our favorite, the Syrah. The deep, intense, varietally-correct Syrah. Yes. If you are a Sryah lover and visit, please, please try this wine.

More water, another short walk, wine returned safely to car in cool space. Yet more water and another short walk to pick up the takeout we’d ordered. The dining establishments were not yet busy and we wanted to exit before the Saturday night crowd began. Dinner secured, all missions accomplished.

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Our final evening of the vacation. Plenty of time to begin packing and organizing for the final day of driving. Hydration, hydration, hydration. And, when we were ready, a great meal courtesy of Cowboy Ciao. This place had come highly recommended; they were correct. One of the best chopped salads I’ve ever had, truffle macaroni and cheese, and a wine pairing of Vivac Sangiovese.

Another good night’s sleep. On the drive home, I began to reflect on the many things that went well on our trip. Key success factors, to use business-speak. Pacing ourselves. Blending culture, shopping, moderate walking, wine tasting. Recognizing when it was wise to end the day and elevate feet. Stretch breaks on the road. Agenda to minimize crowds and noise. These may not be critical items for go-go-go extroverts. But they are for, ahem, aging introverts.

What about the common themes of Southwest wine? Based on my initial impressions, of course. Further study is clearly indicated. How’s that for justification of already considering what to do on the next trip?

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Shared characteristics we experienced were young wineries, many varietals per winery, more reds than whites. Maybe these vintners are still trying to establish a strategy of which grapes grow best, and then plan to focus on those. Maybe not. We also noted more reds than whites, which may equate to warm, arid climate. Pleasant, approachable whites. Clearly more compelling reds. If I had to find comparable areas, the Sierra Foothills for the New World and Spain for Old World would suffice.

Now, we have the post-trip enjoyment of seeing whether our decisions in the short-term reward us as the drinking windows begin to open. For some reason, I am optimistic.

Southwest Salute’, Cheers, and Happy New Year!

As American as Apple…Cider?

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Traditional cider is a lightly alcoholic beverage (usually less than 7% abv) produced from apples that have been crushed and pressed, with the resultant juice fermented. It is often called “hard cider” in the United States to distinguish it from unfiltered apple juice. Cider production is centered in the UK, which has the highest worldwide consumption, but many other countries and regions—including the United States—produce it as well, and cider and perry (cider produced from pears) are experiencing a renaissance that is running parallel to the other craft beverage industries.

Drawing of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed)

Drawing of John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed)

Early American settlers took great pride in cultivating the apple tree, as evidenced by the story of the folk hero and nurseryman Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman, 1774 – 1845). Some of the oldest apple orchards in the United States are located in the more temperate areas of New England, such as Vermont, upstate New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire.

The popularity of apples and the subsequent spread of various types of apple seeds gave rise to myriads of new, purely American varieties, such as the Newton Pippin, that were then grafted and propagated. By the mid-1800s there were over 1,000 varieties of apples growing in the United States, most of which were used for cider.

The popularity of American cider declined with the rise of industrialism (in the mid-1800’s) as the population migrated towards city life, and was further thwarted by Prohibition. This coincided with a drastic decline in the cultivation of cider apples. These days, the majority of the apples and pears in the United States are grown in the Pacific Northwest, and most of these are for eating; however, small pockets of cider apple production may still be found in many parts of the country.

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Leading areas for American cider production include New England, the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, the Great Lakes area, and pockets of the Pacific Northwest. The most recent statistics from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) show that Vermont produces the most cider at about 5.3 million gallons, with New York second at 4.4 million, and California and Tennessee both at about 2.9 million gallons.

The craft cider movement is growing in the United States, but is considerably behind the renaissance sweeping craft beer and local wine. There is, however, a noticeable interest in reviving heirloom cider apple varieties, whole fruit processing, and artisan cider production.

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Some American cider producers are making ciders inspired by the Old World, while others are proving to be more experimental and creating hopped versions of cider, wine barrel-aged ciders, or combining honey and fruit to produce cyser, sometimes referred to as “apple mead” and best described as a cross between cider and mead.

American cider, as well as the production, culture, and sensory evaluation of ciders from all over the world is just a small part of the information included in the Society of Wine Educators’ Beverage Specialist Certificate.

Other topics included in this 100% online program include coffee, tea, sake, beer, distilled spirits, and—of course—wine. Click here for more information.

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

 

The 2018 CSW Study Guide and Workbook are here!

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What do all of these items have in common: The Petaluma Gap AVA…the Delle Venezie DOC…the Vézelay AOC…and the “New” New Zealand geographical indications? Answer: they are newly-changed or updated topics in the world of wine—launched in 2017! You’ll find all of these updates (and more) in the just-released, 2018 version of the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) Study Guide and Workbook.

We’ve also made a change in how the books are distributed, and the 2018 CSW Study Guide and Workbook are now in stock and shipping from Amazon.com. 

Click here to find the 2018 CSW Study Guide on Amazon. The cost is $49.

Click here to find the CSW Workbook 2018 on Amazon. The cost is $39.

CSW Exam Availability: CSW Exams based on the 2018 edition of the Study Guide will be available at Pearson Vue Testing Centers starting on February 1, 2018. Exams based on the 2017 book are also still available (for those that have a 2017 exam attendance credit) and will continue to be available until July of 2020.

Online Prep Course: Our next instructor-led CSW Online Prep Course is scheduled to begin in May 2018. This class will use the 2018 version of the CSW Study Guide and Workbook. The aim of the prep course is to get attendees “as prepared as humanly possible” for a successful sitting of the CSW Exam. Online prep courses are available, free-of-charge, to Professional members of SWE who have a valid CSW Exam attendance credit.

The CSW Exam may be purchased via the SWE website: Click here to purchase the CSW Exam.

Click here for an addendum listing the substantive changes between the 2017 and 2018 versions of the CSW Study Guide: Addendum for the CSW 2018 Study Guide

Flashcards and Practice Quizzes: Our popular online flashcards and practice quizzes have also been updated for 2018 (and the 2017 versions remain available). The cost for these products is $19 each. Click here for the flashcards and practice quizzes.

If you have any questions regarding the CSW Study Guides or Exams, please contact our Director of Education at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

 

Asti: Simple, Fruity, Delicious (and yet so Complicated)

http://www.astidocg.it/en/prodotto-gallery/

http://www.astidocg.it/en/prodotto-gallery/

Every wine lover—whether we admit it or not—has enjoyed a glass of Asti Spumante (which the wine cognoscenti will refer to simply as “Asti”) or Moscato d’Asti with lunch, brunch, or on New Year’s Eve.

It is predictable and quite correct—in most cases—to dismiss these sweet wines as “easy to love,” “great for beginners,” or “just a simple little quaff.” However, if we dig into the disciplinare of the Asti DOCG, we see that a range of wines are allowed to be produced under the designation—including wines from three sub-zones, late harvest wines, and bottle-fermented wines—all of which have probably never been referred to as “simple.” Add to these complications the fact that the rules of the DOCG were recently changed to allow the production of dry wines under the Asti DOCG—and we’ll see that perhaps we need to change our minds about Asti.

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For starters in breaking down the wines of Asti, we can determine that all of the wines produced under the Asti DOCG (located in Piedmont, Italy) are sparkling or slightly so, and are, in all cases, produced using 100% Moscato Bianco (more commonly known [outside of Italy] as Muscat blanc à Petits Grains). That’s pretty must where the similarities end. The differences are discussed below, after a short discussion on sweetness.

How Sweet it is: There is no simple statement of required levels of sweetness for the various versions of Asti. The appellation’s disciplinare does, however, state a required level of alcolometrico volumico potenziale—potential alcohol volume (the abv that would be achieved if all of the fermentable sugar was allowed to convert to alcohol)—in other words, a required ripeness at harvest for each style of wine. In addition, there is a required level of alcolometrico volumico effettivo—the actual alcohol by volume stated for each wine. By doing a bit of math, we can determine the difference between each wine’s required potential alcohol and required actual alcohol —which (using more math) will reveal the approximate amount of sugar allowed or required to be in the finished wine. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll use the following formula: Brix X 0.55 = Potential Alcohol (or, Potential Alcohol/.55 = Brix).  Note: This calculation is at best a generality, but it is a good-enough starting point for a discussion on the character of these wines.

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Asti DOCG: Asti DOCG is sometimes referred to as Asti Spumante; both terms are acceptable for use under the DOCG. Asti/Asti Spumante DOCG is produced via second fermentation in pressurized tanks (autoclaves) using the production method commonly referred to as the Charmat Method—known in Piedmont as the Metodo Marinotti.  By EU definition, spumante means “sparkling” and as such, the minimum pressure of the dissolved bubbles of Asti is 3 atm. For these wines, the required minimum potential alcohol is 11.5%. Until recently, the required actual abv was 6.0% to 9.5%; a bit of math tells us that the (previsouly) required minimum residual sugar was around 3.6% (making these wines demi-sec or dolce [semi-sweet to sweet]). However…

New! Asti Secco: In August of 2017, the regulations were revised, and the maximum required actual alcohol (formerly 9.5%) was deleted. This means that Asti DOCG may now be produced in a dry style.  The only change in the actual rules appears to be the deletion of the 9.5% maximum actual abv requirement, but the Asti DOCG Consortium is encouraging the use of the term “secco” for wines with a 11% minimum abv (actual), and the use of the term “dolce” for the traditional, sweet wines. (The revision in the disciplinare only applies to Asti/Asti Spumante DOCG and does not affect the wines described below.)

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Asti Metodo Classico DOCG: These wines, which may also be referred to as Asti Spumante Metodo Classico DOCG, are required to be produced using the Traditional (bottle-fermented) Method of sparkling wine production and must be aged on the lees for a minimum of nine months. The required minimum sweetness (based on a required potential minimum alcohol of 12% and a required actual alcohol of 6% to 8%) is approximately 7% residual sugar and are therefore all of these wines are sweet (dolce).

Moscato d’Asti DOCG: This is the beloved, sweet sipper that has recently become so popular (although experienced wine lovers see this as a prime example of “everything old is new again” popularity). Moscato d’Asti is made using the “partial fermentation” method of sparkling wine production (also—somewhat obviously—also known as the “Asti method”). This means these wines are made by one pressurized fermentation (only) that is interrupted while there is just a bit of bubble (a maximum of 2 atm) built up in addition to a good deal of sweetness still left in the wine.  The numbers of 11% minimum potential alcohol and 4.5% to 6.5% acquired alcohol means that these wines are always sweet with at least 8% residual sugar (to use generalized terms).

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Moscato d’Asti Vendemmia Tardiva DOCG: This late-harvest version of Moscato d’Asti requires a minimum potential alcohol of 14% and a acquired alcohol of 11%, meaning these wines will have at least (approximately) 5% residual sugar. This wine is not allowed to be chaptalized and must be aged for at least one year from the date of harvest.

Sub-regions: As for the sub-regions of the Asti DOCG, they are only approved for a few of the wines and (of course) they have a few of their own requirements:

  • Canelli: This sub-zone (located in the center section of the DOCG) is only approved for Moscato d’Asti, and the wines using this designation must have a potential alcohol of 12% abv (slightly higher than the general requirement of 11%).
  • Santa Vittoira d’Alba: This sub-zone (located to the west of the central DOCG zone) is approved for Moscato d’Asti and Moscato d’Asti Vendemmia Tardiva.  Moscato d’Asti Santa Vittoira d’Alba must have a potential alcohol of 12%. The vendemmia tardiva wines have quite a few unique requirements, including: a potential alcohol content of 15% and an actual minimum of 12% abv, a minimum aging of two years (beginning with January 1 of the year after the vintage year), and partial-drying of the grapes (post-harvest).
  • Strevi: Like the Canelli sub-zone, Strevi (located on the eastern edge of the DOCG) is approved for Moscato d’Asti only, and the wines using this designation must have a potential alcohol of 12% abv (slightly higher than the general requirement of 11%).

Asti….like we said, so fun, fruity, simple, and (sometimes) sweet….and yet again, so complex.

References/for more information:

 

 

 

Cracking the Crémant Code

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It’s such a great question for a wine exam…it might be worded something like this: “Which of the following regions all produce sparkling wine under a Crémant AOC?” The answer could include the following names: Alsace, Bordeaux, Bourgogne, Jura, Limoux, Die, and the Loire.

As wine lovers, we all acknowledge there is (and will always be) only one Champagne, but we also know that many sparkling wines are produced in France—and some of these sparkling wines are entitled to use the term “Crémant” in the context of their AOC pedigree.

These crémants have a lot in common— the most important principle being that they must be produced using the Traditional (bottle-fermented) Method of sparkling wine production. In addition, they must all be aged on the lees for a minimum of 12 months post-tirage—including at least 9 months on the lees—and hand-harvesting is mandatory.  Beyond these basics, however, there is quite a bit of diversity in the crafting of crémant. Read on to find a few of these differences…you may find a new favorite wine, and you may glean some information that could prove to be useful on your next wine exam!

Christmas time at the Place Kléber in Strasbourg

Christmas time at the Place Kléber in Strasbourg

Crémant d’Alsace: Among students of wine, the Crémant d’Alsace AOC is remembered for being the only AOC in the region to allow the use of the Chardonnay grape (although Pinot Blanc is more likely to be found in your flute). Bubbly from Alsace is unique in that it allows for the use of an interesting array of grapes: white sparklers may be made using Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, and/or Chardonnay; rosé (more typically) must be 100% Pinot Noir.

Crémant d’Alsace makes up a good proportion of the total output of wines from Alsace and typically accounts for anywhere from 20% to 25% of the total output of the region. These wines are widely distributed and relatively inexpensive. I often pick up a bottle of Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut N/V at my local “fancy” grocery store ($21.99 the last time I checked); this is a lovely, delicate wine with floral notes and fruity (apple, peach, pear, apricot) flavors made from 50% Pinot Blanc, 25% Pinot Gris, and 25% Riesling.

The Pont de Pierre ("stone bridge") over the Garonne River in Bordeaux

The Pont de Pierre (“stone bridge”) over the Garonne River in Bordeaux

Crémant de Bordeaux: Just a tiny bit of Crémant de Bordeaux is produced, particularly when you compare the 250 acres (110 ha) dedicated to producing Bordeaux bubbles—as compared to 300,000 acres (110,000 ha) for the whole region. However, the bubbly version is allowed to be produced anywhere within the confines of the larger Bordeaux AOC, so larger quantities are possible.

Crémant de Bordeaux is allowed to be produced using the standard grapes of the area—with a required minimum of 70% of the blend dedicated to Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Carmenère, Muscadelle, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Sauvignon Gris. The other 30% may also contain Colombard, Merlot Blanc, and/or Ugni Blanc. Crémant de Bordeaux may be white (blanc) or rosé.

Some of these wines make it to the US, and I’ve recently enjoyed Jaillance Cuvée “L’Abbaye” Crément de Bordeaux Sparkling Brut—a crisp, clean, fruity blend of 70% Sémillon and 30% Cabernet Franc, purchased for around $17.00

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Crémant de Bourgogne: Crémant de Bourgogne may be produced anywhere within the Bourgogne wine region, and is often noted as a “replacement” wine for Champagne—for a few very good reasons. First, a good deal of the grapes used in Crémant de Bourgogne are grown in the Châtillonnais, in a group of vineyards clustered around the town of Châtillon-sur-Seine, located very close to the Aube department (and the southern boundary of the Champagne region).

In addition, the list of grapes allowed are similar (although not identical, as nothing in the world of wine is ever that simple) to those used in Champagne—including Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Aligoté, Melon de Bourgogne, Sacy (a white grape also known as Tressallier), Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Gamay. The final blend is required to contain a minimum of 30% 30% combined Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and/or Pinot Noir; and Gamay is topped at a maximum allowance of 20%.  Crémant de Bourgogne may be either white or rosé.

These wines are usually easy to find in the larger US Markets; I often pick up Simonnet-Febvre Brut N/V Crémant de Bourgogne at my local “big box” wine and spirits store. This sparkler, produced from a traditional-sounding blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, is aged for 24 months on the lees. The result is an elegant wine with aromas and flavors of citrus, apple blossoms, green apples and brioche.

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Crémant de Die: Crémant de Die AOC is one of a group of AOCs—also including Châtillon-en-Diois, Coteaux de Die, and the slightly-sweet-and-slightly-bubbly Clairette de Die—located in the Drôme Département to the east of the Rhône River (and somewhat in-between the North and South Rhône areas (latitudinally speaking).

Crémant de Die is only produced in a white (blanc) version, and must have no more than 1.5% residual sugar. Crémant de Die is typically based on the Clairette grape, with allowed inclusions of Aligoté as well as a maximum of 10% Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.

Crémant du Jura: The Jura—known to most wine lovers as that obscure region between Burgundy and Switzerland—is recognized in particular for its biologically-aged VinJaune and its fortified MacVin du Jura. However, Traditional Method sparkling wines—both white and rosé—have been produced under the Crémant du Jura AOC since 1995. Still wines produced in the same area are labeled under the Côtes du Jura AOC.

The grapes allowed in Crémant du Jura include Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Poulsard (a dark-skinned red grape), Trousseau (a red grape also known as Bastardo), Chardonnay, and Savagnin.

The Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley

The Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley

Crémant de Loire: The Crémant de Loire AOC is considered to be a regional appellation of the Loire Valley, and while it is (along with Rosé de Loire) about as close as the area gets to a regional appellation, the bubbly wine is only allowed to be produced in the center part of the long and winding Loire Valley (equating to those areas covered by Anjou, Saumur, and Touraine).

Crémant de Loire may be produced in white and rosé versions. The list of approved grapes reads like the greatest hits of the Central Loire, and includes Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Orbois, Grolleau, Grolleau Gris, Pinot Noir, Pineau d’Aunis, Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc. Of these varieties, Cabernet Franc and/or Cabernet Sauvignon are restricted to a maximum of 20% of the final blend.

Crémant de Limoux: Sparkling wines produced in the Languedoc have been bottled under the Crémant de Limoux AOC since 1990. These wines are probably going to remain less popular and less well-known than their cousins bottled under the terms Blanquette de Limoux or Vin Mousseux Blanc Méthode Ancestrale (part of the Limoux AOC). Crémant de Limoux wines have their own style, and are typically produced drier, aged longer, and always produced using the Traditional Method—as opposed to their more famous cousins.  Crémant de Limoux, which may be white or rosé, is produced using 50% to 90% Chardonnay, 10% to 40% Chenin Blanc, and allows for limited use of Mauzac and Pinot Noir.

A note on Savoie: As of the 2014 harvest, sparkling wines produced in the Savoie region can use the label term “Crémant de Savoie” – however, for now, the appellation is known as the Vin de Savoie AOC.

References/for more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CSE, CWE…SWE’s Director of Education and Certification

The Egg Nog Riots of 1826

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Perhaps no other drink is as closely associated with the holidays as eggnog.  Beloved for several centuries, eggnog as a drink has stayed relatively the same over the years.  The ingredients are simple: eggs, cream or milk, spices (especially nutmeg), sugar, and alcohol.  However, this seemingly basic drink has a long and somewhat storied history.

Eggnog became a popular drink in England and the Colonies near the end of the 18th century.  Originating in England, it is believed to have begun as a derivation of a drink called posset, which was a hot drink made with eggs, milk, and ale or wine. Eggnog became a favorite among the English aristocracy, who were the only group that had regular access to milk and eggs in England at the time.  The English preferred their eggnog mixed with Sherry or Madeira.

In America, where food was more available, eggnog became a standard drink. As the American colonists had easy access to rum, it became the standard mixer for eggnog.  This led to the nickname of “grog” which was a term that would be applied to rum based drinks of many types, but came to regularly refer to eggnog.

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Once the Revolutionary War began, rum was more difficult to obtain.  As a response, whiskey became the main alcoholic mixer for egg nog.  Once the war ended, a wider variety of alcohols were enjoyed.  George Washington’s recipe called not only for rum, but also for rye and sherry.

The Egg Nog Riots:  On an infamous Christmas Eve in 1826, ten West Point cadets smuggled eggs, milk, nutmeg, and two gallons of whiskey into their dormitory.  This was despite (or, perhaps, because of) the strict anti-alcohol polices of the academy. Led by future Confederate president Jefferson Davis, the cadets threw themselves an egg nog party.

As with most college parties, things soon got out of hand, and the revelers drew the attention of a teacher, Captain Ethan Allen Hitchcock.  Just as he arrived, Davis realized the trouble coming and shouted. “Put away the grog boys, Old Hitch is coming!”  Hitchcock attempted to end the party and return the cadets to their rooms.  The students rioted in response and the event led to the “Eggnog Riot” or “Grog Mutiny” which resulted in the largest expulsion of cadets in West Point’s history.

So this season, raise your whiskey and egg nog in celebration for the holidays, a new year, and the nineteen cadets who were expelled 187 years ago as a result of our favorite seasonal beverage.

References/for further reading:

Click here to return to the SWE Website.

Post authored by Ben Coffelt  – bcoffelt@societyofwineeducators.org

The Certified Wine Educator Manual for Candidates 2018 is here!

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SWE is happy to announce the publication of our latest text on the subject of wine and spirits education, The 2018 Certified Wine Educator Manual for Candidates!

This 140-page book is intended as a guide to help candidates successfully prepare for the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) Exam. The book contains seven chapters as well as several appendixes.  The main topics of the chapters are as follows:

Chapter 1—Introduction to the CWE Exam: An overview of the various components of the exam, the objectives of the exam, and what to expect on test day.

Chapter 2—The Multiple-Choice Exam:  Study tips, suggested study focus, test day advice, and an 85-question multiple-choice practice exam.

Chapter 3—The Essay Exam: Advice on how to study and practice for timed essay questions using the “five-step” method of essay construction, exercises for creating the various parts of an essay outline, multiple “practice” essay questions, advice on writing well, and test day tips. Sample essay outlines and sample (successful) essays.

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Chapter 4—The Varietal/Appellation Identification Exam: Advice on semi-blind tasting, 36 iconic wines (presented in six suggested practice flights of six wines each) detailed for typical profile with tasting sheets for you to fill in your own observations, a list of suggested wines for study, benchmarks for wine styles, and test day advice.

Chapter 5—The Logical Tasting Rationale: Detailed information on how to complete a wine tasting note using SWE’s Logical Tasting Rationale, sensory and technical definitions of all of the terms used on the tasting note, sample tasting notes, and test day advice.

Chapter 6—The Faults and Imbalances Identification Exam: Background information on the faults and imbalances, instructions on how to use the SWE faults kit (or make your own), a sample tasting exercise, sensory benchmarks for each fault, and test day advice.

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Chapter 7—The Presentation Skills Demonstration: Information on learning objectives, a template for creating presentation outlines/abstracts, a sample presentation outline, and advice on oration, organization, the use of supporting materials, and audience engagement.

Note: This is an update from our first (2016) version of the Manual and while this book is more of a “skills manual” than a “textbook,” it does contain some significant changes. Click here for a document that details the changes from the 2016 book/exam to the 2018 version: Addendum for the 2018 Cerfied Wine Educator Candidate Manual

The CWE Manual for Candidates is available for purchase now on Amazon. The cost is $49. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Jane Nickles, our Director of Education and Certification – jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Good luck with your studies!

Austria: Serious about Sekt

http://www.austrianwine.com/our-wine/austrian-sekt/

http://www.austrianwine.com/our-wine/austrian-sekt/

As serious students of wine might remember, Austria updated it wine laws—in quite a major overhaul—in July of 2016. As part of this mashup, the laws concerning PDO Austrian Sekt were revised, and as of this the 2017 harvest, these laws have been refined and come into effect. As such, it seems like a good time to take a deep dive into the new laws concerning bubbles from Austria!

The Basics: These regulations apply to “Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin” (Österreichischer Sekt mit geschützter Ursprungsbezeichnung [gU]). Such wines must be designated on the labeled as Qualitätsschaumwein or Sekt and one of the following terms: Klassik, Reserve, or Grosse Reserve (Grand Reserve). These wines must be produced using just the 36 grape varieties designated for use in Austrian Quality wines, although specific grapes or blends are not mandated. The carbon dioxide dissolved in the bottle must be a minimum of 3.5 atm.  (Click here for a list of the: The Austria 36-Grape Varieties)

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Austrian Sekt Klassik:

  • May be produced using any sparkling wine production method
  • Grapes must be sourced from one single Austrian State, which must serve as the wine’s appellation of origin
  • Must be vinified in Austria
  • Minimum 12.5% abv
  • Minimum of 9 months aging on the lees; may be released to the consumer after October 22 of the year following harvest
  • All styles (red, white, rosé) and all sweetness levels are allowed

Austrian Sekt Reserve:

  • Must be made using the traditional method of sparkling wine production with whole-cluster pressing
  • Grapes must be sourced from one single Austrian State, which must serve as the wine’s appellation of origin
  • Must be hand-harvested
  • (No regulations regarding abv)
  • Minimum of 18 months aging on the lees; may be released to the consumer after October 22 of the second year following harvest
  • Must be brut-level sweetness or drier
  • May be red, white, or rosé, but rosé must be produced using red grapes only
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Austrian Sekt Grosse Reserve (Grand Reserve):

  • Must be made using the traditional method of sparkling wine production with whole-cluster pressing
  • Grapes must be sourced from one single Austrian winegrowing community, vineyard designation from registered sites permitted
  • Must be hand-harvested
  • (No regulations regarding abv)
  • Minimum of 30 months aging on the lees; may be released to the consumer after October 22 of the third year following harvest
  • Must be brut-level sweetness or drier (maximum 12 g/L R.S.)
  • May be red, white, or rosé, but rosé must be produced using red grapes only

For many of us, it seems like these regulations come just in time for the winter holidays, giving us one more reason to reach for the bubbly!

References/for more information:

Guest Blogger: Southwest Sojourn Part Two: New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Today we have a guest post—the second in a series—by an author we have all gotten to know by the nom de plume of Candi, CSW. Click here to read the first article in the series, as Candi takes us on a tour of the Grand Canyon. Below, Candi takes us on the second leg of her southwest sojourn to New Mexico—complete with museums, turquoise jewelry, and (of course) New Mexico wine!  

After a worthwhile stop at the Grand Canyon, our next destination was New Mexico. We used Santa Fe as our base of operations and took side trips to Los Alamos and Taos. Given our preferences to avoid crowds and noise, our stay in Santa Fe was on weekdays. I highly recommend this strategy if your goal is a relaxing, all-adult trip.

Our side trips were both very scenic drives, which reminded me of the book cliff-type canyons and mesas of Colorado. Highlights of our side trips included:

Bradbury Science Center, Los Alamos. This is a free, small museum located in the center of the small town. Convenient parking right outside the door, staffed by enthusiastic volunteers. If you are a history and/or science buff, this is worth a stop. Provides a sobering, educational experience of our history from World War II to the present.

Los Alamos Nature Center. Not easy to locate, but once we found the place it was a literally hidden “gem”. Apparently run by a not-for-profit, again staffed by volunteers. The outdoor exhibits feature succulent gardens and local plants. Indoors, there were exhibits about plant, insect and animal life. If I am going to view snakes, scorpions and tarantula spiders, I prefer to do so when they are in glass-enclosed cases. Then I can take a close look and identify what I hope to never see in my own yard.

Taos, New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico

Millicent Rogers Museum, Taos. Again, not easy to locate, but what a find once we got there! This museum surfaced on my pre-trip research, thank goodness. Wonderful displays of Native American blankets, rugs, pottery, and ceramics. But the highlight was clearly Ms. Rogers’ collection of Southwest jewelry. Much more elaborate than my personal taste, but stunning. Silver, turquoise, other gems, necklaces, oh my! Highly recommended if Southwest culture and art are of any interest. Yet again, a helpful volunteer provided additional information on Taos to assist us in making a few stops on the way out of town.

When we checked in at the Rogers Museum, there was only one couple next to us doing the same thing. One of them mentioned that she was American, but had married a British citizen and lived in the UK. So the wine geek in me asked if she had tried the British sparkling wines and, if so, what did she think? Well. It turned out that she and her husband own vineyards in South Africa! I have the names of their brands to research. But I ask you, what are the odds of that type of meeting in a museum on the outskirts of a small town in New Mexico? Curiouser and curiouser.

The town of Dixon is located between Taos and Santa Fe. This little place is the site of Vivac Winery. This vintner features wines made from grapes grown in New Mexico. My preferences include both small-production wineries and those that feature grapes grown in the state in which the winery is located.

Photo via: https://www.facebook.com/VivacWinery

Photo via: https://www.facebook.com/VivacWinery

Sidebar: I understand that some connoisseurs tend to, ahem, frown upon wines that are not from the glamorous, well-known viticultural areas. One of the great things about wine is there can be something for all of us to enjoy.

The Vivac facility includes wine tasting, wines by the glass and even craft beer tasting. Lesson one about tasting in relatively remote areas: tasting room staff of these facilities may not be especially knowledgeable about wine. My strategy was to take an open-ended approach; for example, just asking what the server could tell me about the wine. Note- taking. Looking at label detail. Getting what information that I could. Part of the adventure.

Vivac wines sampled included Chenin Blanc, Dry Riesling, Sangiovese, Refosco, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon. A plus was the wide selection of varietals from which to choose. I was not, however, able to discern enough variation in wine quality and impact to purchase the more expensive wines tasted. So Chenin Blanc and Sangiovese were the choices. We have since enjoyed a bottle of each and they have proven to be solid selections. Bonus: our hotel featured a program encouraging visits to local merchants. Each wine bottle was 15% off, and I had planned this visit before even learning about the discount. Score!

Our final day in New Mexico was reserved for Santa Fe. We began with a stop at the very popular Georgia O’ Keefe Museum. If you are a fan, it is worth a stop. But beware: the museum is small and the entry fee is steep compared to others that we encountered. We will return to the gift shop, though. Nice, varied selection and, duh, no fee to get into the shop!

Until this trip, I did not realize that Santa Fe is considered quite the culinary destination. There is even a Santa Fe School of Cooking. Given my wine passion, branching out into a beginning foodie has been a natural extension. So a stop at the School’s shop for School of Cooking products was a no-brainer. Oh, and remember the 15% discount? Another score at a shop I had already planned to patronize.

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Another sidebar: for takeout dinners, we especially enjoyed Blue Corn Cafe and Rooftop Artisan Pizza. Blue Corn was a place we visited 10+ years ago and they are still going strong. Rooftop is an affiliate of Blue Corn and makes some interesting pies featuring Southwest items such as green chiles and, yes, blue corn crust.

We strolled the Santa Fe Plaza, but found the shopping to be limited with more vacant retail space than we expected. And, the shops seemed to alternate between tacky-touristy and very glamour-oriented with prices to match. A benefit that resulted: we had time to walk further, to the galleries and shops along Canyon Road.

After seeing the Rogers Museum the previous day, my interest in Southwest art, pottery and ceramics had grown. One of the Canyon Road galleries had several “starter” collectible pieces that appealed. One followed me home. Looking at the piece every few days since returning, it still entices and reminds me of the vacation. Sort of like bringing home a bottle of wine you’ve tasted, enjoying after a year or two, and confirming that your purchase was a good decision.

Thanks to our first stop at the Grand Canyon, we were acclimated to altitude. But on our Santa Fe day, we again walked well over 3 miles, all on hard surfaces. It was well worth the additional 1+ miles we put in to get to Canyon Road. At the end of the afternoon, we began to feel the impact of the activity. A bit sore. Made it back to the hotel, slowly. Walked to the lobby elevators. Tired. Just thinking of putting our feet up and re- hydrating.

Photo via: https://www.casarondena.com/winery/

Photo via: https://www.casarondena.com/winery/

Wait. My “Wine-Dar” (Wine Radar) went off on the way into the elevator. We took the elevator to our floor, unloaded all of our purchases, and my husband went to the ice machines. I just had to go back downstairs and check out my Wine-Dar. Sure enough, there was a table set up in a corner of the lobby. Hotel staff at the ready. Several bottles of Red on the table, White in an ice bucket. Glasses. I approached the table and noted one gentleman wore Sommelier name tag. OK. I explained that I was a complete wine geek, and basically asked what he was doing.

Turns out that many hotel guests are unaware that New Mexico makes wine. And, once a week, they offer wine samples to guests from one of the small wineries. This week, it was Casa Rondeña, a vintner new to me. Never one to be shy about wine, I asked if I might take a two glasses of vino up to our room; of course! So I asked about the various options and settled upon one glass of a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. My other choice was another blend: Tempranillo, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Back up the elevators with two glasses of wine and a smile on my face. Put feet up. Once that was done, there were no plans to leave the room until morning. Pacing ourselves.

For the evening, we had takeout already in the frig, along with a half-bottle of Vivac Chenin Blanc. At dinnertime, we got out the paper plates, enjoyed our takeout, and began with the Vivac in our trusty plastic wine glasses. At one point, I got up to refill my glass. Opened the frig, which required turning my back on husband. Poured some wine, and heard behind me a light tapping sound. Although I was tired, I was alert enough to know two things. One, the tapping sound was made with a plastic wine glass gently coming in contact with a table. Two, the translation was: “hit me again, woman”. He’s not a demanding soul, but, hey, I was the one standing up by the frig.

Later, each of us sampled the two Casa Rondena wines. Husband preferred the Bordeaux- style blend. I preferred the other blend. So each of us got the remainder of our preferred wine. In a glass glass, even. Funny how preferences work out that way.

A very nice visit to New Mexico. A blend of culture, beautiful drives, shopping, nice dining, and enjoying new and different wines.

By the way, did you know that Scottsdale, Arizona now has a wine trail? Stay tuned for Part Three.

In the meantime, New Mexico Wine Cheers!

Welcome to the World, Petaluma Gap AVA!

Map via: http://petalumagap.com

Map via: http://petalumagap.com

Welcome to the World, Petaluma Gap AVA!

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) of the United States has—just today—approved the first new American Viticultural Area (AVA) in over a year, and it is…the Petaluma Gap AVA!

Along with the approval of the new AVA—located in California’s Sonoma and Marin Counties—the southern boundary of the North Coast AVA is being expanded to include the northern portions of Marin County. The Petaluma Gap AVA overlaps a portion of the Sonoma Coast AVA and will be considered a sub-appellation of the newly re-outlined North Coast AVA.

The petition for the Petaluma Gap AVA was submitted by the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance in February of 2015. According to the petition, the unique factors of the area include the following:

  • The Petaluma Gap itself: A geological feature known as a “wind gap,” the Petaluma gap is actually a 15-mile-wide area of low-lying hills that create something of an opening in the otherwise much taller Coast Mountains. This area stretches from the Pacific Ocean, eastward to the bucolic Sonoma town of Petaluma, and then straight on through to San Pablo Bay. The effect on the area is as follows: as the inland areas heat up during the day, the heat causes the warm air to rise, and the cool air off the Pacific Ocean is pulled up into the gap. The wind gains speed as it travels, and eventually empties into the bay.
  • The Wind: Late afternoon wind speed within the Petaluma Gap is typically 8 miles per hour, and it is often clocked in at over 20 mph. In contrast, winds in the surrounding areas rarely get above 2 or 3 miles per hour.
  • The Climate: Mornings are cool and typically foggy. Late mornings and early afternoons are increasingly warm after the fog burns off. However, the breezes typically begin by mid-afternoon, cooling things down and bringing in the evening fog. The diurnal temperature range can be forty to fifty degrees (F).
  • The Grapes: The almost-daily winds tend to help reduce yield in the vines, creating late-ripening, small-berried fruit with intense flavors and good acidity.
Map via: http://petalumagap.com

Map via: http://petalumagap.com

An announcement regarding the establishment of the Petaluma Gap AVA was published in the Federal Register on December, 7, 2017; this final rule will be effective on January 8, 2018. The area within the new AVA totals 202,476 acres. There are currently over 80 winegrowers, 4,000 acres of vines, and 9 wineries located within the boundaries of the new region. The area is planted mainly to Pinot Noir along with Chardonnay and Syrah. Click here for a list of wineries located within the region, as well as those that produce wine using Petaluma Gap fruit.

We look forward to tasting these wines—and welcome to the world, Petaluma Gap AVA!

Note: Before today, the last AVA to be approved in the United States was the Appalachian High Country AVA (encompassing parts of North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee) in October of 2016. With the change in the Executive Branch that occurred earlier this year, several key posts at the Department of the Treasury were left vacant, including several whose signatures are required for new AVA rulings. However, in recent weeks these positions have been filled (including Brent James McIntosh, General Counsel and David Kautte, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy). It seems that the business of approving AVAs is back on!

References/for more information: