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. 

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:

Belgium and the Netherlands have a PDO Wine: the Maasvallei Limburg PDO

Map via: http://wijngoed-thorn.nl/nl/3/nieuws

Map via: http://wijngoed-thorn.nl/nl/3/nieuws

The Maas River (known in France as the Meuse) runs for over 575 miles (925 km) from its source in France’s Grand Est Region. From there, it flows north through Belgium, then forms a portion of the border between Belgium and the Netherlands before turning slightly to the east and wandering a bit before joining the Hollands Diep and flowing into the North Sea.

A portion of the area where the Maas forms the border between Belgium and the Netherlands (about 60 square miles) is known as the Maasvallei Limburg. Maasvallei Limburg has (believe it or not) recently been designated as a PDO wine region by the European Union. This is noteworthy for several reasons, including the area’s northerly location (between 50° and 51ºN) and the fact that this will be the first PDO wine region that crosses the border and includes area within two separate EU countries.

According to the EU petition, “Grapes for wine were cultivated in the abbeys along the Maas in the early Middle Ages. Historical texts refer to modest wine production within the abbey walls. A number of place names also refer to vineyards—including “Wingerd” (vine)—which indicate a history of wine cultivation in the area. Wine was one of the reasons that the convent of noble Benedictine nuns in Thorn acquired its status as an abbey-principality.”

In modern times, winemaking is fairly new to the area, and still somewhat obscure with just 10 producers on the Belgian side of the area (including Wijnomein Aldeneyck) and only one on the Dutch side (Wijngoed Thorn).

The Sint Servaasbrug Bridge over the River Maas (Maastricht, the Netherlands)

The Sint Servaasbrug Bridge over the River Maas (Maastricht, the Netherlands)

The Maasvallei Limburg PDO is approved for varietally-labeled red and white wines—however, according to the EU documentation, “blending is allowed, but something of an exception.”  Grapes approved for the region include the following:

  • Red Grapes: Acolon (a Blauer Lemberger  X Dornfelder cross), Dornfelder, and Pinot Noir
  • White Grapes: Auxerrois, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Siegerrebe (a Madeleine Angevine X Gewürztraminer cross)

Welcome to the world, Maasvallei Limburg PDO!

References/for more information:

 

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!