The 2018 CSW Study Guide and Workbook are here!



What do all of these items have in common: The Petaluma Gap AVA…the Delle Venezie DOC…the Vézelay AOC…and the “New” New Zealand geographical indications? Answer: they are newly-changed or updated topics in the world of wine—launched in 2017! You’ll find all of these updates (and more) in the just-launched, 2018 version of the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) Study Guide and Workbook.

We’ve also made a change in how the books are distributed, and the 2018 CSW Study Guide and Workbook are now in stock and shipping from 

Click here to find the 2018 CSW Study Guide on Amazon. The cost is $49.

Click here to find the CSW Workbook 2018 on Amazon. The cost is $39.

CSW Exam Availability: CSW Exams based on the 2018 edition of the Study Guide will be available at Pearson Vue Testing Centers starting on February 1, 2018. Exams based on the 2017 book are also still available (for those that have a 2017 exam attendance credit) and will continue to be available until July of 2020.

Online Prep Course: Our next instructor-led CSW Online Prep Course is scheduled to begin in May 2018. For this class, students may use either the 2017 or the 2018 version of the CSW Study Guide and Workbook. The aim of the prep course is to get attendees “as prepared as humanly possible” for a successful sitting of the CSW Exam. Online prep courses are available, free-of-charge, to Professional members of SWE who have a valid CSW Exam attendance credit.

The CSW Exam may be purchased via the SWE website: Click here to purchase the CSW Exam.

Click here for an addendum listing the substantive changes between the 2017 and 2018 versions of the CSW Study Guide: Addendum for the CSW 2018 Study Guide

Flashcards and Practice Quizzes: Our popular flashcard and practice quizzes have also been updated for 2018 (and the 2017 versions remain available). The cost for these products is $19 each. Click here for the flashcards and practice quizzes.

If you have any questions regarding the CSW Study Guides or Exams, please contact our Director of Education at


The Certified Wine Educator Manual for Candidates 2018 is here!



SWE is happy to announce the publication of our latest text on the subject of wine and spirits education, The 2018 Certified Wine Educator Manual for Candidates!

This 140-page book is intended as a guide to help candidates successfully prepare for the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) Exam. The book contains seven chapters as well as several appendixes.  The main topics of the chapters are as follows:

Chapter 1—Introduction to the CWE Exam: An overview of the various components of the exam, the objectives of the exam, and what to expect on test day.

Chapter 2—The Multiple-Choice Exam:  Study tips, suggested study focus, test day advice, and an 85-question multiple-choice practice exam.

Chapter 3—The Essay Exam: Advice on how to study and practice for timed essay questions using the “five-step” method of essay construction, exercises for creating the various parts of an essay outline, multiple “practice” essay questions, advice on writing well, and test day tips. Sample essay outlines and sample (successful) essays.



Chapter 4—The Varietal/Appellation Identification Exam: Advice on semi-blind tasting, 36 iconic wines (presented in six suggested practice flights of six wines each) detailed for typical profile with tasting sheets for you to fill in your own observations, a list of suggested wines for study, benchmarks for wine styles, and test day advice.

Chapter 5—The Logical Tasting Rationale: Detailed information on how to complete a wine tasting note using SWE’s Logical Tasting Rationale, sensory and technical definitions of all of the terms used on the tasting note, sample tasting notes, and test day advice.

Chapter 6—The Faults and Imbalances Identification Exam: Background information on the faults and imbalances, instructions on how to use the SWE faults kit (or make your own), a sample tasting exercise, sensory benchmarks for each fault, and test day advice.



Chapter 7—The Presentation Skills Demonstration: Information on learning objectives, a template for creating presentation outlines/abstracts, a sample presentation outline, and advice on oration, organization, the use of supporting materials, and audience engagement.

Note: This is an update from our first (2016) version of the Manual and while this book is more of a “skills manual” than a “textbook,” it does contain some significant changes. Click here for a document that details the changes from the 2016 book/exam to the 2018 version: Addendum for the 2018 Cerfied Wine Educator Candidate Manual

The CWE Manual for Candidates is available for purchase now on Amazon. The cost is $49. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Jane Nickles, our Director of Education and Certification –

Good luck with your studies!

Giddy Goats and Penny Universities



Giddy Goats and Penny Universities, or a Brief History of Coffee

We may never know for sure when or where coffee was first discovered, but a colorful legend from the ancient coffee forests of the Ethiopian plateau is the tale most often told.

As the story goes, a goat herder named Kaldi noticed his goats became excited after eating berries from a certain bush. The goats were so giddy they stayed up all night, showing very little interest in rest or sleep. Kaldi relayed this observation to the Abbot of the local monastery. The Abbot prepared a drink with the berries, and he found he was able to stay alert and focused throughout his long hours of evening prayer…in other words, he approved!

Soon, the knowledge of the energizing berries spread throughout the monastery. Eventually, the news moved east and the consumption and appreciation of coffee reached the Arabian Peninsula. From there, it would begin its journey across the world.



Coffee cultivation and trade began on the Arabian Peninsula. By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia. Soon thereafter,the Yemeni town of Mocca became particularly well-known for its distinct and aromatic roasted coffee beverages. By the next century,coffee was popular in Persia, Egypt,Syria,and Turkey. Coffee was prepared and enjoyed in homes, and was beginning to be offered in public coffee houses—known as qahveh khaneh—appearing in the Middle and Near East.

Coffee houses quickly became popular for all kinds of social activity and for keeping up with the latest news and local information—so much so that coffee houses soon became known as schools of the wise.”

With thousands of people from all over the world making annual pilgrimages to the holy city of Mecca (located in present-day Saudi Arabia),it was not long before knowledge of the wine of Araby began to spread. Soon,Europeans had heard of this mysterious black beverage, and in 1615, Venetian merchants brought coffee to Italy from Istanbul. It didn’t take long for coffee to become popular across the European continent.



As they had in the East, coffee houses began to spring up in London and were soon emulated across England, Austria, France, Germany, and Holland.These coffee houses were soon hubs of social activity and communication. They were often called “penny universities,” because for one penny (the price of a cup of coffee) one could learn the news of the day.

By the mid-1600’s, coffee came to the New World by way of New Amsterdam (later known as New York).As in previous locations, coffee houses began to appear in the New World. However, the population—dominated by English colonists—still preferred tea.This all changed on December 16, 1773, when the colonists staged a revolt against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George III. This event, known as the Boston Tea Party, forever changed the American preference from tea to coffee.

In the meantime, coffee plantations were spreading throughout the world. By the 1700s, the first European coffee plantation was established on the Dutch island of Java. Not long after, the Dutch introduced coffee to their South American colony of Surinam, and from there it spread to French Guyana,Colombia, and ultimately to Brazil—currently the largest producer of coffee.



In 1720, a French naval officer acquired a single coffee plant in Paris and brought it—at great peril—back to his post in Martinique. Once planted, this single coffee plant thrived and is today credited with the propagation of over eighteen million coffee plants on the island of Martinique and throughout the Caribbean.

Travelers, traders, and colonists continued to spread the culture, consumption, and cultivation of coffee worldwide. Coffee was soon grown on large plantations and small plots, in tropical forests,and high in the mountains. By the end of the 18th century, coffee had become one of the world’s most valuable commodities.

The history of coffee, as well as the cultivation, processing, brewing and service of coffee is just a small part of the information included in the Society of Wine Educators’ newest project, the Beverage Specialist Certificate. Other topics included in this 100% online program include tea, sake, cider, beer, distilled spirits, and—of course—wine. Click here for more information.

A new edition of the Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate Program by SWE!



What’s so special about Arabica coffee beans?

How should I serve sidra de Asuturias?

How do I write a wine tasting note that makes sense?

To learn the answers to these questions…and a lot of other information about coffee, tea, wine, spirits, beer, cider, or sake…check out the new edition of SWE’s Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate Study Guide—hot off the presses!

The Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate (HBSC) is an entry-level, beverage knowledge program designed to fulfill the needs of the hospitality and culinary industries and their employees. The Beverage Specialist Certificate can also be used as an entry-level course for those planning to pursue higher levels of wine, beer, or spirits certification.

The HBSC provides a broad base of knowledge, covering all commercially relevant beverages, not just wine or spirits. The program’s content covers: coffee, tea, beer, sake, cider, perry, wine, and spirits. Details about sensory evaluation, tasting notes, and service standards for each beverage type are included as well as a chapter on the responsible service of beverage alcohol.



The HBSC may be completed as an online self-paced, self-study program. The registration fee ($99) includes access to the Online HBSC Course and an Online Exam. An accompanying, 188-page paperback study guide is available for individual purchase through Createspace at a separate fee.

Successful completion of the Online HBSC Exam—accessible at the end of the Online Course—will earn candidates the Hospitality/Beverage Specialist Certificate. The exam is 80 multiple-choice questions. Passing the exam requires a score of 75% or higher. Unsuccessful candidates may attempt the exam a second time at no additional cost. The HBSC Certificate may be printed out by the candidate immediately after passing the final exam.

Candidates will have access to the Online Course and Exam for one year from the date of purchase. To sign up, visit our HBSC Course page.

And the Banfi Award goes to…Lucia Volk, CWE!

Lucia Volk, CWE

Lucia Volk, CWE

Each year at the Annual Conference of the Society of Wine Educators, the Banfi Award is given to a CWE Candidate with the highest scores among all of the year’s candidates. The winner of the Banfi Award must also have  succeeded in passing all seated sections of the CWE Exam on the first attempt—a feat accomplished by a mere 12% of all CWE Candidates.

At this year’s SWE Conference in Portland, Oregon, it was our pleasure to award the 2017 Banfi Award to Lucia Volk, CWE. Neill Trimble, SWE’s First Vice President and Vice President of Advertising and Marketing for Banfi Vineyards, presented Lucia with the award—which includes a $2,500 honorarium—during Saturday’s luncheon.

Lucia Volk is a wine educator who lives in San Francisco. She runs a small wine education business, MindfulVine, offering small, tailored wine tastings in people’s homes.  Specializing in Old World wines, she especially loves to teach about the joys of drinking Riesling.  A native of Germany, Lucia likes to promote lesser known German wine regions. Lucia is also a trained anthropologist and teaches at San Francisco State University.

After the luncheon was over I asked Lucia a few questions about her journey to preparing for the CWE Exam. I am sure what she had to say will prove useful to future CWEs, future CSWs, and all serious students of wine!

 As you prepared for the CWE exam, what were some of your most effective study techniques?

There are dozens of study techniques—and everyone needs to find what works for them. With that being said, I am a big believer in absorbing small chunks of information at regular intervals.  That means 15 to 30 minutes of study a day, whether it is reading through the CSW Study Guide or Workbook, the CWE Manual, or digesting the Wine Bible or any of the other books on the Study List.

I am also a big believer in simulating exam situations: I took and retook all the multiple choice questions in the Workbook, as well as the Book Club chapter quizzes.  I labeled and relabeled the maps in the workbook, until I had memorized where the AVAs were. I used practice essay questions from the CWE manual to write out essays at home, timing myself doing it. Then I would look up information I missed or that I felt uncertain about, and rewrite the essay one more time. I also made up more essay questions.

The Award Ceremony

The Award Ceremony

As for the tasting portions of the CWE, I prepared by tasting a LOT.  I tasted by country, first looking at the label and writing down the flavor profile following the logical tasting rationale laid out by SWE. A day later, I would revisit the same bottles again, this time pouring them out of brown paper bags. I did a lot of repetition using the same wines, until I was certain I knew what I was tasting.  Investing in a Coravin helps at this stage, if you don’t already own one!

What part of the CWE did you find the most challenging?  

The faults and imbalances identification was the most challenging for me, simply because I had not tasted faulty wine very often. The fault kit is therefore essential. During the exam, it is important not to overdo the tasting of the faulty wines, and try and determine as much as possible by the color, texture, and smell.  I did not rush and gave my nose and tongue time to rest before moving on to the next glasses.  Honestly, I did not feel very confident going into this part of the exam, but I went in thinking I would give it my best shot… and I passed.

Do you have any other advice for certification seekers?

I recommend learning by doing as much as possible, whether it is labeling maps, circling multiple choice answers, writing mock questions of your own, speaking through the logical tasting rationale out loud, or writing practice essays—doing is better than simply reading or memorizing quietly.  The SWE’s CWE Boot Camp is of course another way to review exam materials, and most importantly, boost your confidence.

I also enlisted my friends as “volunteer” students and explained certain concepts to them such as “What makes wines of the Loire so special?” or “Why do some wines sparkle?” or “How do you make wines taste sweet?”  I paid them for their time with guided tastings, which they enjoyed.  Teaching the material reminded me why I wanted to take the CWE exam and kept me motivated.

Congratulations, Lucia! You give us all hope!

The Banfi Award is named in honor of, and sponsored by Banfi Vintners. Banfi Vintners is a long-running sponsor and supporter of the Society of Wine Educators.

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

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

CWE Boot Camp 2017!



Boot Camp. It’s the perfect way to describe the 9-hour day in store for those Certified Wine Educator (CWE) aspirants who have signed up for the Pre-Conference session that is (officially) known as the  “CWE Preview.”

According to its creator, Jane Nickles, the CWE Boot Camp/Preview does not cover a huge amount of what she calls “facts and figures, names and dates, grapes and places.” These types of things, she believes, are better off learned in long-term, “quiet-time” study sessions with books, notepads, websites, and flashcards.

Instead, the jam-packed day will entail getting up and moving about, mocking the faults, essay domination, and something she calls “Speed Dating for Wine.”

The day begins with a one-hour session called “Wrangling Resources.” This section, focused on study skills, is designed to prepare candidates to make the best use of their study time by using the proper study techniques and the proper study materials. Also included is a discussion of test-taking skills and strategies for multiple-choice exams.


Next up is what Jane calls “Breaking Bad.” This is an up-close and personal experience with wine faults. Attendees will get to know each wine fault in the CWE exam’s line-up by learning how the faults arise, how they can (potentially) be cured or avoided, and most importantly—what they look, smell, and (for the brave) taste like in an affected wine.

Following this section (and right before lunch), the candidates will be able to “Mock the Faults” by participating in a practice exam mimicking the actual CWE Faults and Imbalances exam.

After lunch the seminar will focus on the dreaded essay exam. In a session called “Five Easy Steps to Essay Dominance,” candidates will learn to pick the best essay question to attack, and create a sample essay outline using a 5-step method of essay design.

The next portion of the day begins with “Speed Dating for Wine.” The class will divide into small groups and while seated at small round tables, will learn to quickly analyze and spot the identifying features of 24 different iconic wines (divided into 4 flights of 6 wines each).  A previous participant says that this session could be titled “So, tell me what makes you special, Ms. Merlot.”

The day will wrap up with two “Test Flights.” These test flights are practice exams mimicking the Varietal/Appellation Identification test portion of the CWE exam.


The CWE Preview will be held on Tuesday, August 8, 2017 as part of the Pre-Conference activities at SWE’s 41st Annual Conference, to be held in Portland, Oregon. The CWE Preview may be purchased on the SWE website catalog and store.

This preview session includes a copy of the CWE Candidate Manual as well as a 90-page session notebook including lecture notes, tasting templates, essay exercises, and an 85-item sample CWE multiple-choice exam. Session leader Jane A. Nickles currently serves as SWE’s Director of Education and Certification and is the 2012 Banfi Award Winner for the highest annual score on the CWE Exam.

For more information, please contact Jane Nickles –


Corsica: Isle of Beauty

Ajaccio Cathedral

Ajaccio Cathedral

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

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

Topographic map of Corsica by Eric Gaba via Wikimedia Commons

Topographic map of Corsica by Eric Gaba via Wikimedia Commons

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

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

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

The town of Ajaccio

The town of Ajaccio

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

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

Wine Map of Corsica by DalGobboM (Own work []), via Wikimedia Commons

Wine Map of Corsica by DalGobboM (Own work []), via Wikimedia Commons

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

References/for further information:

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

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

Hot off the Press: The 2016 CSS Workbook has Arrived!


Here’s a riddle: What has 105 pages, 1,070 activities, and over 150 “practice” multiple choice quiz questions, all dealing with spirits,  vermouth, cocktails, and bar culture?

What newly-published resource will help you engage with, retain, and understand the material in the CSS Study Guide and help you to make sense of all sorts of “facts and figures” about adult beverages?

Here’s another hint…

What has been professionally designed to help you structure your studies, and ensure that you receive the best training possible in order to help you pass the CSS Exam?

Answer:  Our CSS Workbook—in print for the first time ever, and available NOW on the SWE Website!  This 105-page workbook has a variety of exercises, including multiple choice questions, word matching, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, and true/false questions. It also contains map exercises and blank maps of the tequila-, Scotch whisky-, armagnac-, and cognac-producing regions.

All of these resources have been designed to help you to learn and comprehend the rather large amount of material to be found in the CSS Study Guide.  While it may sound like a lot of work, we’ve also made it enjoyable—after all, what’s more fun than learning about spirits and cocktails?

The CSS 2016 Workbook is now available for purchase on the SWE website. Click here to access the SWE Website Catalog and Store.


Added note: Our next CSS Online Prep Class is scheduled to begin the week of July 12th. This will be the first class to utilize the 2016 CSS Study Guide and workbook, and we still have a few places available. Click here for more information on the CSS Online Prep Class.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the CSS Workbook, please contact our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles, at

Click here to return to the SWE Website.


The New CSS is Here! The New CSS is Here!


The 2016 version of the CSS Study Guide has been received in the SWE home office and as of  April 11, 2016 is now being shipped! Any new purchase of the CSS Exam will be accompanied by the 2016 Study Guide, and candidates will receive an exam authorization code for the 2016 exam – which is now available at Pearson Vue testing centers.

A CSS Workbook to accompany the 2016 version of the CSS Study Guide is in the final phases of publication and should be available by June 1st.

If you have already purchased the CSS Exam and received the 2015 Study Guide, your authorization code is for the 2015 exam. In other words, when you purchase the exam, you receive an authorization code based on the version of the Study Guide you received. CSS exams based on the 2015 version of the Study Guide will be available at Pearson Vue Centers until June 1 of 2017.

Paper and Pencil (Scantron) versions of the CSS exam are offered in some cases for large groups, at the discretion of the SWE General Manager. From April 1 to August 1, 2016 paper-and-pencil CSS exams will be transitional, that is, based on material that is covered equally in both the 2015 and 2016 books – either version of the Study Guide may be used for preparation. After August 2, 2016, paper-and-pencil versions of the exam will be based on the 2016 book only.

CSS Exams: CSS Exams are available, by appointment, at Pearson Vue Testing Centers. For more information on scheduling and taking your exam at a Pearson Vue Center, please click here.

eBook:  The 2016 edition of the CSS Study Guide will be available soon – a release date is forthcoming. The 2015 version is now available as an ebook on, and iTunes – however, before you purchase the ebook, please make sure you intended to buy the 2015 version.

Online Prep Course: SWE now offers an online CSS Prep Course, led by our Director of Education. Our next CSS Prep Course will begin in July of 2016. This course will use the 2016 version of the CSS Study Guide as well as the 2016 CSS Workbook. This course 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. Click on the above link for start dates and further information.

Addendum: Click here for an Addendum for the 2016 CSS Study Guide. This document details the updates and differences between the 2015 and the 2016 CSS Study Guide.

For more information on the CSS, please contact Jane Nickles at .


Congratulations to our First Class of Certified Spirits Educators!

During our 2015 conference in New Orleans, the Society of Wine Educators administered the first ever Certified Spirits Educator exam to a group of leading industry professionals.  Six candidates successfully demonstrated superior theoretical knowledge through multiple choice and essay questions, tasting acumen through accurate blind identifications and rationales, presentation skills to a targeted audience, and proof of responsible beverage service.  For more information on the rigors of this exam click here.

Please, meet and congratulate the first group of official Certified Spirits Educators!



Hoke Harden, CSW, CSE, B.N.I.C. Certified Cognac Educator, and French Wine ScholarAn enthusiastic lover of wine and spirits, Mr. Harden left a career in academia to follow his other muse for the last 27 years, trekking around the world to the great producing regions. Recently referred to as a veritable walking omnibus of wine and spirits knowledge, he has experienced every possible facet of the world of wine and spirits as a retailer, restaurateur, bartender, buyer, wholesaler, supplier, marketer, critic, writer, competition judge and an educator. He is currently with Elixir Vitae Wine & Spirits Consultants, a member of the Society of Wine Educators, Wine & Spirits Instructor at Mt. Hood Community College, and a Master Instructor with the French Wine Academy.

Hoke on the CSE Exam: The new Certified Spirits Educator program is a highly complex self-study program offered to professional spirits educators and industry professionals; the equivalent to the Society’s highly acclaimed Certified Wine Educator. Other programs dabble in spirits or include ancillary courses in the basics; the CSE focuses singularly on the world of spirits.

daubenmire, experts photos shoot, 2014

daubenmire, experts photos shoot, 2014

Linda Pettine, CWE, CSELinda Pettine is an Associate Professor for the College of Culinary Arts, Providence Campus, Johnson & Wales University. She has been at Johnson & Wales University since 2000, where she teaches in the Beverage & Dining Service Department. She was recognized for her teaching skills with the Beverage & Dining Services Department Service Award in 2001 and Teacher of the Year in 2007.  With over 20 years of industry experience, Ms. Pettine operated and managed fine dining restaurants in the south suburbs of Boston before joining the faculty at Johnson & Wales. Prior to that, she was a sales associate at Branded Liquors in Westwood, Mass. Linda is an active member of the Society of Wine Educators, Women Chef’s & Restaurateurs, and the USBG. She is a Certified Wine Educator, Certified Specialist of Spirits, and a Certified Hospitality Educator. Pettine recently became a Certified Cognac Educator and is certified through the Ėcole du Vin as an international Bordeaux educator. She holds degrees from Massachusetts Bay Community College, North Adams State College, and Johnson & Wales University.

Linda on the CSE Exam: I am fortunate in my like that I have had the opportunity to pursue my passions, “wine and spirits”.  The time and effort studying for the CSE exam was rigorous and demanding utilizing a variety of study techniques and tasting formats.  However, when you are passionate about the subject, it seems less like work and more like a journey.  I am thrilled to have arrived at my destination!



Lisa Graziano CSW, CSELisa Graziano grew up with a German father and Irish-American mother in Los Angeles, California. An education in beer, wine and spirits came with this upbringing. She has pursued the study of wine and spirits seriously for the past eight years, earning both Certified Specialist of Wine and Spirits from the Society of Wine Educators, and currently works as a retail hand seller for Gallo Fine Wines and consults for Bottle Shop 33 in Denver. Her current passion is craft spirits and educating people about them – and she’s obviously great at it!

Lisa on the CSE Exam: The CSE exam was certainly challenging!  I ate, slept, studied and tasted spirits intensely for three months to prepare.  The SWE online Spirits Academy was a helpful tool in preparing for the exam as was the list of iconic spirits and suggested reading list. 



Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSEHarriet Lembeck is a prominent wine and spirits educator and writer. She is President of the Wine & Spirits Program, headquartered in New York City, and was the Director of The New School Wine Classes for their 18-year duration. She has revised and updated the textbook “Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers, and Spirits”, is a favorite speaker on wine and spirits at SWE Conferences, and is a contributing editor to Beverage Dynamics Magazine.

Harriet on the CSE exam: I think that the Certified Spirits Credential is very important for those who teach spirits as well as wine, and for those who already have the Certified Wine Educator credential, it completes the picture. The test was very comprehensive. Multiple choice questions (not as easy as one might think), writing an essay, and then completing two differently-styled tastings made for a long day, but each element was necessary for a candidate to illustrate familiarity with the subject of spirits.



Ira Norof, CWE, CSEIn 1976 Ira’s wine & spirits career began in a retail wine shop.   As his knowledge and passion for the product grew, he eventually became a Sommelier in a Beverly Hills Restaurant.   In 1983, he was hired by Southern Wine & Spirits of California, and in 1996 he was named the Director of Education.  His illustrious career has taken him to visit most of the major wine regions in Europe and the Americas.  He attained the CWE (Certified Wine Educator credential) in 1999.  He holds a diploma from the Bordeaux Wine School and is a certified International Bordeaux Educator, as well as a certified Cognac Educator as ordained by le Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac. He is a guest lecturer at Cal Poly Pomona’s School of Hospitality each semester. Ira served as the President of the Society of Wine Educators from 2010 – 2013 and has been on the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Chapter of the AIWF and was a member of the Bon Appetit Tasting Panel.  Ira remains actively involved in many wine-related charity events throughout the country.

Ira on the CSE exam: I am privileged to have been part of the first CSE exam and will continue to mentor within our California organization on both wine and spirits education. We have over 200 CSW and/or CSS certified employees in the state as well as 4 CWEs. I look forward to help increase those numbers in the coming months.



Jane A. Nickles, CWE, CSE, MBA – “Miss Jane” is the Director of Education for the Society of Wine Educators and in charge of all educational materials such as study guides, workbooks and online courses as well as exams and certification instruments.  In the past two years, she has introduced SWEbinars, ebooks, online prep classes, our blog, and computer-based testing to SWE.  Before working for SWE, she  created and taught wine classes for 20 years at Le Cordon Bleu Colleges, was the 2012 Banfi award winner for best score on the CWE exam, won the 2008 WOSA wine essay award (the prize for which was a 2-week tour of the winelands of South Africa), and has published countless textbooks and journals, including the latest editions of the SWE Study Guides.

Miss Jane on the CSE exam: Over the past few years, the CSS program has grown rapidly, and we have received an increasing number of requests for more in-depth programs and a higher level certification in spirits. One could even say the CSE was created due to popular demand!

Congratulations to our new CSEs! Now…who will be next?