The Georgia of Wine and Walnuts

Traditional carved wooden balconies in the Old Town of Tbilisi, Georgia

Traditional carved wooden balconies in the Old Town of Tbilisi, Georgia

Today we have a guest post from renowned Wine and Spirits Educator Harriet Lembeck. Read on to hear about Harriet’s recent wine trip to the Republic of Georgia! 

If you really care about wine, you should think seriously about making the journey to the country of Georgia. You will experience true hospitality, tradition, wine-making, and still be close enough to the Black Sea’s famed resorts when you are ready to relax. And if you like to ski, there are the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains right there as well.

FYI, I have just returned from a visit, and saw no sign of any of the unrest that’s been in the news lately. There is instead a sense of calm and welcoming.

To the Georgians, a guest is a gift from God. And the best way to greet a guest is to serve one’s own wine, made from one’s own grapes. No patch of land goes vacant, and grapes grow on what elsewhere might be a lawn. Further, every home winemaker has a still, and he will also pour you his clear pomace brandy, or Chacha.

If you go to a Georgian banquet, dishes will be continually placed on the table, and nothing will be cleared until the end — in case the guest might want a little more of anything! Walnuts are the preferred stuffing for confections, fruits, vegetables and even boned fish. Meals are leavened with toasts. The toastmaster shows gratitude for the Creator, for food, for friendships, for all the women, for beauty, for love, for people who have passed away, and for the children looking to the future.

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Historical Significance

Georgia is referred to as the “Cradle of Wine,” as wine has been made there continuously for the last 8,000 years (The Georgians say “8,000 Vintages”). There was very early winemaking in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Crimea, Armenia and Moldava, but all evidence points to at least 6,000 BCE, if not before, for the first propagation of wine grapes — in Georgia — in the Fertile Crescent.

Records show 525 grape varieties, including clones, of which 440 are still in use. Do not despair — even if you go there and taste a lot of wines, you are not likely to come across more than twenty, if that many. The white Rkatsiteli and the red Saperavi are the most prevalent, but you may see some international varieties as well.

Historically, this tradition was interrupted for about seventy years, when Russia took over between 1921 and 1991. The Russians knew that banning the production of wine was hopeless in Georgia. “Georgia is synonymous with wine,” it is said. But with wine permitted, the Russians were more interested in high volume than in quality, and after three generations, much of the fine wine tradition was lost. Many of today’s winemakers are now working to restore it.

The city center of Tbilisi

The city center of Tbilisi

There are 10 main wine regions in Georgia, which contain 18 smaller Protected Denominations of Origin (PDOs). The majority of wineries and growers are in the Kakheti Valley, very close to Tbilisi. Going from east to west, you will pass through Imereti and other central and western wine regions. Summers are hot, but spring or fall are perfect times to visit.

Your first stop should be Tbilisi, and once there, you should go to the Vino Underground Wine Bar, which has the largest selection of organic and/or “bio” Georgian wines. Also go to the Azarpesha Wine Restaurant, named for a long-handled drinking bowl, for a traditional meal. You may meet partner and ex-pat American John Wurdeman in either place. He is an articulate moving force in reclaiming Georgian traditions in wine, food, polyphonic music and dance, and is also the founder of Pheasant’s Tears Winery. 

All About Qvervis

Wine has been traditionally fermented and aged in qvevris (kvevris), or large clay pots that are bur ied in the earth. They are shaped something like Roman amphorae, but the amphorae re- main above ground. When people buy older houses, it is not unusual to lift up the floor- boards and find buried qvevris below. Many winemakers are using qvevris now, though some do use stainless steel or oak barrels, and some use both. To learn about qvevris, you should not miss a visit to Twins Old Cellar in Napareuli Village in the Telavi district. I dubbed it “Qvevri School.” The twin brothers have set up an oversized qvevri display to honor their parents.

Previously, the Soviets had taken over their winery, and their father died in prison. The property was eventually returned.  They have made an outdoor room-sized qvevri, reached by a ladder. Once inside, you feel as if you are standing in an enormous qvevri. The clay walls are marked showing levels of internal activity as a wine ages and solids reach the

Georgian Qvervi - Photo by By Levan Totosashvili, via Wikimedia Commons

Georgian Qvervi – Photo by By Levan Totosashvili, via Wikimedia Commons

bottom of this curve-sided vessel. The twins have 107 qvevris in use, restoring a tradition that was almost lost. [Note: Besides creating a wine museum, they also have a dozen guest rooms, should you decide to visit and stay over.] With renewed interest in ovoid, clay fermenters, some qvevris are being produced in the United States. A Texan, Billy Ray Mangham of Sleeping Dog Pottery and his team, have a “Qvevri Project.” Andrew Beckham, a potter and winemaker in Oregon has his own “Amphorae Project.” Also, a potter on the outskirts of Austria is now making qvevris. Further, there is increased experimentation with ‘the concrete egg’ – concrete egg-shaped tanks made in Burgundy. The Emiliana Vineyards, from Chile, has made a very big investment in them for their winery in Casablanca.

Among other sites, concrete eggs are used in the Glenora Winery, the first Farm Winery in the Finger Lakes, NY. In 2013, UNESCO recognized qvevris and qvevri-winemaking, and placed them on the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” Qvevris last for a very long time. They are not discarded when they are no longer useful, but are respectfully leaned against garden walls.

Inspired to visit? Click here to download some  Tips for a Successful Wine Trip to the Republic of Georgia from Harriet Lembeck

HarrietHARRIET LEMBECK, CWE, CSS, is a prominent wine and spirits educator. She is president of the renowned 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 may be contacted at hlembeck@mindspring.com.

This article was originally published in the article was originally published in
Beverage Dynamics Magazine - reprinted with permission!

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

Friday SWEbinar: Cold as Ice!

Vineyards at the Gray Monk Estate Winery in the Okanagan Valley

Vineyards at the Gray Monk Estate Winery in the Okanagan Valley

This Friday – March 27th, 2015 at 12 Noon central time – we will be offering a new SWEbinar: Cold as Ice  - Myths and Realities of Canadian Wine. This session will be presented by Jordan Cowe, CWE. Jordan is a a newly-minted CWE based in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Session Synopsis: Think of a description of Canadian wine regions in your mind. Were dry deserts, big red wines, or Napa Valley heat levels even a consideration? No? Well – they should be – and it’s time to find out why! Take a journey across this not-so-frozen country and learn about the unique micro-climates that dot this extreme landscape from cool, sparkling-focused Nova Scotia to the humid, heat-drenched summers of Southern Ontario and on to the desert-like conditions in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley!

We’ll take a look at the geography, viticultural practices and winemaking techniques used to make wines in this country of extremes. Learn about current issues facing this developing wine culture as it tries to grow and enter a world market that knows it only for Icewine.

JordanOur guest presenter, Jordan Cowe, CWE is a sommelier and wine educator in Canada’s largest wine region. Based in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Jordan teaches courses for sommeliers, wine professionals and consumers alike with the goal of instilling a more relaxed approach to wine. With a strong passion and connection to the Canadian wine industry Jordan would be happy to help address any specific topics of interests; he can be contacted at jdcowe@wineeh.ca  with any questions or suggestions.

SWE’s SWEbinar series is unique in that it is offered free-of-charge, and open to the public! We also try to accomodate all schedules by offering sessions on weekdays and weekends, as well as daytime and evening hours. If you have a topic you would like to see addressed, or a time-of-day that would work for you, please let our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles, know via email at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Login Instructions: At the appointed time, just click here. There is no need to register in advance. Link will go “live” a few hours before the scheduled date.

Spring SWEbinarWhen the SWE Adobe Connect homepage appears, click on “enter as a guest,” type in your name, and click “enter room.” Remember that each session is limited to 100 attendees, and that several of our past sessions have reached capacity. We are hoping to avoid this issue in the future by offering more SWEbinars, but its still a good idea to log on early!

  • If you have never attended an Adobe Connect event before, it is also a good idea to test your connection ahead of time (just click on the link).
  • If you are having any trouble with your Adobe Connect connection, please see our SWEbinar Trouble-shooting page.

 Link: Friday, March 27th at 12 noon central time-Cold as Ice – Myths and Realities of Canadian Wine - 12 Noon central time (Link will go “live” a few hours before the scheduled date/time.) 

If you have any questions, please contact Jane Nickles: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Click here for the 2015 SWEbinar Calendar

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

Flash Détente: Making Red Wine Redder

Brenda flash 2Today we have a guest post from Brenda Audino, CWE. Brenda tells us about her brush with Flash Détente – very interesting!

I recently tasted a modest (read inexpensive) wine that had a bright purple hue and Jolly Rancher fruit aromas.  I enquired whether the wine had undergone Carbonic Maceration as it seemed to fit that profile.  It was explained to me that although the results are similar, this particular wine was produced using Flash Détente technology.  Being ever curious, I wondered what is Flash Détente; when, why and how is it used in the wine production.

To explain Flash Détente, we need to understand that one of the principal goals in producing red wine is the extraction of color and flavor from the skins.  This extraction is usually achieved by a combination of maceration and fermentation. Here is a review of three popular means for extraction including the new (to me) Flash Détente.

Classic maceration is achieved at low temperatures of 24-32°C (75-90°F) requiring extended contact between the juice and grape skins.  The fermentation process, while producing alcohol, also extracts the polyphenols from the skins.  One of the byproducts of fermentation is the release of CO2 which raises the skins to the surface forming a floating cap.  This floating cap is subject to acetic bacteria as well as other contaminates and, if left exposed to the air, can turn the entire batch into vinegar.  A floating cap also does nothing to extract further color and flavors into the juice.  It is therefore necessary to mix the skins back into the juice by one of many processes (punch down, pump over, rack and return, etc.)

Thermo-vinification uses heat to extract color and flavors from the skins.  The crushed grapes are heated to 60-75°C (140-167°F) for 20 to 30 minutes.  The must is then cooled down to fermentation temperature.  This process gives intensely colored must because the heat weakens the cell walls of the grape skins enabling the anthocyanins to be easily extracted.  This process can result in the wine having a rather “cooked” flavor.

Brenda flash 1While I was researching these technologies, I recalled a previous visit to Château de Beaucastel where I learned that make their iconic wine using a modified process of Thermo-vinification.  At Château de Beaucastel, the grapes are de-stemmed and the uncrushed grapes are passed rapidly through a heat exchanger at 90°C (194°F) which only heats the surface of the grapes, not the juice.  The heat is sufficient to weaken the cell wall of the grape skins enabling for easier extraction of anthocyanins, since the juice is kept cool the wine is less likely to have any cooked flavors due to this modified process.

Flash Détente is essentially an evolution of the traditional thermo-vinification method.  The process involves a combination of heating the grapes to about 82°C (180°F) and then sending them into a huge vacuum chamber where they are cooled.  During this cooling process the cells of the grape skins burst from the inside making a distinct popping noise.   Similar to traditional thermo-vinification, this process enables better extraction of anthocyanins and flavor compounds.

The Flash Détente process creates a steam that is diverted to a condenser.  This steam is loaded with aromatic compounds including pyrazines (vegetal, green pepper and asparagus).  Because vapor is removed, the sugar level increases in the remaining must.  The winemaker can choose to work with the higher sugar levels or dilute back down by adding water.  Most winemakers discard the condensation or “Flash Water” as the aromatics are usually highly disagreeable.   The winemaker now has multiple choices.  The flashed grapes can be pressed and fermented similar to white wine, the must can be fermented with the skins in the more traditional red wine production manner, or the flashed grapes can be added to non-flashed must that underwent classic maceration and then co-fermented.

Flash technology differs from traditional thermo-vinification because the traditional method does not involve a vacuum and there is no flash water waste produced.  Winemakers who are familiar with both methods have noted that the tannin extraction with thermo-vinification is less than Flash Détente.  Winemakers also note that Flash technology is better for removing pyrazine aromas.

Brenda flash 3In Europe during the early years of flash technology, it was mainly used for lower quality grapes or difficult vintages that had problems needing fixed.  Now the use of this technology is expanding its application to all quality levels of the wine industry.

According to Linda Bisson, a professor of viticulture and enology at UC Davis and one of the researchers working on the project, enologists are looking at what characteristics are lost or retained per grape variety.  They are also looking at the character and structure of tannins in flashed wines.  Bisson states that turning flashed grapes into a standalone wine is possible, but most winemakers see it as a tool for creating blends.  “It’s something on your spice rack to blend back in.”

The use of Flash Détente can be surmised as “It’s an addition to traditional winemaking, not a replacement.”

What are your thoughts on technology in the wine industry?  Does technology improve the wine or make it more homogenous?  

Photos and post by Brenda Audino, CWE. After a long career as a wine buyer with win Liquors in Austin, Texas, Brenda has recently moved to Napa, California (lucky!) where she runs the Spirited Grape wine consultancy business. Brenda is a long-time member of SWE and has attended many conferences – be sure to say “hi” at this year’s conference in NOLA!

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

Wednesday SWEbinar – The Insider’s Guide to the CSS Exam!

Insiders guide to the CSSThis Wednesday – March 18th, at 7:00 pm central time – we will once again be offering our “Insider’s Guide to the CSS Exam.” This session has become a monthly installment. If you have questions about the CSS Exam, have just started to study, or are a cocktail-enthusiast who is “thinking about” getting certified, you’ll find the answers to all your questions at the “Insider’s Guide”!

SWE’s SWEbinar series is unique in that it is offered free-of-charge, and open to the public! We also try to accomodate all schedules by offering sessions on weekdays and weekends, as well as daytime and evening hours. If you have a topic you would like to see addressed, or a time-of-day that would work for you, please let our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles know via email at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Login Instructions: At the appointed time, just click on the link. There is no need to register in advance. Links will be attached to the date and time announcement of each session in the list below and will go “live” a few hours before the scheduled date.

CSS Study GuideWhen the SWE Adobe Connect homepage appears, click on “enter as a guest,” type in your name, and click “enter room.” Remember that each session is limited to 100 attendees, and that several of our past sessions have reached capacity. We are hoping to avoid this issue in the future by offering more SWEbinars, but its still a good idea to log on early!

  • If you have never attended an Adobe Connect event before, it is also a good idea to test your connection ahead of time (just click on the link).
  • If you are having any trouble with your Adobe Connect connection, please see our SWEbinar Trouble-shooting page.

Link: Wednesday, March 18th – 7:00 pm central time – The Insider’s Guide to the CSS Exam - This is one for the Spirits Crowd! presented by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE  (Link will go “live” a few hours before the scheduled date/time.) 

If you have any questions, please contact Jane Nickles: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Click here for the 2015 SWEbinar Calendar

Are you interested in being a guest blogger or a guest SWEbinar presenter for SWE?  Click

The Port Wine Treaty of 1703

PortoThe Methuen Treaty – soon to be known as the Port Wine Treaty – between England and Portugal, signed in 1703, was a military and commercial agreement that arose from the goings-on of the War of Spanish Succession.

The treaty was named in honor of its lead negotiator, John Methuen, a Member of Parliament and England’s Ambassador to Portugal at the time.

At the start of the War of Spanish Succession (1701), Portugal had allied with France. France had guaranteed the Portuguese the protection of its navy. However, in 1702 the English navy sailed very closely past the city of Lisbon to and from their way to Cadiz, proving that the French could not really offer the protection they had promised.

The Portuguese, wisely, decided to change sides and began negotiations with England. The Methuen Treaty was the result of those negotiations. The main purpose of the treaty had concerned the ongoing war; the “Grand Alliance” was formalized and the goal of the current war was agreed upon: the new alliance would try to secure the entire Spanish Empire for the Austrian Archduke Charles, who was to become Charles VI of Austria.

Portrait of "The Right Honorable John Methuen" by Adrien Carpentiers (1769s) work and photograph in the Public Domain

Portrait of “The Right Honorable John Methuen” by Adrien Carpentiers (~1760) work and photograph in the Public Domain

The secondary aim of the treaty will be of more interest to wine lovers, as it established trade relations, especially between England and Portugal.

Under the terms of the treaty, English woolen cloth would be admitted in Portugal free of duty. In return, Portuguese wines imported into England would be subject to a third less duty than wines imported from France.  It also stated that Portuguese wines would never As England was at war with France, French wines were already difficult to obtain in England, and because of this treaty, the wines of Portugal – particularly Port, which the British loved – became the popular replacement.

The Treaty, signed on December 27th, 1703, became known to history as the “Port Wine Treaty.”

 

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator

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

 

 

One More for the Rhône

Vineyards in Cairanne - photo by Samuel Lavoie via Wikimedia Commons

Vineyards in Cairanne – photo by Samuel Lavoie via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, the INAO approved a new AOC in the southern Rhône, to be known as AOC Cairanne. Winemakers are expected to be able to use the designation starting with the 2015 vintage.

Carianne was formerly one of the 18 or so villages that were entitled to append the name of their village onto the Côtes du Rhône-Villages designation. The region is known for red, white, and rosé wines produced from the typical blend of southern Rhône varieties (min. 50% Grenache + min. 20% combined Syrah/ Mourvèdre for reds and rosés;  min. 80% any blend of Grenache blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, or Viognier for the whites.)

The new AOC regulations will require hand harvesting and sorting either in the vineyard or the winery, and a organics-level maximum level of added sulfites. The new designation is yet to be approved by the EU, however, no obvious obstacles are expected.

Have You Heard About Furmint?

Today we have a guest post from renowned Wine and Spirits Educator Harriet Lembeck. Read on to hear Harriet’s take on Furmint!

If you haven’t already heard about Furmint – Furmint is the grape that makes the famed sweet wine Toakaji.

Aszu (‘dried up’ or ‘dried out’) grapes

Aszu (‘dried up’ or ‘dried out’) grapes

When Samuel Tinon, a sweet-wine maker in Bordeaux, decided to move to the Tokaji region of Hungary, he was ready to make wine from its Aszu (‘dried up’ or ‘dried out’) Furmint grapes — grapes attacked by the desirable botrytis cinerea, or noble rot. These grapes are so concentrated that they have to soak in vats of young wine to dissolve their flavors. But when Tinon moved to Tokaji, botrytis was decreasing in his newly chosen region.

Expecting to make Aszu wines at least three times in a decade, the number of opportunities dropped to a little more than two times in a decade, and sometimes less than that. Due to climate change, a great deal of rain meant either no crop at all (as happened in 2010), or harvesting all of the Furmint grapes earlier — not waiting in the hopes of harvesting Aszu grapes — and therefore making dry white wines from earlier-picked grapes instead.

Asked about an apparent climate change, Tinon says: “We can’t see warming. What we see are erratic vintages with severe or extreme conditions — hot or cold, wet or dry. In the past, Tokaji Aszu was harvested at the end of October and the beginning of November, with botrytis and high sugars. This is still happening, but more often we have to change our production to dry Furmint wines without botrytis with an earlier September harvest, bigger crop, more security, more reliability and with a chance to get your money back.”

Tokaji vineyardWith winters becoming a bit warmer like in 2014, the fruit-fly population is able to ‘over-winter,’ and begin reproducing very early in the season, causing the spread of bad rot. This was told to me by Ronn Wiegand, MW, MS and Publisher of ‘Restaurant Wine,’ who is making wine with his father-in-law in Tokaji.

Ironically, Comte  Alexandre de Lur Saluces, owner of Château de Fargues and former co-owner of the fabled Château d’Yquem, said that although his area is getting warmer and drier, he feels that “global warming could be a help for Sauternes, and enable any of those who chaptalize these wines to avoid the practice.” He continues, “Many people in Sauternes are  producing dry white wines. Their production is increasing, and even Château d’Yquem is producing more dry wine.”

Hungarian winemakers from Tokaji are increasing dry white wine production as well. A new website, www.FurmintUSA.com, was created by 12 member wineries that presented a Furmint tasting in Sonoma, CA in November 2014. The Blue Danube Wine Company, which imports many wines from all over Hungary, has six producers from Tokaji that are producing dry Furmint wines (many from single vineyards). Martin Scott Wines imports Royal Tokaji’s dry Furmint wine, coming from the company co-founded by Hugh Johnson and Ben Howkins, in London. These wines are all delicious, showcasing the minerality of volcanic soil.

Considering that in 2014, Hungary abolished the categories of Tokaji Aszu 3 and 4 Puttonyos (baskets of Aszu grapes), leaving only the sweeter 5 and 6 Puttonyos examples, the door has been opened for Dry Szamorodni. This rich, dry white (amber colored) wine produced from Furmint grapes has a portion of grapes which have some botrytis co-fermented to dryness, and also uses some flor yeast, giving the wine some fino or amontillado Sherry-like flavors.

This wine is very laborious and time consuming to produce. The 2007 Tinon Dry Szamorodni is the current vintage in the market, released after a minimum of 5 years of aging. This is a unique wine, a keeper, and is important to the history of Tokaji, linking the modern dry wines to the traditional Aszu wines.

If you haven’t tried it – you should!

HarrietHARRIET LEMBECK, CWE, CSS, is a prominent wine and spirits educator. She is president of the renowned 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 may be contacted at hlembeck@mindspring.com.

This article was originally published in the article was originally published in
Beverage Dynamics Magazine - reprinted with permission!

Tour de Blog 2015

Tour de blog 2014 aWelcome to the Tour de Blog 2015! 

We’ve been busy adding lots of resources here at Wine, Wit, and Wisdom, and thought we’d let you know about some of them.  Hopefully, you will find some of these helpful in your studies, or with the classes you are teaching!

Wine and Spirits Maps! If you are studying for the CSW, CSS, CWE, CSE, or planning on teaching a class, SWE’s wine and spirits maps are available on-line.  This makes for very convenient studying from your mobile device, or as a printable resource. All of our maps are available as web pages, jpegs and pdfs. Whether you are looking for the wine maps from the 2015 CSW Study Guide, wine maps from the 2014 CSW Study Guide, or the spirits maps and diagrams from the 2015 CSS Study Guide, we have it all here for you! (Please note, we are happy to consider copyright permission for current members of SWE who wish to use our maps and diagrams for teaching purposes, or for publication in newsletters or websites – please email the home office for more information.)

Tour de blog 2015 dWine and Spirits World Updates! Fountaingrove, Pignoletto, Nizza, the Rocks…If you are trying to keep up with the ever-changing world of wine and spirits, we have a great resource for you! Not only do we try to post blog articles about the latest changes in the wine and spirits world, we also keep a running record of all the changes that have gone into effect (or that are rumored to be enacted soon) on our “Study Guides Update” pages.  If you are interested in keeping up with the world of wine, click here for our CSW Update page. If you are interested in the latest changes in the world of distilled spirits, click here for our CSS Update page.

SWE Conference Abstracts: If you missed our 2014 Conference in Seattle, or even if you attended and would like to refresh your memory, you can find recaps of many of the conference presentations at our 2014 Conference recap page. Many of our presenters were gracious enough to provide us with their power point presentations or handouts, and you can access them here.

Wine and Spirits Links! The SWE Blog provides one of the most comprehensive lists of links to quality wine and spirits websites available on the internet.  For instance, did you know that a database called “E-Bacchus” lists every AOP/PGI wine in the European Union? And its daddy database, the European Union’s department of Agricultural and Rural Development lists every AOP and PGI-designated agricultural product, from tour de blog 2015 bWalnuts from Périgord, Lavender Oil from Haute-Provence, and Chickens from Bresse (not to mention all the cheeses).  Whether you are researching Fitou or Fino, Madeira or Modena, you’ll find useful links on our site. Click here for our wine links page. If you are more interested in Plymouth gin or Polish Vodka, click here for our spirits links page.

The complete SWEbinar calendar! Our SWEbinar series is going strong! We have monthly offerings on all types of exam-related wine and spirits offerings and a great group of presenters. We also offer our popular “Insider’s Guide to the CSW Exam” and “Insider’s Guide to the CSS Exam” on a monthly basis. If you are in the process of studying for one of these exams, or even just thinking about it, you’ll want to tune it. Click here for information on the current month’s SWEbinars, and click here for the complete annual calendar.

Online Prep Classes: If you are interested in attending an online prep class for the CSS or the CSW, you’ll find detailed information on the class format, as well as contact information to sign up for a class, on our Online Prep Class Information Page.

Tour de blog 2105Workbook Answer Keys: If you are using a CSW Workbook, you can conveniently download the answer key here. Just be sure to download the correct version!

Guest Bloggers and Guest Presenters: We are always looking for guest bloggers, as well as guest presenters for our SWEbinar series. If you’d like more information, please click here!

Detailed Information on Pearson Vue Testing Centers: If you are confused about how to sign up for a Pearson Vue Exam, just click here for detailed instructions. If you’d like to read a first-hand account of a satisfied (and successful) exam candidate who took their exam at Pearson, just click here!

Contact information for the SWE Home Office! If you need to speak with a customer service representative, need help navigating the catalog, or have a question for our educational and certification team, just click here for contact information.

It’s our goal to become your trusted source of wine and spirits news and knowledge…if there is anything else you would like to see us tackled here on the blog, just let us know!

 

 

So many wine books, so little time…

Books and red wineToday we have a guest blog from Certified Wine Educator, Brenda Audino. Brenda shares with us a topic that is dear to the hearts of wine lovers the world over….books about wine!  

In the pursuit of greater wine knowledge I have found the greatest expense to be in the wine.  It takes a lot of wine bottles to truly “understand” the nuances of each wine region both great and small.  The second largest expense for me have been the wine books.  There are an endless amount of books covering everything from encyclopedic to specifics; from terroir to marketing.  I have found though that even with an extensive wine library there are a handful of books that are my “go to” selection in starting any wine related research.

I have categorized my wine library into three main categories; general reference, specific area (viticulture, vinification, and wine region) and wine themed pleasure books.  This categorization enables me to quickly gather the books I need.

Of course, the list of my favorite wine books includes the CSW Study Guide – but I assume that is that same for all of you as well!

So, here are a few of my favorite books and why they are always next to me at my desk:

The Oxford Companion to Wine – 3rd Edition, Jancis Robinson: This is definitely encyclopedic and not one I would recommend to read from cover to cover.  Excellent resource in digging deeper into a subject.   Fair warning though, in each entry there will be reference to other sections and these refer to even more sections that can keep you flipping pages for hours.

The World Atlas of Wine – 7th Edition, Hugh Johnson & Jancis Robinson: This book is quite large, but not overly daunting to read through a chapter or two a week.  The info graphs are clear and assist in the understanding of the corresponding text.  While there is beautiful photography throughout, my favorite part of this book must be the maps!  They have a high level of detail, but are also easy to review.

booksHow to Pronounce French, German, and Italian Wine Names; Diana Bellucci: Although I dislike butchering foreign wine names in the privacy of my own brain, when it comes to speaking them out loud it is extremely important to get the pronunciation correct.  As a wine educator it is critical!  I have quickly come to realize that my two years of French in high school did little to prepare me in my wine career.  This book with its easy to understand techniques helps me get as close to the true pronunciation without having to be fluent in all of these languages.

Understanding Wine Technology; David Bird, MW:  I am not a winemaker and even though I have visited many wineries nothing can be said for the hands-on experience working day in day out guiding a wine from vine to bottle.  This book, though, for me, gives the information needed to gain a glimpse into the science behind the wine.  This book covers a broad range from the mysteries of the vineyard, the components of grapes, producing and adjusting the juice (must), complexities of fermentation and the winemaking process, quality control and assurance.

Wine Grapes, Jances Robinson, Julia Harding, & José Vouillamoz: This is my newest “wine geek” book.  Detailed origins, viticultural characteristics, where it’s grown and what its wine taste like on every grape imaginable along with many more that I never heard of.  This is a tomb of a book, but completely satisfying to heave out for research on individual grapes.  Jancis Robinson has released several pocket guides on wine varieties and this book feels like the culmination of all of these works with details of over 1300 different varieties. The Pinot pedigree diagram is more complete than my own family tree!  The pictures of grape varieties look like pieces of frame-worthy art.  This is a book I can (and do) get lost in.

Wine & War, Don & Petie Kladstrup: The story of how wine played a role in France’s fight during World War II.  The narrative follows five winemaking families from France’s key wine-producing regions of Burgundy, Alsace, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, and Champagne and their struggles to save the heart and soul of France.  I found this an enjoyable and lively read after a day of studying.

Books and wine fire placeI now realize that I can and will have a lifelong mission to study and learn more about wine.  I am also interested in what others find useful in their pursuit of knowledge.  What are some of your favorite “go to” books that you use in your education journey?

Post authored by Brenda Audino, CWE. After a long career as a wine buyer with Twin Liquors in Austin, Texas, Brenda has recently moved to Napa, California (lucky!) where she runs the Spirited Grape wine consultancy business. Brenda is a long-time member of SWE and has attended many conferences – be sure to say “hi” at this year’s conference in NOLA!

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Oregon, Washington, and the AVA Shuffle: It’s Complicated.

It's complicatedWinemakers in Oregon rejoiced on February 6, 2015, when the TTB finally approved the The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA in Umatilla County, Oregon.  The Rocks, as you may recall, is a tiny area located entirely within the large, dual-state (Oregon/Washington) Walla Walla Valley AVA – however, it resides 100% within the state of Oregon.

During the public comment period for the approval of the AVA, it became clear that most of the wineries that grow grapes within the new AVA are actually located across the state line in Walla Walla, Washington – which makes sense, as Walla Walla is only about 10 miles away.

Keep in mind that The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA is a single-state AVA, located entirely in Oregon. Here’s where it gets interesting:  under current TTB labeling requirements, even if 100% of the grapes in a particular wine are grown in The Rocks District, if the wine is produced at a winery located just ten miles away but in Washington State, the wine will not be allowed to use The Rocks District AVA as its region of origin. This is due to the current law that states that in order use an AVA as a wine’s appellation of origin, the wine must  “be fully manufactured and finished within the State containing the named region.”

The TTB – bless their hearts – have determined that this is indeed a problem.  Several commenters stated that it makes no sense that they could truck their grapes 200 miles away to a winery facility in Oregon and use The Rocks AVA, but if they truck their grapes 10 miles north to their winery in Walla Walla, they cannot.  In response, the TTB “determined that the concerns raised in the comments have merit.”

Therefore, the  TTB has proposed an amendment to its regulations in order to allow wines to be labeled with a single-State AVA name as an appellation of origin if the wine was fully finished either within the State in which the AVA is located or within an adjacent State.

This proposed rule is now up for public comment, and will remain so until April 10. At that point, the proposed rule will – or will not – move forward to the next stage! The outcome is yet to be seen, and as we know – it’s complicated.

You can read the details of the proposed change on the TTB website

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator

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