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 Post: A Trip to the Jura

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Today we have the first of a two-part series from guest blogger Paul Poux. Paul tells us about his recent visit the Jura to reunite with family and drink some local wines. But will he ever make it to a winery?

“We arrived at our cousins’ home in the Jura during a sparkling afternoon in July. There was a heat wave in the rest of France but in these low mountains near the Swiss border, it was cooler. I could hear rushing water from a nearby creek; other than that, there was a lovely stillness. The large old house from 1830 sat in the center of a village of 200 people, on the old road between Geneva and Dijon. Across the street was the village church with its small cemetery, containing many headstones with the name POUX. I had returned home.

Our cousins celebrated our arrival with an aperitif—foamy Crémant du Jura, a Classic Method sparkling wine that is one of eight Crémant designations in France. It is usually 100% Chardonnay, which should not surprise in a region that sits just east of Burgundy. Its yeasty apple flavors rinsed away the long car and train journeys that had brought us here.

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At dinner that night we ate fondue made with Comté, the famous local cheese. The correct fondue recipe according to my cousins (and to French people there is always a “correct” way) also contains white wine from the Jura, and the cherry brandy Kirsch. Our cousins warned us not to drink water while eating fondue or we’d get sick—something about a ball of cheese in the stomach not settling right. We were advised to stick to wine, and sips of Kirsch. Non-drinkers were prescribed hot tea.

We would eat a lot of cheese that week, including at breakfast, when large pieces of Comté and Morbier were featured along with the traditional bread, butter, jams, and yogurts.

A highlight of my vacation was to be a day trip to Jura wineries later in the week. My cousin Jean-Marie sat down to talk to me about it. Jean-Marie just turned 70 but is still in the business of “running companies.” As you might expect, he is direct and businesslike. I told him I was open to almost anything, but there was one winemaker I definitely wanted to visit: cult producer Jean-Francois Ganevat. My cousin’s reaction was immediate.

“We can’t go there. It’s not correct.”

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Jean-Marie made up for his brusque demeanor with his hosting, and the next day he took us on a long hike into the mountains. The Jura has an extensive network of well-marked hiking trails showcasing gorgeous scenery, and this walk took us up through forest and across fields that sparkled with wildflowers. I noticed a particularly large yellow flower and Jean-Marie told me that it is called gentiane (“jahn-si-AHNN”), growing only above a certain altitude. Residents dig up the roots and distill them into a bitter spirit.

We also saw the cliffs where France ends and Switzerland begins. A trail up the cliffs was an escape route during World War II, used by Jews and many others when the Nazis occupied the Jura, including my cousin’s house.  

That evening Jean-Marie held an aperitif (the French shorten it to “Apero”) on his terrace. I was surprised to see an elaborate Absinthe dispenser. A steady drip-drip of the green spirit on sugar cubes into glasses punctuated the small talk as we learned that Absinthe was created nearby in Switzerland and is still made there and in the Jura, and that all the hysteria surrounding its ingredients and supposed effects is overblown. Jean-Marie added water to each glass, turning the drink cloudy. It tasted of anise, and herbs. 

Photo of Arbois Wine by Agne 27, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Arbois Wine by Agne 27, via Wikimedia Commons

The next morning Jean-Marie came to see me about our trip to the wineries. He had a map of the Jura wine region and all its producers. I opened the map and looked longingly at the winery I was ‘forbidden’ from visiting. It was some distance away from the areas that Jean-Marie felt were most important. I told him I understood and that I was glad to leave all visits up to him. He smiled. This seemed to be the ‘correct’ answer. 

That night we ate dinner at a nearby restaurant. The entire group, 20 of us French and American, sat around an immense table. Jean-Marie came to me with the wine list, and it was nice of him to consult with me before ordering the wine he wanted to. He recommended a rosé from the town of Arbois to pair with the various appetizers. Arbois is the spiritual capital of Jura wine country. This rosé was a blend of Pinot Noir and Poulsard – a thin-skinned red grape with very little color, perfect for rosés. Dad and Jean-Marie made toasts, and we chatted excitedly with our cousins. The main course, local trout, arrived, and I told Jean-Marie I wanted to change the wine. He objected: “The rosé is perfect, let’s continue!” But I was in the area only for a week and had to sample as many wines as I could. My choice: a local Chardonnay called “Arrogance.”

Stay tuned later this week for Part deux of Paul’s trip to the Jura!

Paul -headshotOur guest blogger, Paul Poux, CSW, finds joy in combining food, wine and travel. Paul provides wine education ‘experiences’  to Millennials for wine brands and regions; and does marketing and sponsor management for food and wine festivals around the country. Paul’s favorite wines are Amarone and Muscadet. Tell him yours at paul@pouxcompany.com

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Announcing our Next Certification Summit: Spain-the Small, the Obscure, and the Far-Flung!

 Our next certification summit, entitled Spain-the Small, the Obscure, and the Far-Flung, will be held on March 4th, 2017. This online event will begin at 10:00 am central time and should end by 1:00 (we will take breaks)!

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This session is ideal for students of both wine  and spirits, and will cover the following topics:

  • Txakolina
  • Condado de Huelva
  • Gin de Mahón
  • Vino Doble Pasta
  • Brandy de Jerez
  • Montilla-Moriles
  • Bierzo
  • Lanzarote
  • Pago de Irache

Reservations are now being accepted and are limited to 100 people – first come, first served. SWE membership is required. For a reservation, or for further information, please contact Jane Nickles at: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

After registration, you’ll receive a link and a password to the summit homepage. From there, you’ll be able to download the session handouts and access the link to the online classroom.

SWE’s Certification Summits are special “long-version” webinars directed at SWE members who are studying for one of the certifications offered by SWE, although all members of SWE are welcome to attend any summit.

The purpose of SWE Summits are to take topics from the Study Guides and/or the recommended readings lists, and bring them front and center –  if only for a day! Certification summits will focus on the smaller regions, or lesser-known topics in the wine and spirits world – in other words, we are more likely to feature the wines of Campania than the wines of Chianti. These live, interactive events are intended to feel like “mini-conferences” and are scheduled to be 2-to-3 hour-long webinars with multiple presenters; they are typically offered on Saturday mornings and are offered free-of-charge to members of SWE. Please note – unlike our other webinar offerings – Certification Summits do require a reservation and an SWE membership. Space is limited!

 

Corsica: Isle of Beauty

Ajaccio Cathedral

Ajaccio Cathedral

The French island of Corsica is located in the Mediterranean Sea about 110 miles (170 km) from the coastline of southeast Provence. Corsica is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, after Sicily, Sardinia, and Cyprus. The island was originally named Kalliste by the ancient Greeks, which translates to “the most beautiful of all.”

Ajaccio, located on the west coast, is the largest city on the island as well as the capital city of Corsica. The city is home to two marinas, a wealth of beaches for swimming and scuba diving, a casino, and the Ajaccio Cathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption of Ajaccio). A wealth of restaurants, bars, cinemas, and other such nightlife may be found along the “main drag,” the Route des Sanguinaires. Napoléon Bonaparte, perhaps the most famous Corsican of all time, was born to a wine-making family in Ajaccio in 1769. His ancestral home, the Maison Bonaparte, is now a museum.

Topographic map of Corsica by Eric Gaba via Wikimedia Commons

Topographic map of Corsica by Eric Gaba via Wikimedia Commons

Corsica is often described as resembling a “miniature continent” complete with white sand beaches, seaside resorts, rugged mountain peaks, dense forests, and red granite cliffs.  The island experiences three separate climate zones, delineated primarily by altitude. The coastal region (defined as below 2,000 feet/600 m) features a Mediterranean climate and a good deal of the island’s vineyards. The area between 2,000 to 5,900 feet (600 to 1,800 m) is considered a temperate mountain zone and also contains large plantings of vines, as well as most of the island’s forests. Forming a “ridge” down the center of the island, the area above 5,900 feet (1,800 m) is considered an alpine area and is sparse in vegetation and uninhabited–aside from mountain climbers and shepherds.

Corsica has been part of France since 1769. However, geographically speaking, it is closer to Tuscany than France. This Italian influence is evident in the wines of Corsica, which are just as likely to be produced from Vermentino (here known as Rolle) and Sangiovese (locally referred to as Nielluccio) as they are from grapes more typical to southern France, such as Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Muscat.

Corsica has a long history of wine production and, like many other similar regions, has been experiencing a renewed focus on quality. At present, approximately 25% of the island’s production is AOC-level wine, with another 50% bottled under the elegantly titled departmental Il de Beauté (Isle of Beauty) IGP.

The town of Ajaccio

The town of Ajaccio

The main AOC of Corsica is the Vin de Corse AOC, which allows for white, red, and rosé wines vinified in dry, off-dry, or semi-sweet styles. White Vin de Corse AOC requires a minimum of 75% Rolle (Vermentino), while red and rosé versions are made with at least 50% (combined) Grenache, Sangiovese, and Sciaccarello (an aromatic, historically significant Tuscan variety also known as Mammolo).

Cap Corse—the mountainous peninsula extending from the northern part of the island—is home to some of Corsica’s highest-quality wines, including dry white, red, and rosé wines bottled under the title Coteaux du Cap Corse (a subregion of the Vin de Corse AOC). Muscat du Cap Corse AOC—a vin doux naturel traditionally produced at least partially from sun-dried grapes—is produced using 100% Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains grapes.

Wine Map of Corsica by DalGobboM (Own work [http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html]), via Wikimedia Commons

Wine Map of Corsica by DalGobboM (Own work [http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html]), via Wikimedia Commons

New material covering the wines of Corsica is included in the 2017 Certified Specialist of Wine Study Guide, which is now available and being shipped from SWE’s home office! Other topics new to the 2017 guide include the wines of Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Asia—as well as updated materials on all of the major wine-producing regions of the world.

References/for further information:

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

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

Now on the Wine Travel Bucket List: Slovenia

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Slovenia (officially the Republic of Slovenia) is a small European country with a long history of wine production. Its location on the Mediterranean coast and sharing a border with four established wineproducing countries (Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Croatia to the south and southeast, and Hungary to the northeast), places it at the crossroads of Europe’s wine culture.

Slovenia has been an independent nation since 1991 and a member of the European Union since 2004. PDO wines are categorized as zaščiteno označbo porekla (ZOP). There are currently 14 defined ZOP designations, as well as several variations within the ZOPs, such as those for Traditional Method sparkling wines, botrytis-affected wines, and wines with a certain degree of aging.

Bled Lake, Slovenia

Bled Lake, Slovenia

The 14 ZOPs are contained within the country’s three designated PGI wine regions, known in the Slovenian language as zaščiteno geografsko označbo (ZGO). These three regions are:

  • Podravje: The Podravje ZGO is located in the inland east of the country, surrounding the valleys of the Pesnica, Drava, and Mura Rivers. This is the largest of the three regions, producing roughly half of the country’s wine.
  • Primorska: The Primorska ZGO is located on the coast, across the Adriatic Sea from Venice and sharing a border with Italy’s Friuli region. Several of the wine areas located within Primorska straddle the Italian-Slovenian border, divided only by politics; Slovenia’s Goriška Brda ZOP becomes Italy’s Collio Goriziano DOC across the Italian border, and Slovenia’s Kras ZOP becomes Italy’s Carso DOC.
  • Posavje: The Posavje ZGO is located in the southeast of Slovenia, along the border with Croatia. The name Posavje (Lower Sava) refers to its proximity to the end of the Sava River valley. This is the country’s smallest–and perhaps most old-fashioned–wine-producing region.
Wine map of Slovenia via: http://www.slovenianpremiumwines.com/wine-regions/

Wine map of Slovenia via: http://www.slovenianpremiumwines.com/wine-regions/

Grape varieties grown in Slovenia reflect the influence of Italy, Germany, and Austria, and include French (international) varieties as well. White wines are the leading product here; widely planted white grapes include Riesling, Gewürztraminer (Traminec), Müller-Thurgau (Rizvanec), Pinot Gris (Sivi Pinot), Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. White grapes popular in Friuli such as Tai (Friuliano) and Ribolla Gialla are grown primarily in Primorska, near the Italian border. Leading red grape varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, St. Laurent, Pinot Noir (known as Modri Pinot), and Refosco.

New material covering the wines of Slovenia is included in the 2017 Certified Specialist of Wine Study Guide, which is now available and being shipped from SWE’s home office! Other topics new to the 2017 guide include the wines of Bulgaria, Corsica, and Asia—as well as updated materials on all of the major wine-producing regions of the world.

References/for more information:

 

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

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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 new book about a very old wine region!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Zakynthos, Verdea, and Skiadopoulo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References/for more information:

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

References/for more information:

  • http://www.syndicat-cotesdurhone.com/static/upload/5/img_58413fcd625db.pdf
  • http://www.vitisphere.com/actualite-84055-Trois-nouveaux-Cotes-du-Rhone-Villages-avec-noms-de-communes.htm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo of Flat Creek Estate via: http://www.flatcreekestate.com/flat-creek-photos.html (Peary Photography)

photo of Flat Creek Estate via: http://www.flatcreekestate.com/flat-creek-photos.html (Peary Photography)

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

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

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

photo of Flat Creek estate via: http://www.flatcreekestate.com/ (Peary Photography)

photo of Flat Creek estate via: http://www.flatcreekestate.com/ (Peary Photography)

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

photo of Duchman Winery via: http://duchmanwinery.com/winery-gallery/

photo of Duchman Winery via: http://duchmanwinery.com/winery-gallery/

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

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

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

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

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

photo of Duchman Winery via: http://duchmanwinery.com/winery-gallery/

photo of Duchman Winery via: http://duchmanwinery.com/winery-gallery/

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

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

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

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

photo of Duchman Winery via: http://duchmanwinery.com/winery-gallery/

photo of Duchman Winery via: http://duchmanwinery.com/winery-gallery/

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

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

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