The 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide is Here!

CelebrateToday is a great day at the DC offices of SWE! After more than a year’s worth of work, we have received the 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide and have already started sending them out.

If you have recently purchased a CSS Study Guide or exam and have been waiting for your book to arrive – keep a close eye out in the next few days because it is on its way!

The 2015 edition of the Certified Specialist of Spirits Study Guide has 205 pages and over 100 full-color photographs, maps, charts, and diagrams. New chapters include “Vermouth, Amari, and Bitters,” “The Sensory Evaluation of Spirits,” and “The Impact of Alcohol on Health.”

CSS Exams: CSS Exams based on the 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide will be available at Pearson Vue Testing Centers as of January 5, 2015. If you are studying from the previous (2012) edition of the Study Guide, have no fear – you have been assigned a Pearson Vue Test Authorization Code based on the edition of the Study Guide you were issued; and may take a Pearson Vue test based on the “old” version through the end of 2015. Paper-and-pencil versions of the CSS Exam will be based on the 2012 Study Guide CSS Study Guideuntil May 1 of 2015. As of May 2, 2015 all paper-and-pencil CSS Exams will be based solely on the 2015 Study Guide.

eBook:  The 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide will be available as an ebook, available on both iTunes and Amazon.com, in January of 2015.

Workbook:  A workbook to accompany the 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide will be available in February.

Online Prep Course: SWE will offer its first online CSS Prep Course, led by our Director of Education, beginning in February of 2015. The course will feature the 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide and aims to get attendees “as prepared as humanly possible” for a successful sitting of the CSS Exam. Online prep courses are available, free-of-charge, to Professional members of SWE who have a valid CSS Exam attendance credit.

For more information, or to sign up for the CSS Online Prep Class, please contact Jane Nickles at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org .

 

 

Bitters and Bittered

bittersCocktail bitters reside in a class by themselves. Essentially, cocktail bitters are aromatics and flavoring extracts that have been macerated in neutral spirits. Cocktail bitters are so intensely concentrated as not to be considered potable on their own—or, as the official phrasing has it, “Not for singular consumption.”

 

Most cocktail bitters are botanicals in a neutral spirit base, although, while uncommon, it is possible to produce bitters with a glycerin base. In the United States, cocktail bitters are considered “food extracts” and are therefore regulated by the Food and Drug Administration rather than by the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB) or other alcohol-regulating agencies. Thus, they have wider distribution than wines and spirits, including in most food and grocery stores.

 

Cocktail bitters began, much like many other spirit groups, as medicinal and restorative tonics created by infusing botanicals in alcohol in order to extract their (presumed or actual) health benefits. One of the most prevalent forms of bittering agents used was Peruvian cinchona bark, also called quinine, which became popular as part of the potions used to treat malaria and tropical fevers. Other common bittering botanicals were used as well, and many are still in use today, such as caffeine, hops, gentian, and burdock root, as well as many other forms of herbs, roots, leaves, barks, and spices.

 

Flowering Gentian

Flowering Gentian

Some of these medicinal elixirs were favored as refreshing beverages, while others remained in highly concentrated form as tonics. In many cases, the tonics came to be used to flavor other beverages, as in the gin and tonic, pink gins, and other such drinks, where a dash of bittering agents was called for to liven the drink. Bitters were so much a part of beverage culture that the earliest definition of a cocktail included a bittering agent. To be exact, the definition, formulated in 1806, listed “spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitter.”

 

Outside of FDA regulations regarding use of certain approved foodstuffs, there is no limit or regulation on what may constitute a recipe for cocktail bitters; thus, much is left up to the discretion and whim of the creator. Cocktail bitters have found a new popularity, and there are many unique, creative products on the market today. Two of the most “classic” brands are Angostura Bitters and Peychaud’s Bitters: 

 

Angostura Bitters: The most well-known of the cocktail bitters began with the House of Angostura. Angostura Bitters were created as a medical concoction in 1824 by Dr. Johann Siegert, a doctor in Simón Bolivar’s Venezuelan army. It was named after the town of Angostura (later, Ciudad Bolivar), although, oddly enough, the recipe did not contain the local angostura bark as an ingredient, even though other bitters did. The House of Angostura later relocated to Port of Spain

Photo of “Angostura bitters 003" by Gryffindor

Photo of “Angostura bitters 003″ by Gryffindor

in Trinidad, where it resides today. The company also owns and operates rum distilleries on the island, both for the Angostura brand and by general contract for several others. Readily recognizable with its bright yellow cap and oversize paper label, Angostura is easily the world’s dominant brand of bitters.

 

Peychaud’s Bitters: Peychaud’s Bitters were invented by the Haitian Creole Antoine Amédée

Peychaud in his apothecary shop in New Orleans, circa 1830. The concoction was originally designed to go in his powerful spirit libations said to be served in dainty eggcups known by the French term coquetiers (a possible explanation for the origin of our term “cocktail”). This is a savory, exotic style of bitters with highly lifted aromatics. Peychaud’s Bitters are an integral part of the original recipe for the Sazerac cocktail.

 

As a pleasant side effect of the current cocktail renaissance, the bitters market is exploding with

artisan and local versions of cocktail bitters, with more entering the market each day. Fee Brothers, Regan’s #6 Orange Bitters, Bittermen’s, the Bitter Truth, Bittercube, Basement Bitters, and Bar Keep Bitters are among the many artisan-produced bitters available today. A plethora of flavors are also being produced; one can find bitters based on fennel, lavender, grapefruit, rhubarb, dandelion, molé, pineapple, apple, curry, and Jamaican jerk seasoning.

 

The creativity for bitters, it seems, knows no bounds.

Cocktail bitters, bittered spirits, vermouth, quinquinas, and Americanos are all topics that receive new and expanded coverage in our 2015 edition of the Certified Specialist of Spirits Study Guide…due out by January!

Click here to return to the SWE Homepage.

The Bartender’s Handshake

Fig 10-7 different brands of fernetThe beverage world abounds with spirit amari (bittered spirits), which may be classified as aperitifs, which are generally served in diluted forms as cocktails to stimulate the appetite, or as digestifs, which are often served in more concentrated forms to enhance digestion after a meal.

These amari contain botanicals with carminative properties intended to lessen gastric discomfort after rich meals. Just ask a bartender, a wine student, or a serious foodie you will hear them tell you its true: they work! Botanicals known for their carminative properties include angelica, aniseed, basil, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, ginger, hops, nutmeg, parsley, and sage.

One of the most popular Spirit amari is Fernet Branca. Fernet Branca was invented in Milan in 1845 by Bernardino Branca. It soon became famous worldwide and led to the founding of the Fratelli Branca Distillery.

Archives of the Boston Public Library

Archives of the Boston Public Library

Fernet has recently become quite popular in the United States as both a beverage and a hangover cure, but its popularity long precedes the craft cocktail scene. So popular is it among industry professionals that a shot of Fernet Branca has been called the “bartender’s handshake.”

In Prohibition-era San Francisco, fernet was legally consumed on the grounds of being “medicinal.” San Franciscans still drink it—over 30% of the fernet consumed throughout the entire United States is consumed in San Francisco.

Argentina consumes more fernet than any other nation. The beverage’s popularity is reflected in the fact that a leading  Cuarteto (an upbeat, popular dance-hall music genre) song is “Fernet con Cola.” 

The secret recipe for Fernet Branca is reportedly known by only one person, Niccolò Branca, the current president of the Fratelli Branca Distillery. It is said that Niccolò personally measures out the flavorings for each production run.

Fernet ValleyThe Branca brand, while definitely one of the better-known, is not the only producer of fernet. Fernet is actually a type of herbal-based bitter that is made by other producers, as well. Many Italian companies, including Luxardo, Cinzano, and Martini & Rossi, produce fernet. Fernet is produced internationally, as well, such as in Mexico, where the popular Fernet-Vallet is made.

Each brand of fernet has its own secret combination of herbs and botanicals. However, a good fernet is likely to include myrrh and saffron, both known for their “disgestivo” and antioxidant properties. Other ingredients rumored to be included are linden, galangal, peppermint oil, sage, bay leaves, gentian root, St. John’s wort, rhubarb, chamomile, cardamom, aloe, and bitter orange.

Fernet Branca, as well as other versions of Italian spirit armai, French spirit amer, and various types of vermouth, quinquina, and americano that will be covered in the new 2015 edition of the Certified Specialist of Spirits study guide…to be released in January, 2015!

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

Click here to return to the SWE Homepage.

August SWEbinars: The Insider’s Guide to the CSW Exam!

Insiders guide for blogAs part of our ongoing series of CSW-prep SWEbinars, we are offering a very special session in August titled “The Insider’s Guide to the CSW.” If you are currently pursuing the CSW Certification, or considering the CSW as your next stage of professional development, this session is for you!

This online workshop will cover all aspects of the CSW, including what the test covers, how difficult the test is, what type of questions to expect, the resources available to students, and how long SWE recommends for study before sitting the exam. This session is led by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE (SWE’s Director of Education). You will have a chance to ask any and all questions about the CSW – she’ll answer just about any questions save for “what are the answers?”

distillation blogOur series of CSS-related “Spirited SWEbinars also continues August! This month we are pleased to offer a session on Spirit Production, based on chapter 1 in the CSS Study Guide and beyond.

This session, led by Gary Spadafore, CSS, CWE, is sure to be fascinating for CSS students and fans of spirits alike! Join us to learn about distiller’s beer, feints, washbacks, and reflux – and definitely join us if you are a CSS aspirant who doesn’t know those terms!

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

SWE...we might just be the most accessible wine education on earth!

SWE…we might just be the most accessible wine education on earth!

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 days before the scheduled date.

When 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).

August 2014:

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

Click here for the 2014 SWEbinar Calendar

 

Italian Wine SWEbinar this Friday!

florenceThis Friday - June 20th, 2104 – at 12 Noon central time – we’re offering a Friday lunch-time SWEbinar all about the grapes and places of Italian Wine! These SWEbinars are free and open to the public!

This session, called “The Italian Grape Game” will be led by our Director of Education, “Miss Jane” Nickles. Jane’s session will be a lively way for you to test your knowledge of Italy’s wines and wine regions. You are advised to read and study chapter 10 of the CSW Study Guide in advance – this is glass-to-glass competition!

And don’t forget to ask about “Vice President Lenny,” who you’ll be meeting at the session. Vice President Lenny is here to help you learn the Italian wine regions – trust us on this one!

Login instructions and a link to the online classroom are located below. If you any questions about our SWEbinar series, please contact jane at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org.

See you Friday!

Great way to start the weekend!

Great way to start the weekend!

Login Instructions: At the appointed time, just click on the link. (Links will be attached to the date and time announcement of each session in the list below and will go “live” a few days before the scheduled date.) When 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 it is 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.

To join the session, just click on the link: Friday, June 18– 12 Noon Central Time – The Italian Grape Game, based on Chapter 10 in the CSW Study Guide, hosted by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE

Click here to see the SWEbinar schedule for the rest of 2014!

 

Start the Weekend with a Saturday SWEbinar!

veniceIt’s a rare sighting of a Saturday SWEbinar!!

This Saturday – June 7, 2104 – at 10:00 am central time – we’re offering a Saturday morning SWEbinar all about the grapes and places of Italian Wine!  We’re offering this special weekend version in response to many requests for evening and weekend SWEbinars, and while we’re not sure what kind of a turn out we’ll receive, we are giving it a go! These SWEbinars are free and open to the public!

This session, called “The Italian Grape Game” will be led by our Director of Education, “Miss Jane” Nickles.  Jane’s session will be a lively way for you to test your knowledge of Italy’s wines and wine regions. You are advised to read and study chapter 10 of the CSW Study Guide in advance – this is glass-to-glass competition!

And don’t forget to ask about “Vice President Lenny,” who you’ll be meeting at the session. Vice President Lenny is here to help you learn the Italian wine regions – trust us on this one!

Login instructions and a link to the online classroom are located below.  If you’d like to be sent a reminder about the session on Saturday morning, or have any other questions about our SWEbinar series, please contact jane at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org.

See you Saturday!

Great way to start the weekend!

Great way to start the weekend!

Login Instructions:  At the appointed time, just click on the link.  (Links will be attached to the date and time announcement of each session in the list below and will go “live” a few days before the scheduled date.) When 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 it is 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.

To join the session, just click on the link: Saturday, June 7 – 1o:oo am Central Time – The Italian Grape Game, based on Chapter 10 in the CSW Study Guide, hosted by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE

Click here to see the SWEbinar schedule for the rest of 2014!

Guest Post: Pearson VUE Testing – A Candidate’s View!

Today we have a guest post by a recent CSW candidate who has generously agreed to share her Pearson VUE testing experience with us! Hopefully this will give all you CSW and CSS aspirants out there a realistic, personal insight into what you can expect from a Pearson VUE test.  In a nutshell:  it’s great!

computer keyboardOur intrepid reporter goes by the code name “Candi” Candidate, CSW. (Spoiler alert:  she passed!) Read on to hear Candi’s experience, and her useful tips as well:

I began studying for the CSW exam in January, 2014. By early May, I decided that late May would be my target time for the test. Conveniently, the remote testing option at Pearson VUE became available, so I scheduled my test on the first day that the scheduling was “live.” Without my Pearson VUE option, the nearest test site would have been about 50 miles away, with unpredictable traffic. Pearson VUE, with choice of location, date, and time, was a much better alternative.

My test site was 10 miles from my home. I was able to schedule my first choice of date and location with about 2 weeks’ notice.

As suggested, I arrived 30 minutes before the scheduled test time. Upon arrival, I learned that I was the first CSW candidate at this test site. I was the alpha! Once the identification and security process was complete, I was able to begin testing early.

Testing was done in a room with about 12 small cubicles. I chose to use the provided noise-canceling headset. Dead silence. I received instructions on the testing software via a short tutorial program. The tutorial will review your options for proceeding with the test. The software was straightforward; if you’ve taken online tests or even Internet quizzes before, you can easily do it.

Everyone has their own test-taking strategy. I chose to take my time, answer every question, and then review all of my answers. Answering all of the questions took 40-45 minutes, reviewing took about 10 minutes, and I submitted my answers with about 5 minutes to spare. Done! Deep breath!

Computer Testing CenterAfter leaving the testing room, I went back to the area where I initially checked in. There, I was given a 2-page printout of the results. Immediate feedback! My eyes focused on two words in the middle of the page: GRADE: PASS.

Another deep breath! A big smile to the friendly guy who checked me in and out!

Would I use the Pearson VUE testing option again? Absolutely. Convenient location and scheduling. Professional staff. Simple testing software. And did I mention immediate feedback?

Based on my experience, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Verify driving directions. I received directions with my scheduling confirmation, but they were not as specific as typical online driving directions. Since you may be driving under (ahem) some stress, why not get more information before test day?
  2. Expect tight security. The Pearson VUE experience included detailed identity verification, a candidate photograph, multiple palm prints, demonstrating that my pockets were empty, and video/audio monitoring in the testing room. While this may seem like overkill, Pearson VUE provides a wide range of testing for many organizations. It appears that all candidates are subjected to the same, rigorous procedure. Personally, the worst part was being photographed. I did not see the photograph. I did not want to see the photograph. I am sure it was just as charming as the one that appears on my driver’s license.
  3. Follow Pearson VUE instructions. Your confirmation will tell you what is needed and what is not allowed. After my identity was confirmed, I was required to secure all items in a provided locker. I was allowed one form of ID in the testing room.   Nothing, and I mean nothing, else was allowed.
  4. champagne toastUse the tutorial. While the software seemed simple to me, why not take advantage of everything available to help you along the way?
  5. Develop a plan. You will have 100 questions to answer within 60 minutes. The tutorial will show you your options for proceeding. What worked for me might not be your best strategy. Just as everyone learns differently, everyone tests differently.
  6. Consider using the SWE’s Online Academy. I found that this resource was effective preparation for online testing in a timed situation. Practice helped.

Now, time to celebrate with a special glass of vin/vinho/vino/wein/wine. Cheers!

Click here for more information on CSS and CSW Exams at Pearson.

By Popular Demand: New CSW Online Prep Class Online Starts June 16!

wine online 8Due to the overwhelming response to our first guided, 12-week, online review course for CSW Candidates, we will be offering another class section, starting on June 16th. This class will be led by SWE’s Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE.

The course will include weekly “live online” course sessions (tentatively scheduled for Wednesday evenings at 7:00 central), reading assignments, workbook assignments, and “check-out quizzes.”  Required textbooks include the 2014 CSW Study Guide and Workbook. The course is free for Professional Members of SWE who have a current CSW Exam Credit.

Participants will be limited to the first 100 qualified applicants, so if you are interested in this opportunity please send an email to Miss Jane at:  jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Please note that the class will take a short “hiatus” the week of August 10 -16, when we will all be at the SWE Conference!

Click here to return to the SWE Website.

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 his next project, as he prepares to tackle the CSS!

Click here to return to the SWE Website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.