Guest Post: My Journey to the CSW

Today we have a guest post from Joey Casco, CSW.  I read Joey’s story about how he studied for the CSW while balancing a full-time job and a family on his blog The Wine Stalker and liked it so much I asked him if we could re-print it here.  I hope you find it as motiviating as I did! Read on for Joey’s take on how to pass the CSW on the first try.

Today I will be sharing the experience I had with studying for and taking the CSW test. I also hope that it helps those who are currently preparing or planning on taking the test in the future.

So all-encompassing you may forget to feed the dog!
So all-encompassing you may forget to feed the dog!

I received the Society of Wine Educators Certified Specialist of Wine Study Guide in October, 2013. I had already been reading up and trying to get a head start for some time before hand but when the book actually arrived I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. I had until mid-January to absorb the crap out of this book.

Way back when I was in school I was a C average student. I got A’s and B’s in the subjects I loved and D’s and F’s in the subjects I just couldn’t connect with. Because of this I had to pass my final science test to even graduate high school. I passed it by one point. Which is weird, because a few years after high school I became a complete science nerd. Go figure.

Outside of school I’ve always, always over-achieved at the things I’m passionate about. This isn’t just a hobby, though. This particular passion is wine, and that passion has brought me to the lucky position of being a wine professional. This is how I earn a living. So this particular obstacle that I now was determined to overcome had a very serious motivation… FAMILY. I’m now 34 and married with a three year old daughter. This certification would put letters at the end of my name for life and help the financial future of my family. No pressure, right?

The CSW has a 55% pass rate average. That’s kind of scary. However, this could be because some distributors and companies make it mandatory for certain employee positions. Wine might not be that person’s thing so the material might not hold their interest, or they might be starting from absolutely nothing. It’s a tall order to become a wine specialist when you don’t even know the grapes of Bordeaux yet. So there was some comfort in knowing that I’ve been a wine guy for quite some time.

I started studying hardcore. Immediately. Highlighting the Study Guide and rewriting pretty much the entire book into notes in an insanely organized notebook. Being pretty

used to dealing with my own A.D.D. since I’ve had it, ya know, my entire life, I’ve found

Behold, the thickness of my notes!

Behold, the thickness of my notes!

that if I’m focused on being perfectly, psychotically organized I’m also focused on the material… and absorbing it.

See those tabs? It was separated by chapter with the smaller chapters together in broader topic like South America. If I made a mistake, whether it was spelling or just a screw up, I’d force myself to restart the whole page. Yeah, it was OCD-mania.

I planned to be finished with the Study Guide the first few days of January by taking two weeks per 75 pages. The first week I’d do the whole reading, highlighting, notebook thing and the second week I’d review and do flash cards just on those 75 pages. Then move on.

I did this every night from 10 pm to 3 am at the kitchen table. The Sirius Satellite Radio “Spa Channel” would be playing in the background because it was “music” that wouldn’t distract me. I needed to focus, not start singing along to the Foo Fighters. I’d be at work anywhere from 6 am to 8 am the following day so I wasn’t getting much sleep. Sunday was my only day off from studying because a guy needs to watch Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead, right?

I finished the first pass of the book on January 5th. Around this time we learned that the test would take place on March 27th instead of mid-January. A few more months of preparation? Yes, please! I put all of my focus onto the website like I had planned but with less haste in reading speed.

At this point I made possibly the most important decision I made during this whole thing… I created a highlight system for the study guide. My highlights from the first pass were yellow. What good would it be if I highlighted the things I came across on the online quizzes yellow too? Everything would just be yellow. I’d have an entire book that’s

Asiago and Cabernet, you are my only friends!

Asiago and Cabernet, you are my only friends!

highlighted yellow with things I now know and things I still need to know. That’s not helpful at all.

My highlight system went like this:

Yellow (yellow) - First pass. It turns out it was pretty much A LOT of basic / broad ranging stuff I didn’t know yet. It didn’t seem basic at the time but it becomes just that. This is, after all, for Specialists of Wine. Basic knowledge for this is pretty advanced anywhere else.

Orange  – It was suggested by mentors and others that I know it.

Green – Things that came up on the website / online quiz that I didn’t know yet.

Blue - Final pass. Really in-depth stuff that was too advanced for me (or just too much information) to get the first time around but I now could handle. Blue was also used for completely obscure things they might slip in.

These colors were also used on my flash cards. In the upper left hand corner of the flash card I put the number of the chapter and highlighted that number the appropriate color. That way I could see the importance of knowing the answer and why. If it was orange it very well could be on the test. If it was green it was on a quiz and thus could be on a test. And if it was yellow and I was having a problem with it… well, I better get it together on that one right away because I should know that one by now.

The website was invaluable. If I recall correctly it took me about two weeks to thoroughly read the entire website material, pass the quizzes, and identify what was also in the Study Guide. That last part is important because if it’s not in the Study Guide then it’s not on the test.

A big ol' stack of fun!

A big ol’ stack of fun!

After all of that it was time to do a final pass in the Study Guide, pinpoint the things I feel I should know that I hadn’t memorized yet and the really obscure stuff that might be on the test to trip us up, and then focus on maps aaaaaand… FLASH CARDS!!!!

Flash cards are important. Reading something over and over again does jack squat. You need to challenge your brain to retrieve that information. Don’t believe me? Read this.

The great thing about flash cards is you can use them while doing almost anything. Like watching The Little Mermaid for the millionth time, having a Princess tea party, cooking Mac and Cheese, you get the point.

The test was set for March 27th and the two weeks before the test I was burnt out. I didn’t want to play anymore. I’d look at the cover of the book and go “uuuuuugh”. I’d start using the flashcards and just not be feeling it. Not much of anything got done study-wise those two weeks. I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to play NHL 13 and actually go to bed at a normal hour for once. I had gone full bore at this thing for so long and I didn’t think I could learn much more. It wouldn’t have done me any good.

On the day of the test, myself and my peers headed off Cape Cod to the test location. I was nervous and wanted to cram on the ride up. My study pal,  Angela Busco , ever the optimist and to whom I owe tremendously, told me that I’ve got it in the bag and to just relax. So I kept my hands off of the material. There was no relaxing.

The test is an hour and there are 100 multiple choice questions. You can write notes on the question sheet but not on the answer card. I skipped five questions that I was unsure of so I could come back to them after I answered the rest. However, whenever I did that I’d forget to leave that questions spot empty on the answer card and I’d fill it with the answer to the next question. So I had to erase it and fix it (and the following ones too) when I saw the numbers weren’t aligning. I was completely finished around the 40 minute mark and began to read the questions again. I had planned to take the whole hour and keep going over it to make sure I had everything right, but I just couldn’t do that. Second guessing yourself is the worst thing you can do. So the finished test went into the folder and was turned in.

I couldn’t eat that morning from the stress but now I was hungry. All I had was a few dollars on me and McDonalds was right down the street so we went there and talked about the test. Note to self: McDonalds is always a bad idea even if it’s the closest option.

Well-earned:  Joey's CSW Pin

Well-earned: Joey’s CSW Pin

After the test I couldn’t sleep for three nights. All the questions kept popping back up in my head and I was haunted by the questions I had since learned I answered wrong. What if I didn’t fill in the envelope right and they fail me for not following instructions? What if all those dots I had to erase actually registered and completely messed my right answers up? I knew pretty quickly by talking to the others that there was one question that I knew the answer to but got wrong because I read it wrong, and two others that my first-thought answer was right but I ended up changing. What if there was a bunch of those? It all was getting in my head. I was a mess.

On April 8th, a pretty hectic day all in itself, a Certified Specialist of Wine pin arrived in the mail. It came with a certificate saying that I am now a Certified Specialist of Wine. It also came with a letter saying that I scored a 93, meaning I only got 7 questions wrong out of 100. My mother was there when I got it. I gave her a big bear hug and lifted her up and started jumping around. Literally while I was doing this I got a text from Angela saying she just got her results back and she had passed.

I really can’t measure how honored I am to be recognized by an organization like the SWE. I worked my b*** off for six months and it was entirely worth it. Every tired minute. Just the learning experience alone was a tremendous opportunity. That opportunity was given to me by my employer, Luke’s of Cape Cod (of which I am the Fine Wine manager of the Dennisport location). I’m already eternally grateful to them for a number of things and this adds one more.

If you’re currently studying for the CSW, here’s my advice to you:

  1. Color-code your highlights to learn in layers.
  2. Make lots of flash cards and use them ALL THE TIME.
  3. Use the website but don’t rely on it.
  4. Don’t second guess yourself.
  5. No McDonalds.

Good luck!

Our Guest Author, Joey Casco, CSW, is the Fine Wine Manager of Luke’s of Cape Cod.  A proud new CSW, he may be reached at his blog, The Wine Stalker and on Twitter.  We’d like to congratualate him on his excellent CSW Score of 93, and wish him luck on the CSS!

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Grottino di Roccanova

The town of Matera in Basilicata

The town of Matera in Basilicata

Grottino di Roccanova…if you’ve never heard of it, don’t be too hard on yourself.  I chose to write about Grottino di Roccanova because it is so obscure.  If this is the first you have ever read about it, I am sure you are in good company.

Grottino di Roccanova is a small, relatively new DOC located in the Basilicata wine region – which is about as far south as you can go in Italy.  Basilicata is located on mainland Italy’s southern border, tucked in-between the “heel of the boot” (Puglia) and the “toe of the boot” (Calabria.)  Perhaps we should say Basilicata is the “instep” of Italy (or maybe not).

In 2009, Grottino di Roccanova was approved as a DOC region and became the fourth DOC located in Basilicata.  It joined three others:  – Matera DOC, Terre dell’Alta Val d’Agri DOC and Aglianico del Vulture DOC. Of course, seasoned wine students may recognize Aglianico del Vulture Superiore as Basilicata’s lone DOCG.  The richer, longer-aged version of Aglianico del Vulture received DOCG status in 2010. A wide range of wines is also produced in the region under the Basilicata IGT.

GrottinoGrottino di Roccanova DOC produces red, white, and rosé wines using primarily Sangiovese for the reds and Malvasia Bianca for the whites. The area itself is part of three communes:  Sant’Arcangelo, Castronuovo di Sant’Andrea Potenza, and Roccanova. The terrain, being made up of hills and mountains in the southern end of the Apennine Mountain Range, is rugged and diverse.

The red and rosato wines of the Grottino di Roccanova DOC are based on Sangiovese, which must be present in the wines between 60 and 85%. The remainder may be made up of Malvasia Nera, Montepulciano, and Cabernet Sauvignon; each of which may be present at levels between 5 – 30%. Any remainder may be comprised of any native red grape approved to be grown in the Basilcata IGT.

The white wines, known as Grottino di Roccanova Bianco, must be a minimum of 80% Malvasia Bianca.  The remainder of the wine may comprise any non-aromatic white variety approved to be grown in the Basilicata IGT.

More information on Grottino di Roccanova DOC may be found on the website of the Cervino Vini Company.

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Whisky SWEbinar this Friday!

whiskeyThis Friday – April 11 – at Noon Central time we will be offering the first in our series of CSS Review SWEbinars!!

The topic will be Whisky (Chapter 4 in the CSS Study Guide).

Click here for the link to the Whisky SWEbinar!

We are pleased and honored to have Barry Wiss, CSS, CWE as our presenter for this session.  Barry is the Vice President of Trade Relations for Trinchero Family Estates and serves as the Second Vice President on SWE’s Board of Directors.

Our next CSS SWEbinar will be on Tequila – offered May 11 –  and led by Gary Spadafore, CSS, CWE.

We’ll also be continuing with our CSW review sessions, and offering other Spirited SWEbinars in the future – click here for more information on our SWEbinars!

Click here to return to the SWE Website.

Guest Post: Cab Franc…the Next “Big Thing?”

Red Wine BottlesToday we have a guest post from Houston-based Wine Educator James Barlow, CS, CWE – all about Cabernet Franc - and what some people think might be the “next big thing” for wine lovers. 

Everybody always seems to want to know… what is the next “big craze” for red wine?

In the early 90’s, Australia went through a glorious time with Shiraz and (how can we forget) “critter wines.” Then, South America made a huge splash on the market with Chile’s Cabernet and an even bigger splash with Argentina’s thick, fruity Malbec.  But the latest buzz says that Malbec’s popularity is waning, leading us to wonder…what’s next?

Some say Grenache, whether from Spain or France, will be the next varietal that tickles the palate of the American consumer.  It offers an abundance of fruit, relatively high alcohol, and can be mass produced at an affordable price point.  Sounds ripe for the picking, right?

GrenacheBut there are also believers in Cab Franc that are certain that Cabernet Franc should be the next red wine super-star in the hearts, minds (and shopping baskets) of the everyday wine consumer. After all, Cabernet Franc is one of the world’s oldest grapes and is the father of Cabernet Sauvignon. It can be described as having flavors or raspberry, red cherry, and cassis, as well as notes of black pepper, tobacco, bell pepper, and violet. No wonder it has quietly, but steadily, become the new favorite among critics, retailers, and sommeliers alike!

Cabernet Franc’s original home is believed to be Bordeaux, where it is used strictly as a blending variety. Although it is used along both the right and left banks of the Gironde River, it is more heavily favored on the right bank, giving the Merlot-based wines of the region some added spice and texture. Cabernet Franc is thin skinned and offers beautiful aromatics, peppery fruit flavors, low tannins, and medium to high acids to the blends.  In Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc has never gained much recognition. But, much like Malbec and Carmenère, the other blending grapes of this region, it is starting to garner attention in wine markets outside of France.

ChinonThere are two major areas in the world currently making the case for Cabernet Franc.  The first and oldest advocate of the varietal is France’s Loire Valley, where Cabernet Franc, locally known as “Breton,” is grown in the Touraine region, with towns such as Chinon and Bourgueil leading the renaissance.  Both Chinon and Bourgueil have similar soil structures of limestone tuffeau and sand.  This allows vine roots to dig deep into the soil and offers a unique terrior profile to the wines.

Both Chinon and Bourgueil will use up to 10% Cabernet Sauvignon to add breadth to the wine’s body and structure. Although the last several vintages have not been particularly kind to the region, Cabernet Franc has thrived and is showing an abundance of fruit that it lacked in years past. This is due to new winery technology and young, upstart winemakers.  The final result is wines with riper fruit balanced by racy acidity, light tannins, minimal oak, and an earthy terrior in keeping with other wines true to the region.

Domaine Bernard Baudry in Chinon uses state-of-the-art technology to produce rich, precise wines that offer beautiful elegance and balance.  Yannick Amirault is one of the rising stars of Bourgueil, as well as the neighboring town of Bourgueil-St.-Nicolas, and produces some of the more opulent Cabernet Franc styles.

Other towns in the Loire Valley make exceptional wines from Cabernet Franc as well. Champigny, in the Saumur region, touts some of the best and most age-worthy Breton in the world, as evidenced by the classic producer Clos Rougeard.

Cab Franc CuteCabernet Franc is becoming a regional super-star in Washington State as well, particularly in the loamy soils of the Columbia Valley AVA. Although Washington State is somewhat northerly, its summers are quite hot and the early ripening Cabernet Franc has no problem achieving phenolic ripeness. There are many similarities between climates surrounding Loire River and the Columbia River, so it is no surprise that this variety could thrive in both areas.  The Walla Walla Ava, a sub-region the Columbia Valley AVA, offers a sleek expression of Cabernet Franc, with large tannins and an affinity for oak.  It has an almost feminine Cabernet Sauvignon-like structure, but with more finesse and softer tannins.

The Cab Francs of Washington State generally have a richer, fuller mouth feel and more of a “blueberry” flavor than their counterparts in the Loire Valley.  Several boutique wineries are taking the lead in the production of quality Cabernet Franc in Washington.  Andrew Will is blazing a trail in the Columbia Valley and has garnered high praise and points from the most discerning of wine critics.  Andrew Will is a part owner of the prestigious and high quality Champoux vineyard, located in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Champoux produces some of the highest praised Cabernet Franc in the world.

red wine one glassAnother note-worthy producer in the Columbia Valley is Owen Roe winery, although, like in the Loire Valley, there are numerous Washington wineries that are now producing stellar Cabernet Franc.

All this being taken into account, will Cabernet Franc become the next “big craze” in the world of red wine? It has its challenges – for one, the grape is not mass produced in any country, causing higher prices and lower production. There is no conglomerate that pumps out Cabernet Franc at record pace.

The grape’s small production, though, might just end up becoming a blessing in disguise. It has the versatility to appeal not only to Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers, but also to those that prefer Pinot Noir. Modern American wine consumers are actively seeking out the more obscure, “wine-geek” wines to add to their expanding palates. This fact might bring Cabernet Franc into the “seek out” category, but production and price point will most likely keep it out of the “mass market.” As a wine lover, I don’t think that’s a bad thing!

Our guest author, James Barlow, CS, CWE, is a wine director of over 6,000 wines labels for a  store owned by Spec’s Fine Wines and Liquors in Houston, Texas.   He is also the  author of the widely recongized wine blog thewineepicure.com.  James is also a recent recipient of the CWE Certification (Congratulations, James!) and as such has taken on the duty of teaching the Certified Specialist of Wine course to fellow employees in hopes  of having the best educated staff in the state of Texas. Way to go, James!

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Chartreuse, “Elixir of Long Life”

ChartreuseChartreuse is a spirit with a long and fascinating history. The story begins in 1605, when the monks of the Vauvert Monastery, a branch of the Carthusian Order located in a suburb of Paris, were given an ancient document by Hannibal d’Estrées, a Marshall of King Henri IV.  The manuscript was a formula for an “Elixir of Long Life,” most likely the work of a 16th century alchemist with a great knowledge of herbs and plants in the treatment of illness.

The formula, containing over 130 ingredients, was so complex that it was never fully used by the monks at the Vauvert Monastery.  However, in the early 1700’s, the monks sent the manuscript to the Grande Chartreuse – the head monastery of the Carthusian Order.  The apothecary for the Grand Chartreuse undertook an exhaustive study of the formula and, by 1737, had unraveled the mystery and designed a practical formula for the preparation of the elixir.

The monks began production of the formula, which was sold in the town of Grenoble and other villages located close to the Grande Chartreuse Monastery.  The elixir had a natural, clear green color, and from the fame of the liqueur, the color became known as “chartreuse.” Today, Chartreuse still bills itself as “the only liqueur to have a color named after it.”

The monks protected their secret recipe throughout the centuries, including the tumultuous time surrounding the French Revolution when all religious orders were Char Yellowexpelled from France.  The Chartreuse monks left France in 1793, but one monk remained behind with a copy of the original manuscript.  Another monk secretly retained the original; shortly after leaving The Grand Chartreuse Monastery he was arrested and sent to prison in Bordeaux.  However, he was not searched and eventually passed the original document to a friend, Dom Basile Nantas.  Dom Basile was convinced the Monks of the Grand Chartreuse would never return to France, so he sold the recipe to Monsier Liotard, a pharmacist in Grenoble.  The pharmacist, however, never attempted to produce the elixir.  When Monsieur Liotard died, his heirs returned the manuscript to the Chartreuse Monks.

The Monks of Chartreuse were allowed to return to their Monastery in 1816, and resumed the production of their Chartreuse elixir.  In 1838, they introduced a sweeter version of “Yellow Chartreuse” flavored with saffron.

In 1903, the French government expelled the Monks once again, and the Chartreuse distillery was nationalized. The Monks fled to Spain and built a new distillery in Tarragona where they produced a liqueur they called “Une Tarragone.”

In the years following the nationalization of the distillery and Monastery, the French government sold the Chartreuse brand and trademark to a company who set up an operation known as the “Compagnie Fermière de la Grande Chartreuse.” The company went bankrupt in 1929. Upon the announcement of the bankruptcy, friends of the monks Char VEPpurchased the remaining shares and gifted them back to the Monastery.

After regaining ownership of their brand and trademark, the Monks returned to their distillery located in Fourvoirie, not far from their original Monastery, and resumed production of authentic Chartreuse liqueurs.  When, in 1935, the Fourvoirie distillery was severely damaged by a landslide, the Monks moved to Voiron, where the production facility still exists today.

The selection and preparation of the “secret” blend of over 130 herbs is still done today in the Monastery.  Once prepared, the ingredients are taken to the production facility in Voiron where they are macerated, distilled, and aged in oak casks for several years.  In addition to “Green Chartreuse” and “Yellow Chartreuse,” a special bottling known as V.E.P. Chartreuse (“Viellissement Exceptionnellement Prolongé”) is produced.   V.E.P. is aged longer than the other two products, and is packaged in a reproduction of the bottles used in 1840.  Each bottle of V.E.P. is individually numbered, sealed with wax and presented in a wooden box.

Since 1970, a company known as “Chartreuse Diffusion” handles the packaging, marketing, and distribution of Chartreuse products. However, the Carthusian brothers still prepare and produce the liqueur, and to this day, remain the only people who know the secret formula for their “Elixir of Long Life.”

For more information, visit the Chartreuse Website.

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Cash and Prizes: E-O-M Quiz for March 2014

Cork CollageEvery month, we offer an end-of-the-month quiz – with prizes, of course.  Quiz questions cover the educational material posted to Wine, Wit, and Wisdom for the month. This month’s quiz actually covers our March 2014 posts and has 10 questions. Everything you need to know to pass the quiz is here on our blog!

This month, our prize will be a copy of our newly-released CSW Workbook- hot off the press and in all of its full-color glory!

To refresh your memory, our posts for the month of March were:

Everyone who takes and passes the quiz with 100% of the questions correct by April 10, 2014 (midnight CST) will have their names put into a drawing for the prize! You can take the quiz over and over again if you like…it’s all about the education!

The winners will be notified via email on April 11! Click here for a link to the quiz.

If you have any questions, contact us at:  jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org .

The Winds of Wine: The Roaring 40′s

The Clipper Route - designed to take advantage of "The Roaring 40's"

The Clipper Route – designed to take advantage of “The Roaring 40′s”

They roar across the Indian Ocean and on into the South Pacific, battering any land mass that stands in their way. They were known during the Age of Sail, and helped to speed ships traveling from Europe as they navigated around the horn of Africa and onward to Australia. Even today, round-the-world yacht voyages and high-speed sailing competitions hope to catch a ride on the strong winds known as the Roaring 40’s.

The Roaring 40’s are strong, westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere, generally between the latitudes of 40 and 50 degrees. These fierce winds are caused by the combination of air being displaced from the Equator towards the South Pole combined with the force of the earth’s rotation.

As is true with most things in nature, the route and boundaries of the Roaring 40’s are not consistent, as they tend to shift north towards the equator in the southern winter and south towards the South Pole in the southern summer. However, New Zealand is generally sitting right in their path, where the winds can hit the islands on the west side.

The mountain ranges that run down the “spine” of the islands serve as a blockade, and create a rain shadow for much of the eastern coast of the country. For this reason, most of New Zealand’s vineyards are located in the rain shadows created by the Southern Alps on the South Island and various mountains and volcanoes on the North Island.

"Windy Wellington" is located on the Cook Strait on New Zealand's North Island

“Windy Wellington,” located on the Cook Strait on New Zealand’s North Island

The Cook Strait, the band of water that separates the North and South Island of New Zealand, is the only opening for the winds between the two land masses and becomes something of a “wind tunnel” for the blasts. The Cook Strait, only 14 miles wide as its narrowest point, is understandably considered one of the most unpredictable and dangerous waterways in the world.  The Cook Strait is named for James Cook, who, in 1770, became the first European to sail through it. The Maori name is Raukawa or Raukawa Moana.

While the Roaring 40’s are noted as being among the strongest winds in the world, they are, believe it or not, bested by even stronger winds that form closer to the South Pole, known as the “Furious Fifties” (50 to 60 degrees south), and the  ”Screaming Sixties” (below 60 degrees south).

For more information on “The Winds of Wine,” see our posts on The Mistral and The Zonda.

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All of Vienna in One Glass

viennaVienna has a unique history of wine production.  The bustling capital city is home to 612 hectares (1,500 acres) of vineyards, planted in both the outer districts and outskirts of the city.  These vineyards provide a substantial amount of lovely scenery as well as a significant economic input to the city of Vienna.

The wines have historically been classified under the “landwein” region of Wien (Vienna), and considered PGI-level wines.  As is to be expected for a modern urban region, Wien is by far the smallest, in terms of both square mileage and production, of Austria’s four landwein regions. Wien produces a mere 1% of the total output of Austria.

Traditionally, wines from Wien have been known as “Heuriger,”or wine tavern wines.  A unique Austrian tradition, a Heuriger is basically a tavern operated by a wine maker and may only serve its own wines.  Some are open year-round and serve a wide variety of food, while others, known as “Buschenschank” are hidden among the vineyards and may only be open a few weeks a year, serving the new wine of the vintage and simple “snacks” to accompany the wine.

Vineyards ViennaNowadays, the wines of Wien are enjoying a newly-found reputation as fine wines; many are to be found on the wine lists of the most forward-thinking and renowned restaurants, and some have even reached “cult wine” status. As of the 2013 vintage, the region’s traditional wine has earned the highest classification status available to Austrian wines – the Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC).

The new DAC – only the ninth one to be granted in Austria – is known as “Weiner Gemischte Satz.” Gemischter Satz means (loosely translated) “mixed set” and the qualifications for the DAC are both highly unique and very strict. This style of wine has been called “all of Vienna in one glass.”

To qualify, the wine must be made from white wine grapes grown in Vienna area vineyards planted with at least three quality grape varieties. The grapes must be harvested, pressed, and fermented together, with the largest portion of a single grape variety no more than 50% and three varieties must make up at least 10% each. The wines are meant to be fruit-forward and are not allowed to show “significant influence of oak.”

St. Charles' Church (Karlskirche) in Vienna

St. Charles’ Church (Karlskirche) in Vienna

An unusual factor of this DAC is that the grapes must not just be processed together; they must also be grown together in what is now known as a “field blend” – side by side in the vineyard. While the regulations require a minimum of three different varieties, up to 15 varieties are listed as “approved” for use and may be present in a single wine.  Approved varieties include traditional Austrian varieties such as Grüner Veltliner, Sylvaner, Traminer, Rotgipfler, Neuburger, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), as well as international varieties such as Chardonnay (sometimes known in Austria as “Morillon”).

Viennese wine not made according to the strict standards for the Weiner Gemischte Satz DAC will continue to be bottled under the “Wien” landwein classification.

Click here for more information on the new DAC from the AustrianWine.com website.

Click here for a discussion on the new DAC from Weininger.

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Glass and Bottle of Suze

SuzeSuze, a lightly sweet type of bittered liqueur, was created in Paris in 1889 by a distiller named Fernand Moureaux.  While Suze has long been popular in Europe as an aperitif and mixer, it has just become available on the American Market.

The original recipe for Suze called for wild gentian root harvested from the mountains of the Jura and Auvergne regions of France.  Other ingredients in this highly aromatic, bright yellow liqueur include vanilla, dried wildflowers, fennel, bitter oranges, and honey.

Now produced by Pernod Ricard, Suze is among the top selling aperitifs in France.  The fame and reputation of Suze received quite a boost in 1912 when it was featured in the painting “Verre et bouteille de Suze” (Glass and Bottle of Suze) by Pablo Picasso.

The painting, actually a collage, incorporates bits of newspaper, wallpaper, and construction paper to portray (some art critics say “suggest”) a liquor bottle with a label, a glass, an ashtray, and a lit cigarette. These all rest on a blue table in front of a wall covered with diamond-patterned wallpaper and pieces of newspaper.

glass and bottle of suzeThese elements all represent the popular daily Parisian routine of reading the paper while smoking and drinking in a café; however, at the same time, the newspaper articles themselves tell of the terrifying events of the First Balkan War. Many art critics believe these elements represent the juxtaposition of the simple pleasures, as well as the horrors, of modern life.

If you would rather concentrate on life’s pleasures, try a White Negroni – 2 parts gin, 1 part Suze, and 1 part White Vermouth shaken and strained over ice, garnished with a lemon twist.

“Verre et bouteille de Suze” (Glass and Bottle of Suze) by Pablo Picasso is currently on display at the Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. Click here to read about the painting in the museum’s archives.

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Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administrator – jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

SWEbinars Get Spirited!

whiskeyBy popular demand!

Here’s one for the cocktail crowd! Starting in April we will be offering Spirits SWEbinars designed for CSS (Certified Specialist of Spirits) Exam prep.  These sessions, covering  the material in the CSS Study guide and beyond, will be of interest to any spirits professional, mixologist,  wine lover, wine professional, or spirits enthusiast!

Our first “Spirited SWEbinar” will be offered on April 11, 2014 at 12 noon (central time). The topic will be Whisky (Chapter 4 in the CSS Study Guide).

We are pleased and honored to have Barry Wiss, CSS, CWE as our presenter for this session.  Barry is the Vice President of Trade Relations for Trinchero Family Estates and serves as the Second Vice President on SWE’s Board of Directors.

We’ll also be continuing with our CSW review sessions, and offering other Spirited SWEbinars in the future – click here for more information on our SWEbinars!

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