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. 

The “New” New Zealand

Queenstown, Otago

Queenstown, Otago

If you’ve been following the wine news (or even some of our posts here at Wine, Wit, and Wisdom), you know that New Zealand is in the process of formalizing its geographical indications for wine and spirits. It is a long and interesting tale, but here is the gist:

New Zealand’s Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Act of 2006 created a registration system for wine and spirit geographical indications and allowed for the scheme of regions and subregions currently in use; however, the act was never brought into force. Fast forward ten years to November of 2016, and a revised law, the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Amendment Act,was passed. As a result, the 2006 Act entered into force in July of 2017. Soon thereafter, applications for geographical indications began to be filed with the New Zealand Intellectual Property Office.

Mount Maunganui (suburb of Tauranga, Bay of Plenty)

Mount Maunganui (suburb of Tauranga, Bay of Plenty)

Three geographical indications—New Zealand, South Island, and North Island—were immediately approved as “enduring indications.” Several other applications for wine regions (geographical indications) and subregions (known as “local geographical indications”) have been submitted—many of these have been approved, and some are still pending. Geographical indications (excluding enduring indications) will need to be renewed after the first five years, and every ten years thereafter.

One of the newly-approved geographical indications is Marlborough. Here’s an update on the area:

Accounting for over 59,000 acres (24,100 ha), the Marlborough region on the South Island is home to over two-thirds of all of New Zealand’s vines and grape production. The region is heavily planted to Sauvignon Blanc (47,000 acres/19,000 ha) and in many ways has shaped the explosive growth in New Zealand wine overall. Marlborough is also the largest producer of Pinot Noir in the country, with much of the region’s 6,400 acres (2,600 ha) of Pinot Noir is made into sparkling wine. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Viognier are grown here as well.

Blenheim, Marlborough

Blenheim, Marlborough

Cloudy Bay, which gave its name to a now-famous Sauvignon Blanc producer, and Clifford Bay are both situated along the coast of Marlborough.  The Marlborough Region can be considered to have three separate areas (unofficial subregions), from the Wairau Valley in the north, to the Awatere Valley further south, and the Southern Valleys on the inland side.

  • Wairau Valley: The Wairau Valley (known by the Maori as Kei puta te Wairau—the place with the hole in the cloud) is one of New Zealand’s sunniest places. The region is known for stony, alluvial soils and a cool climate that tends to become drier as one heads inland.
  • Awatere Valley: The Awatere Valley is located to the south of the Wairau Valley, stretching inland from the coast into the Kaikoura Ranges. This is one of the coolest, driest, and windiest areas of Marlborough—and many of the vineyards have some elevation.
  • The Southern Valleys: Located inland, the vineyards of the Southern Valleys—consisting of the Omaka, Fairhall, Brancott, Ben Morvan and Waihopai Valleys—wind and wrap around the surrounding hills. The area has a great diversity in terms of mesoclimates and soils, but does tend to heavier, more clay-based soils than the areas closer to the coast.
Auckland

Auckland

Other geographical indications of the “New” New Zealand that have been approved (as of November 15, 2017) include Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Matakana (a subregion of Auckland), Waiheke Island (also a subregion of Auckland), Northland, Wairarapa, and Canterbury. More are sure to come, and we’ll be posting them as they are announced here.

References/for more information:

  • https://www.iponz.govt.nz/about-ip/geographical-indications/register/
  • https://www.nzwine.com/en
  • https://www.nzwine.com/en/our-regions/marlborough/

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator

Guest Blogger: Book Review—The Wines and Foods of Piemonte

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Today we have a guest post and book review brought to us by Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSE. Read on as Harriet reviews a beautiful book about the wine and food of Piedmont, Italy!

Book Review: The Wines and Foods of Piemonte—text and photos Tom Hyland, maps by Alessandro Masnaghetti

If you are planning a trip to Piemonte, this book is a must. If not, once you read Tom Hyland’s book, you will be clamoring to go with this in your backpack. Hyland informs you about grapes not often seen in the US, such as the red Ruché, Freisa, and Pelaverga, and the white Timorasso. His book covers reds, whites, sparkling and dessert wines.

This book covers the well-known wine regions, and will fill in your current knowledge with all types of delicious tidbits. For instance, did you know…

  • Barolo DOCG is produced in eleven neighboring communes—and within the area there are several dozen crus (legally recognized nenzioni geografiche aggiuntive [geographical designations])—each of which may be described as a unique terroir.
  • The Alto Piemonte—with its borderline continental/Mediterranean climate—contains the little-known Boca DOC, which produces an acid-driven Nebbiolo-based red wine that is delicious while still young.
  • The Montalbera Winery in Castagnole Monferrato produces as many as four versions of Ruché a year, which may include a stainless steel-fermented version, an oak-aged version, and a passito version.

Hyland’s writing is very graceful and readable, and a large glossary fills in definitions, that if he stopped to explain, would slow up the flow of his story. Interviews with winemakers and chefs are most informative. Hearing different producers argue for single vineyard wines versus wines from blends of vineyards, or hearing discussions of the use of small barrels versus large barrels, helps to explain the complexity of these wines from Piedmont.

A list of recommended wines, restaurants, local foods, and further suggested reading all combine to make this book invaluable to travelers, wine students, and lovers of Italian wine as well.

Bibliographical details: The Wines and Foods of Piemonte Text and Photos Tom Hyland, Maps by Alessandro Masnaghetti, University of Nebraska Press,  208 pages, paperback. Available on Amazon.com

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@ wineandspiritsprogram.com.

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

 

 

CSW Practice Tests and Quizzes!

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Are you nervous about your upcoming CSW exam?

Has it been a while since you took the CSW exam, and you’d like to know if you “still got it”?

Are you considering studying for the CSW and would like to know how it stacks up against other programs you’ve taken?

Are you a wine student looking for some new study tools?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, we have an announcement for you! We now have a suite of CSW practice quizzes and practice exams available! The complete set includes five practice quizzes (each based on the entirety of the Study Guide and Workbook) of 25 questions each, and three complete 100-question practice exams. The practice exams may be taken in either a “quiz” format (where you get the results to each individual question immediately), or in a timed, one-hour “practice exam” format. The price is $19.00, which includes unlimited use of the exams and quizzes for six months.

For more information, click here (navigate to “course catalog”) 

 

 

Estonian Vodka, now a Protected Geographical Indication

Map of the Baltic States

Map of the Baltic States

Earlier this month, the Baltic country of Estonia was approved for its first protected geographical indication (PGI), as awarded by the European Union. The product of choice is Estonian vodka. Vodka has a documented history of production in the area of Estonia that dates back to the 1400s.

According to regulations, PGI-indicated Estonian Vodka must be produced entirely in Estonia using raw materials grown in Estonia and Estonian water. Estonia now joins Poland, Lithuania, Finland, and Sweden as EU countries that have PGI status for their vodka.  An application for Norwegian vodka is pending.

The Estonian city of Tallinn

The Estonian city of Tallinn

A trip to Estonia might be in order, if only to taste the vodka and experience what the Lonely Planet website considers one of the “best value” destinations for 2018. While you are there, you can visit the old town center of Tallinn—one of Europe’s most complete walled cities, the Kumu Gallery—a 7-storey limestone, glass, and copper art museum, and the Great Guild Hall—built in 410 and housing historical exhibits documenting the history of the Baltics through art, music, literature, language, stamps, and coins.

References/for more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator

 

New York State of Whiskey: Empire Rye

Empire Rye logo via: www.empirerye.com

Empire Rye logo via: www.empirerye.com

It all started at a craft spirits conference in late 2015, during that hour when all of the best work gets done at a conference: the late-night, after-hours drinking session.

It seems that at a particular table, a group of New York State craft distillers had gathered and the conversation turned towards the state’s nascent craft whiskey industry. According to Tom Potter, founder of New York Distilling Company, a group of them “shook hands, and decided to do something” to differentiate and protect those distillers using local products and high-quality craft production methods.

Not long after, the Empire Rye Whiskey Association was born. According to their website, the association intends to be “an homage to New York State’s pre-Prohibition rye whiskey-making heritage and a testament to the ingenuity and industriousness of its contemporary distillers.”

The standards for a whiskey to be labeled as an “Empire Rye” include the following:

  • The mash bill must include a minimum of 75% New York State-grown rye grain (which may be any combination of raw or malted)
  • It must be distilled to no higher than 160 proof
  • It must be aged for a minimum of two years in charred, new oak barrels—and placed into the barrel at no more than 115 proof
  • It must be produced entirely at a single New York State distillery—including mashing, fermentation, distillation, and barrel maturation—and made (excepting maturation time) in a single distilling season (January 1 through June 30 for the spring season, or July 1 through December 31 for the fall season)
  • Products so produced may display the “Empire Rye” logo on the bottle.
  • A product made from the Empire Rye whiskeys of more than one NY distiller may be created and labeled as “Blended Empire Rye”
Photo Credit: Empire Rye/Facebook

Photo Credit: Empire Rye/Facebook

Empire Rye is not a protected geographical indication, nor is it defined by state or federal law—for now, it remains a trademark and certification mark used by members of the Empire Rye Whiskey Association. But who knows what the future may bring? This is some tasty whiskey.

Examples of Empire Rye are widely available up and down the east coast of the USA. I was also able to locate three examples on retail shelves in central Texas (each bottle I found was priced in the $40 to $50 range). For those in other locations, online retailers or a trip to New York might be your best bet.

Members (and whiskeys) of the Empire Rye Whiskey Association (as of October 2017) include:

References/for more information:

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, 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: Southwest Sojourn: Scenes, Shops, Sips and Savors

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Today we have a guest post—the first in a series—by an author we have all gotten to know by the nom de plume of Candi, CSW. Read on while Candi takes us on a southwest sojourn to the Grand Canyon—along with some cheap Chardonnay and some plastic wine glasses. 

Road Trip! My husband and I recently took a vacation to Arizona and New Mexico. Three destinations, one drive day only between stops. We have learned that more than one consecutive drive day is not kind to our aging bodies and minds. So be it. We needed the change-up, rest and respite. Fortunately, we were rewarded with all of these.

First destination: Grand Canyon National Park. We had not been to the Park in over a decade. September is part of the shoulder season, with decent weather and less crowding. No offense intended, but parking lots full of rented RVs and kid mobiles are not for us. Not to mention noise, noise, noise at each popular spot.

Day 1, drove to Tusayan, AZ. This town’s advantage is being immediately south of the South Rim entrance to the park. You pay a premium for basic lodging in Tusayan for the convenience. Location, location, location.

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When we checked in for two nights, the place’s friendly front desk staff provided sample menus for local restaurants. OK, so the prices were out of date. The menu descriptions were, however, accurate. To avoid our no-no’s of noise and crowding, we were looking for takeout. Restaurant chosen supposedly featured typical Mexican and Aztec cuisine. The 10% coupon from our lodging didn’t hurt, either. My frugal soul loves discounts!

Within the hour, I was headed out for a two-block walk to Plaza Bonita. Saturday night. Crowded and noisy. Staff busy, people waiting for tables. Checked in to pickup my order at the first stand I saw. The gentleman behind me posed a question at the stand: do you have Prickly Pear Margaritas? When the answer was in the affirmative, I had two immediate thoughts. First, please let my order come quickly. Second, get me outta here!

Given the work load in the restaurant, I was kept waiting longer than expected. But the staff added complimentary food to our order. End result: for less than $40 we had enough food for two nights, two adults. This became important the next evening. And the food was quite good: chicken mole (billed as Aztec) and carne asada (with quality cuts of steak).

The family geek always comes prepared for small-town travel. Plastic wine glasses, cheap screw cap wine. Unoaked Chardonnay, anyone? Half for tonight, save some for tomorrow!

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Day 2, the Grand Canyon. Shuttle buses, required for the most popular stops, to the left. Private vehicles, including ours, to the right along Desert View Drive. Emphasis on the private. Taking our own time, deciding when and where to stop.

One nice thing about revisiting a national park after years have passed is that so many scenes, sites and views somehow seem new. They may not be new, but we enjoyed them, so it didn’t matter. Our favorite places this time:

  • Desert View Watchtower: one of the most remote options. Tour buses allowed, so some crowding to climb the tower. That was fine; there was a path going below the tower, in the opposite direction. A very steep path. It surprised me that so many people went so very close to the Canyon edge of the path. We are talking, duh, a big drop if you stumble. They don’t call the Canyon grand for nothing. I stayed at the other edge, took my time, and just quietly appreciated.
  • Lipan Point: I did not remember this stop from last time. No tour bus parking available: yes! The Point offered unique views not available at Desert View. Shallow areas, rock formations resembling: fill in your imagination’s blank here. Birds? Temples? Other? Hint: experience this one with your eyes. Don’t put an electronic device between you and the Canyon here. Or maybe at any Canyon location. But, hey, it’s your vacation.
  • Tusayan Ruins and Museum: I know this stop was new to us. Instead of a canyon view, the site is on the other side of Desert View Drive. Very educational, very quiet. A small display of local vegetation and succulents. Signs describing the ruins along a level path.
  • Yavapai Point and Geology Museum: along the popular South Rim walk. Consequently, very crowded and noisy. But the views and education within the Museum were worth the visit, anyway. Museum had big display windows, excellent exhibits. A very civilized place to refill your water bottle. Hydration at 7,000+ feet altitude is very wise. Even more important as, ahem, one ages.
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I just mentioned altitude. We walked at leisure, took our time, enjoyed every scene, and kept up the hydration. But, still, we are talking walking on a windy day at altitude for people who are acclimated to sea level. After about 7 hours, even with breaks, we were tired. Seriously tired. The last half-mile to the car was most challenging. We began to hurt as well as become exhausted. Feeling every year of our age and every step taken.

The car. Upholstered seats. Cold water. A bit of a snack. Rest of sightseeing by car, briefly. Period.

Back to our trusty room. My husband used online tools to estimate that our altitude walk for the day was 3.5 – 4+ miles. Considering conditions, not bad for an honest day’s exertion.

All we wanted to do that evening was rest and put up our feet. Leftovers in the room? Fabulous. The rest of the cheap Chardonnay? Even better.

I’m sure by now you want to know: did we ever have Prickly Pear Margaritas during the trip? No: I have very rarely had a Margarita, and had visions of sweet pear syrup serving as an accelerant of the liquor to my brain. To this day, I believe I am correct.

Did we taste vino at other stops? You have to ask? That is, I believe a “preview of coming attractions”. Stay tuned for other Destinations.

In the meantime,

Cheap Chardonnay Cheers!

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

Rebirth in Austria: The Schilcherland DAC!

Map via: http://www.austrianwine.com/news-media

Map via: http://www.austrianwine.com/news-media

The Austrian wine region formerly known as Weststeiermark has been re-born as the Schilcherland DAC. This brings the total number of Districtus Austriae Controllatus regions (DACs) in Austria to ten. This change was announced via the website of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board today (October 16, 2017), and the changes will be reflected in the wines of the current vintage (2017) and moving forward.

The new DAC is approved for one type of wine only—rosé produced from 100% Blauer Wildbacher grapes. The grapes must be harvested by hand and the wine must be packaged in a glass bottle. There are two quality levels: Schilcherland “Klassik” DAC and Schilcherland DAC—which must specify a single vineyard (Ried) designation on the front label. Other requirements are noted below.

For Schilcherland Klassik DAC:

  • The wine must be vinified dry (max. 3.0 g/l residual sugar)
  • The wine should show no oak influence
  • Alcohol content must range from a minimum of 11% to a maximum of 12% abv
  • The flavor must be refreshing and fruit-forward, and should show aromas of strawberry, red currant and raspberry

Schilcherland DAC:

  • The wine must be labeled with a specific vineyard (Ried) designation
  • Minimum alcohol content of 12% abv
  • The wine must be vinified dry (max. 4.0 g/l residual sugar)
  • The wine should also be refreshing and fruit-forward and with no oak influence; but it is expected to have a deal more flavor intensity then the Klassik versions.

We’ll post more information as it becomes available, but for now—Welcome to the world, Schilcherland DAC!

References/for more information:

Guest Blogger: The Empordà Wine Region (Part Two— The Contemporary History)

Today we have a guest post from Laura Masramon. Ms. Masramon is a personal sommelier and a member of the DO Empordà Wine Route. This is the second part of our two-part series on the wines of the Empordà DO, located on the Mediterranean Coast in Spain’s Costa Brava (Catlonia).  Click here to read the first part of the series: The Ancient History of the Empordà Wine Region.   

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

After the phylloxera crisis, it took several generations—until the 1930s—for wine-growing in Empordà to begin once again. In the early days, the farmers were hard-pressed for money and had to join forces. This was the origin of the local wine and olive oil cooperatives, some of which are still in operation today and open to public, such as the Celler Cooperatiu d’Espolla (1931), Empordàlia (1947) and Cooperativa Agrícola de Garriguella (1963).

The tourists arrive: With the arrival of the tourist boom in the 1960s, many farmers decided to move to the coast and go into tourism. They left the countryside to create a first-rate tourist destination, the Costa Brava.

Charming restaurants and hotels were built to attract visitors. Nowadays Empordà gastronomy is famous all over the world. Restaurants like El Bulli, run by chef Ferran Adrià, revolutionised modern cuisine for over two decades. Another reference in the area is El Celler de Can Roca (designated “Best Restaurant in the World” in 2013 and 2015 by the British magazine Restaurant. In fact, the province of Girona boasts the highest number of Michelin stars per capita. The best way to enjoy Empordà wines is with the local gastronomy. 

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Beginning in the 1990s, a group of young wine experts returned to the farms. Their grandfathers had preserved very old vines, some of which were over a hundred years old. The new generations used these vines and their expertise to create unique, authentic wines. At present their wines are on their way to excellence.

These young oenologists seek to revive the regional varieties to the point of mastering them and understanding them in depth. Thus they obtain wines that express the terroir of the Empordà. They are modern wines but at the same time they speak to us of those 2,700 years of history. Some wineries opt for classic fermentations in stainless-steel vats with ageing in 225-litre and 300-litre oak casks and finish by leaving the wine to rest in bottles with natural corks. Other wineries experiment with methods of fermentation and ageing in amphoras, biodynamic crops and natural wines. 

Tramuntana wines: The DO Empordà is a small area with 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres) of vineyards and some 50 wineries. This part of the country is strongly influenced by a dry wind that comes from the north of Europe, the tramuntana, which batters the vines violently with gusts of up to 120 km (75 miles) per hour. The sea breeze however counteracts its effects and hydrates the grapes, allowing a slower ripening of the fruit and a more balanced vine.

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

The Empordà DO has a mosaic of different terrains stretching in small vineyards between the Mediterranean Sea and the foothills of the Pyrenees. The soils are predominantly granite and slate, sand and silt. Some vineyards cling to terraces of schists and slate. Others grow on clay, pebbles and gravel. There are vineyards facing north, south, east and west. There are vineyards by the sea, on the Empordà plain or lining the hillsides. In addition to this infinite number of terrains there are a large variety of grapes. The most dominant are Garnacha Blanca, Garnacha Gris, Garnacha Tinta, and Carignan (Mazuelo/Cariñena) , as well as the recently discovered but clearly very old White Carignan (Cariñena Blanca) variety.

The predominant red wines have a bright colour with aromas of ripe fruit; in the mouth they are full-bodied, with round, rich tannins thanks to being aged in barrels. The whites can be light, fresh and perfumed when made with Macabeo or Muscat of Alexandria. They can also be unctuous and warm when made with Garnacha Blanca and Garnacha Gris and fermented in barrels.

Garnatxa de l’Empordà: One of the jewels of Mediterranean culture which has so far been preserved is the traditional Garnatxa de l’Empordà,  a natural sweet wine aged by the solera system (that is, in barrels that are never completely emptied, in which successive grape vintages are blended). These wines are exposed to years of oxidative ageing, yet still retain the acidity and sweetness of the grape. They are exquisite wines, with highly concentrated aromas of candied fruits like vine peaches and dried apricots, nuts like almonds and walnuts, roasted aromas like coffee and reductive aromas like honey. In the area there are wine cellars with very old ageing barrels, with the oldest ones dating back to 1860.

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

The Empordà DO regulatory council was officially recognized in 1975.  Come visit!

Laura Masramon is Personal Sommelier and member of the DO Empordà Wine Route.  She is also co-director of the wine branding seminars Marca Vi and Vivid Enoconference. More information may be found on her website, Lauramasramon.com.

References/for more information:

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

Guest Blogger: The Empordà Wine Region (Part One—The Ancient History)

Cap de Creus

Cap de Creus

Today we have a guest post from Laura Masramon. Ms. Masramon is a personal sommelier and a member of the DO Empordà Wine Route. In this first part of a two-part series, she tells us about the ancient beginnings of the Empordà DO, located on the Mediterranean Coast in Spain’s Costa Brava (Catalonia).

In the far north-eastern tip of Spain—bordering the south of France—there is a natural area formed by the end of the Pyrenees as they disappear into the Mediterranean Sea. At this point of the northern Costa Brava, known as Cap de Creus, the mountains create idyllic little creeks with crystalline, turquoise waters. Between the sea and the mountains lies the Empordà plain. Three natural parks cover much of the area.

Wine has been made in this part of the Mediterranean coast since winemaking first began. However, up until just a few decades ago, most of the wine was sold for local consumption, and Empordà wines were not known outside the region. Nowadays, all that has changed.

The Empordà is an emerging region for both its wines and its wine tourism. Every year there is a rise in the number of new vines planted and old vines recovered, in the number of new wineries and the number of tourists visiting the area that want to taste the new wines.

The Dalí Theater in Figueres, Spain

The Dalí Theater in Figueres, Spain

However, wine is not the Empordà’s only attraction. It is a dream land, a refuge for Catalans seeking inspiration. It is the land of artists like Salvador Dalí, a source of creativity and a place for resting and communing with nature. Despite attracting a large number of tourists, particularly in summer, this region has managed to preserve the beauty of its countryside in the face of urban development. It has small villages that live on tourism, farming and culture.

Greco-Roman wine culture: The origin of the word Empordà comes from the Greek village of Empúries. The archaeological remains of this village have revealed grape seeds from 2,700 years ago as well as commercial letters written on sheets of lead with orders for wine. Wine amphoras have even been found off-shore, onboard sunken ships with the cork stoppers and the wine inside them still intact.

The Romans also inhabited these lands and extended the Empordà wine trade throughout Europe, just as the emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus (232-282 AD) ordered when he said: “may the citizens plant vines and become rich”. Vine growing has always been synonymous with prosperity, culture and wealth.

Even today, a tour of Costa Brava may include a visit to the Greek and Roman ruins of Empúries, an archaeological site from over 2,000 years ago, with remains of trade and vine growing. 

Sant Pere de Rodes-Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Sant Pere de Rodes-Photo via: Ruta del Vi Empordà

Monasteries, vine terraces and stone wine cellars:  The Greeks and Romans left an indelible mark but their age came to an end. In the Middle Ages, local monks grew vines on the slopes of Cap de Creus, in the surroundings of the magnificent Benedictine monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes (9th-19th centuries). The cultivation of vines on these arid, stony, steep terrains was hard work but the money that they made from selling wine enabled them to be self-sufficient.

The old 17th-century wine cellar at the monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes can still be visited today.

The great wine-growing crisis gave the cork industry a boost: Just before the famous phylloxera plague crossed the Pyrenees and began devastating all the vines, Empordà wine experienced its golden age. The wine was exported to Europe and the former Spanish colonies in America. The arrival of phylloxera, in 1879, brought about the most terrible modern crisis and the villages became impoverished. In place of vines, olive trees and cork oaks were planted. Costa Brava is currently one of the most important regions in the world for the production of corks. One of the most original wine tourism offers is to see cork being collected. This activity only takes place in June and July and is available at certain wineries. 

It took several generations for vines and wine production to return to the region, as we will soon see in part two of this series: The Contemporary History of Empordà Wine. Stay tuned!

About the author: Laura Masramon is Personal Sommelier and member of the DO Empordà Wine Route.  She is also co-director of the wine branding seminars Marca Vi and Vivid Enoconference. For more information on Laura, see her website. 

References/for more information:

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

Giddy Goats and Penny Universities

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Giddy Goats and Penny Universities, or a Brief History of Coffee

We may never know for sure when or where coffee was first discovered, but a colorful legend from the ancient coffee forests of the Ethiopian plateau is the tale most often told.

As the story goes, a goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats became excited after eating berries from a certain bush. The goats were so giddy they stayed up all night, showing very little interest in rest or sleep. Kaldi relayed this observation to the Abbot of the local monastery. The Abbot prepared a drink with the berries, and he found he was able to stay alert and focused throughout his long hours of evening prayer…in other words, he approved!

Soon, the knowledge of the energizing berries spread throughout the monastery. Eventually, the news moved east and the consumption and appreciation of coffee reached the Arabian Peninsula. From there, it would begin its journey across the world.

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Coffee cultivation and trade began on the Arabian Peninsula. By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia. Soon thereafter,the Yemeni town of Mocca became particularly well-known for its distinct and aromatic roasted coffee beverages. By the next century,coffee was popular in Persia, Egypt,Syria,and Turkey. Coffee was prepared and enjoyed in homes, and was beginning to be offered in public coffee houses—known as qahveh khaneh—appearing in the Middle and Near East.

Coffee houses quickly became popular for all kinds of social activity and for keeping up with the latest news and local information—so much so that coffee houses soon became known as schools of the wise.”

With thousands of people from all over the world making annual pilgrimages to the holy city of Mecca (located in present-day Saudi Arabia),it was not long before knowledge of the wine of Araby began to spread. Soon,Europeans had heard of this mysterious black beverage, and in 1615, Venetian merchants brought coffee to Italy from Istanbul. It didn’t take long for coffee to become popular across the European continent.

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As they had in the East, coffee houses began to spring up in London and were soon emulated across England, Austria, France, Germany, and Holland.These coffee houses were soon hubs of social activity and communication. They were often called “penny universities,” because for one penny (the price of a cup of coffee) one could learn the news of the day.

By the mid-1600’s, coffee came to the New World by way of New Amsterdam (later known as New York).As in previous locations, coffee houses began to appear in the New World. However, the population—dominated by English colonists—still preferred tea.This all changed on December 16, 1773, when the colonists staged a revolt against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George III. This event, known as the Boston Tea Party, forever changed the American preference from tea to coffee.

In the meantime, coffee plantations were spreading throughout the world. By the 1700s, the first European coffee plantation was established on the Dutch island of Java. Not long after, the Dutch introduced coffee to their South American colony of Surinam, and from there it spread to French Guyana,Colombia, and ultimately to Brazil—currently the largest producer of coffee.

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In 1720, a French naval officer acquired a single coffee plant in Paris and brought it—at great peril—back to his post in Martinique. Once planted, this single coffee plant thrived and is today credited with the propagation of over eighteen million coffee plants on the island of Martinique and throughout the Caribbean.

Travelers, traders, and colonists continued to spread the culture, consumption, and cultivation of coffee worldwide. Coffee was soon grown on large plantations and small plots, in tropical forests,and high in the mountains. By the end of the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world’s most valuable commodities.

The history of coffee, as well as the cultivation, processing, brewing and service of coffee is just a small part of the information included in the Society of Wine Educators’ newest project, the Beverage Specialist Certificate. Other topics included in this 100% online program include tea, sake, cider, beer, distilled spirits, and—of course—wine. Click here for more information.