Conference Highlights: Oregon, South Africa, and Alto-Adige

We had a wonderful time at the 41st Annual Conference of the Society of Wine Educators, held August 10-12, 2016 at the lovely Red Lion Hotel on the River, located on the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon. Below you will find some pictures, presentations, and handouts provided by our wonderful speakers – the next best thing to being there!

Carrie Kalscheur, CWE

Carrie Kalscheur, CWE

What Makes Oregon So Special—presented by Carrie Kalscheuer, CWE: On Saturday morning, Carrie Kalscheur, CWE led a session on the people, places, and things that make Oregon so special. The session began with a discussion of the various wine growing regions located throughout the state, which can be grouped as follows: border regions, north Willamette Valley, south Willamette Valley, Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley.

This was followed by a discussion of the leading grape varieties of Oregon—Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Syrah. These grapes are well-known in Oregon, but wine students might be surprised to learn that a total of 72 wine grape varieties are grown in Oregon!

The class then moved onto the unique, geological history of Oregon—beginning with the time period when Oregon was still part of the sea, moving through the Missoula floods and a time of active volcanoes. All of these forces contributed to the loess, volcanic, and marine sedimentary soils that dominate the vineyards of Oregon today. For more information, see the session presentation: What Makes Oregon Special-presented by Carrie Kalscheuer

Jim Clarke

Jim Clarke

Chenin Blanc – South Africa’s Flagship Grape?—presented by Jim Clarke: Jim Clarke, Marketing Manager for Wines of South Africa (WOSA) began this fascinating session with a discussion of the role of Chenin Blanc in the wines of South Africa. Chenin Blanc is both a historical grape variety and a leading grape in South Africa’s modern wine industry. South Africa has more plantings of Chenin Blanc than any other country in the world, and it accounts for over 18% of present vineyard plantings in SA.

Next, the class moved to a discussion of the “Wine of Origin” scheme for geographical indications in South Africa, which are designated as regions, districts, wards, estates, and single vineyards. This was followed by the tastings. Selections included Chenin Blanc-based blends such as Mullineux White Blend 2015 (74% Chenin Blanc) and Momento Chenin Blanc-Verdelho 2015. This was followed by a discussion of the Chenin Blanc Association’s six recognized styles of Chenin Blanc: fresh & fruity, rich & ripe (unwooded), rich & ripe (wooded), rich & ripe (slightly sweet), sweet, and sparkling. The session concluded with a tasting of more South African Chenin, including L’Avenir Single block Chenin Blanc 2015, and Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2016. For more information, see Jim’s presentation: Chenin Blanc – South Africa’s Flagship Grape—presented by Jim Clarke

May Matta-Aliah

May Matta-Aliah

The Wines of Alto Adige—a Trifecta of Pure Pinot Perfection—presented by May Matta-Aliah, DWS, CWE: May’s session began with an overview of the Alto Adige/ Südtirol (South Tyrol) region. Many attendees were surprised to learn that the region was once a part of Austria, then it was annexed by Italy, and that in 1939 the inhabitants were given the choice to either become part of Italy or Germany!

Despite the tumultuous history, wine has been produced in the region for thousands of years—by some estimates since 500 BCE. These days, the area boasts over 13,000 acres of vineyards and 5,000 wine growers. The area enjoys 300 sunny days a year, a mix of soils, a large diurnal temperature variance and vineyards planted as high as 3,300 feet above sea level.

The tasting included three wines based on Pinot Bianco, three wines based on Pinot Grigio, and three wines based on Pinot Nero—a true trifecta! For more information, see May’s presentation: Alto Adige-Trifecta of Pure Pinot Perfection-presesnted by May Matta-Aliah

We will be posting many more conference recaps in the days to come, and will create a permanent record of them here.


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