Conference Preview: Antonio Carpenè and the Birth of Prosecco



Today we have a conference preview about a session about the rise of Prosecco—and so much more. Read on to hear a bit of the story of the fascinating “Father of Prosecco” – and don’t miss the part about that time when he named his children after the elements. Now, that’s a good story!

It was a dream in 1868 that gave rise to Carpenè Malvolti—a dream that became Prosecco.

Antonio Carpenè is the father of Prosecco.  He fought to unify Italy under Garibaldi at the battle of Bezzecca, and then went on to study chemistry at the University of Pavia.

For Antonio Carpenè, chemistry held the secrets of the future and he dedicated his life to the pursuit of that future. He named his first son Rubidium and his second, Etile (Ethyl)—who went on to manage the wine company he founded (and was the first to put the term “Prosecco” on a wine label.  But when Antonio suggested that another child be named Oenocyanin, after the pigment in grape skins, his wife rebelled.  That daughter became Mary—who, out of respect for her father, later named her first son Iridium.



It was his love of chemistry and the patria of Conegliano that brought him to the world of wine.  Antonio believed that wine, more than any other product, completely expressed the character and quality of a place and he dedicated himself to spreading this message throughout his native land.  Despite his position as a professor at the legendary University of Bologna, he preferred to give Chemistry lectures on a chair in the local piazze around the Veneto, so that every man in the street could benefit from his knowledge.

In addition to founding Carpenè Malvolti, the first modern winery in the Veneto—and the winery that created the style and character that is Prosecco today—he also founded the Instituto Conegliano, now the largest technical winemaking school in the world, and a leader in oenology and viticulture in Italy. The school celebrated its 140th anniversary last year.

Over succeeding generations, the Carpenè family has led the way for the wines of Italy: they founded the Italian Institute of Sparkling Wine, pushed for legislative protection for wine regions and production methods, played key roles in Federvini, the national wine association, and today chair the Technical High School Institute for New Technology to improve education and the use of High Tech in the world of Italian food and wine.

Rosanna Carpenè is now the fifth generation of her family to serve as president of the company, and she continues to drive it forward by marketing her wines in more than fifty countries, and producing a range of products from Prosecco Superiore to Brandy, Grappa, and Classic Method sparkling wines.



And she has plans for the future…the winery is now completely renovating more than five acres of property in the heart of Conegliano, modernizing the production facility, and contributing to the community by constructing a new public piazza in the heart of the city.  The piazza will celebrate the story of Antonio Carpenè and his contributions to the world of Italian wine, culture, and science.

In this year’s conference, managing director Domenico Scimone will explore this history, culture, and wines of this region, with special attention to the leadership of Antonio Carpenè—the father of Prosecco. The session, entitled “Antonio Carpenè and the Birth of Prosecco” will be held on Friday, August 11, 2017 at 3:00 pm as part of the Society of Wine Educator’s 41st  Annual Conference, to be held in Portland, Oregon. See you there!


Conference Preview: International Pinot Noir Styles – A Comparative Blind Tasting Seminar



Today we have a conference preview from Eric Hemer, CWE, MS, MW. Eric tells us about his upcoming session titled, “International Pinot Noir Styles – A Comparative Blind Tasting Seminar” to be presented as part of SWE’s upcoming 41st Annual Conference:

International Pinot Noir Styles – A Comparative Blind Tasting Seminar

Conducted by: Eric Hemer, CWE, MS, MW – Senior VP, Corporate Director of Wine Education, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of America

This informal yet informative seminar will focus on Pinot Noir from around the world, including high quality, representative examples from regions such as Burgundy, Austria, California, Oregon, New Zealand and Australia, among others. In all, eight wines will be tasted in a blind format. We will start with an introduction to the variety, including historical background, viti/vini, and current, pertinent information. While tasting each wine, gentle audience participation will be encouraged. Each wine will be revealed after tasting and information on the producer, region of origin and viti/vini will be discussed. Handouts with details on each wine will be provided, and the PowerPoint presentation will be made available to all on the SWE website after the conference has concluded.

Eric’s session, “International Pinot Noir Styles – A Comparative Blind Tasting Seminar” will be held on Thursday,  August 10th, 2017 at 2:45 pm as part of SWE’s 41st Annual Conference, to be held August 10 through 12 in Portland, Oregon.



Speaker Biography: Eric Hemer began his career at Southern Wine & Spirits (SWS) in 1988 as an On-Premise Wine Consultant in Palm Beach County, Florida. He went into management in 1990 and held various positions over the years, culminating in General Manager for American Wine and Spirits of Florida.

In 1998, as similar positions were created around the country at SWS, he was appointed Educational Director for SWS of Florida, a return to his original interest in fine wine. Hemer passed the Certified Wine Educator examination in 1999, the Master Sommelier examination in 2003 and the Master of Wine examination in 2013. In 2014, he was promoted to his current position of Senior Vice-President, Corporate Director of Wine Education for SWS of America and today oversees wine educational endeavors in 46 markets across the US and Canada with the new company, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of America.

Eric is actively involved in wine education with numerous affiliated organizations as well, teaching at The Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Florida International University in Miami, acting as consulting sommelier and speaker for Chef Jean-Pierre’s Culinary School in Ft. Lauderdale, and is deeply involved in courses, lectures and examinations around the country with the Court of Master Sommeliers, the Institute of Masters of Wine, the Society of Wine Educators, and the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.

Moonshine University Presents: BBQ and Bourbon Pairings!



The air gets a little smokier in May as Americans fire up the grill for National Barbecue Month. For this summertime exercise, the team at Moonshine University, the epicenter of bourbon, looked at BBQ sauces from all over the U.S. and did a big taste testing to see which bourbons paired the best with each sauce. Let that stew in your work jealousy for a while. The Moonshine team tried each sauce with both pork and chicken and then narrowed down what bourbons to match to based off the initial tasting notes of the sauce. Here’s Moonshine University’s top BBQ and bourbon pairings.

Alabama White Sauce: This mayonnaise-based sauce hails from northern Alabama. Beyond mayo, this sauce includes: apple cider vinegar, sugar, salt and black pepper. We found the sauce to be very mayonnaise forward, much like ranch dressing with a slight vinegar tinge.

  • Bourbon Pairing: Booker’s – The higher proof of the Booker’s was mellowed out by the oil in the sauce, letting a lot of the flavors in the bourbon to come out in a way they didn’t on its own. We thought dialing back the alcohol burn really opened the bourbon and since the sauce wasn’t wildly flavorful, we didn’t feel anything was lost in the bourbon or in the sauce. It was a nice juxtaposition pairing : the mellowness of the sauce, with the boldness of the bourbon.

 South Carolina Mustard Sauce: This sauce, as the name would indicate, is a mustard-based sauce instead of your typical ketchup or tomato base. The flavor profile is like many of the red barbecue sauces, sweet and spicy. We loved this sauce. It was slightly sweet, a little tangy, and carried a nice balance between apple cider vinegar and mustard. It was loudly exclaimed by a member of the tasting panel, “Ain’t nothing wrong with that sauce!”

  • Bourbon Pairing: Maker’s Mark – Maker’s Mark was a perfect complement to this sauce. The sweetness of the bourbon matched the sweetness of the sauce just right and both flavor profiles complemented each other perfectly. Every time you took a sip after a bite or a bite after a sip, different flavors popped out, often blending together to create a tangy mustard with a sweet, subtle oak flavor. Leaving a light candy flavor aftertaste.


Texas BBQ Sauce: While Texas has many different regions that all prepare their meat differently, we’re going to focus on the sauce. Texas BBQ sauce is one of the styles people traditionally think of when they think of BBQ sauce. It’s a tomato-based sauce sweetened with molasses or brown sugar. The sauce we ended up with was a mild sauce and not very spicy at all. It was very tomato forward with black pepper and other spices coming in mid-palate and leaving us with a spicy finish.

  • Bourbon Pairing: Woodford Reserve – We found that Woodford Reserve was the right proof and flavor profile to complement this sauce. The proof added a little heat to the somewhat mild sauce, so the kick up in spiciness was a nice addition. Not to mention the rye notes that come out in Woodford rounded out the sauce and gave it a spicy flavor throughout. The spiciness of the rye in the bourbon pair perfectly with the spices in the BBQ sauce. It is a combo that really brought out the best in each other.

North Carolina BBQ Sauce: The Carolinas know their BBQ and it’s evident by the showing of 3 different styles of sauces on this list.  The ketchup-based version would fall under the realm of a ‘traditional’ type of sauce.  This particular sauce was very sweet, had notes of molasses and was mild, but had a rich umami, or meaty, character to it.

  • Bourbon Pairing: Buffalo Trace – After taking a bite of BBQ with this North Carolina sauce on it and taking a sip of Buffalo Trace, something magical happens. This relationship birthed a completely new flavor that we didn’t pick out of the sauce or bourbon individually.  The two together brought out a smoky and oaky character that was fantastic. Plus, the bourbon lessened the intensity of the sweetness and allowed a caramel note to pop out. The flavors blended well with one another creating an entirely new, sauce and flavor.


Eastern Carolina BBQ Sauce: This other offering from the Carolinas comes from the coast. This vinegar-based sauce is generally spicy.  Starting with vinegar instead of ketchup, this sauce is much thinner than all the others on this list, however everyone on the tasting panel was big fan of spicy and a big fan of this sauce.  It was vinegary, hot, spicy, bold with big flavors.  Overall a great and well-balanced sauce.

  • Bourbon Whiskey Pairing: Bulleit Rye – This is the only whiskey on our list that isn’t a bourbon, but when we tasted the sauce we knew what would pair perfectly, Bulleit Rye. Bulleit Rye has big, bold flavors that can hold up to the sauce.  Bulleit Rye has a delightful dill note, that when coupled with the sauce, gives the experience an almost pickle back note.  Generally, not something that would be desired, but with BBQ it’s a perfect flavor that gets created.  The bold flavor of the sauce and whiskey balance each other out and complemented each other perfectly.

Memphis BBQ Sauce: Memphis knows a thing or two about BBQ as well and is one of the most popular styles of BBQ. This sauce is a ketchup-based sauce that is generally sweet, peppery and a little peppery. Everyone enjoyed this style of sauce quite a bit. It hit every part of the mouth with a good flavor and it had a wide breadth of characteristics, not to mention the really nice pepper and coriander notes.

  • Bourbon Pairing: Wild Turkey 101 – A sauce with that much going on needs to be paired with a bourbon that has a whole lot going on too but in the same smooth, well-balanced way. That’s how we paired Wild Turkey 101 with this sauce. The Wild Turkey amplified all the best parts of the Memphis style sauce by adding nice, fruit notes, a subtle smoky note and gave the whole combination a full umami experience.  The 101 proof of the Wild Turkey was cut back by the sauce letting the flavors really come out. The combination also produced a delightful, sweet and spicy finish that lingered enjoyable on the tongue.


The debate about which region has the best BBQ will carry on for years to come. Personally, we like them all. But the same debate happens in the bourbon industry as well. Again, no favorites here. But the Moonshine U tasting panel tried to find common ground by pairing two of our favorite things together into something we can all agree on. Cheers to National BBQ Month!

About Moonshine University: Moonshine University was founded by David Dafoe in 2013. The bourbon epicenter opened its doors on the Distilled Spirits Beverage Campus in Louisville, Kentucky to educate entrepreneurs on how to launch a successful distilling business from concept, to distilling, to bottling.  Moonshine University houses the Stave & Thief Society, a bourbon certification program. It was established to promote Kentucky’s distinguished bourbon culture. Stave & Thief Society will lead bourbon enthusiasts, restaurants, bars, hotels and retail employees to become Executive Bourbon Stewards through a standardized training program.

Thanks to Moonshine University for the press release. Photo credits: Phil Icsman.


Conference Preview: Romanée-Conti Anyone?



Today we have a conference preview from Don Kinnan, CSS, CWE, who tells us about his upcoming session, ““Exploring the Backroads of the Cote d’Or (Part 2),” to be presented as part of the 41st Annual Conference of the Society of Wine Educators, to be held August  10 to 12, 2017, in Portland, Oregon.

When is the last time you had a glass of Romanée-Conti?  When is the next time you will have a glass?  For most of us, those are easy answers—NEVER!

Burgundy’s crown jewel unfortunately is affordable only to the rich and famous, and that leaves most of us out.  At $12,000 a bottle for recent releases, Romanée-Conti is slightly outside my budget.  However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t regularly satisfy my addiction to fine Burgundy wines, both reds and whites.  The secret is to seek out less famous and less glamorous appellations, or as we have phrased it, “explore the backroads of La Côte d’Or.”



At this year’s SWE Annual Conference, we will continue this exploration by delving into the Côte de Beaune.  Specifically, we will visit the villages of Monthélie, Auxey-Duresses, St-Aubin, and Santenay.  Each of these villages produces wines that are extremely popular among the locals—and these are the folks who know where true value lies in the current sea of elevated prices that affects today’s Côte d’Or wine market.

While these four villages do not boast of any grand cru sites, they are blessed with abundant premier cru and village-level vineyard acreage.  Perhaps you already know a bit about them.  Can you identify which village is the correct answer to the following questions?

Test Your Knowledge! !

  1. Its white wines are often referred to as “junior Meursault”
  2. It is the home of a special pinot noir clone and a leader in Cordon de Royat vine training.
  3. 76% of its wine production is premier cru.
  4. Its best premiers crus are extensions of Volnay-Caillerets and Volnay Clos des Chènes.


(The answers are at the end of this article)

During my session at the SWE Conference, you will learn the answers to these questions and much more—particularly just what it is that makes the wines of these villages worth seeking out.  Because of their relative obscurity compared to the “big names”, their distribution is limited in the United States.  However, thanks to the internet and on-line shopping, access is possible, unless you live in a state with prehistoric wine laws.

Here are a few village factoids to whet your appetite and impress your friends.

  • Monthélie is the smallest producer of the 4 villages, producing 49,000 cases annually, with 87% of that being red wine.
  • Auxey-Duresses produces 57,000 cases and has one third white wine and two thirds red wine.  It is also the home village of the prestigious Domaine Leroy.
  • St-Aubin has an annual wine production of 82,000 cases, with 77% being white wine.  It is the 4th largest white wine producing village in La Côte d’Or.
  • Santenay produces 140,000 cases of wine annually, with 82% being red wine.  This production gives it the #6 ranking in wine production among all La Côte d’Or villages.  It also is the home of Burgundy’s only casino.


With all of this information, you already know more about these villages than 99% of your wine geek friends.  Now all that remains is to attend the session, learn even more, and, most importantly, taste the 7 wines from these appellations.  See you there.

Answers to quiz questions:

  1. Auxey-Duresses
  2. #2: Santenay
  3. #3: St-Aubin
  4. #4: Monthélie


About the speaker, Don Kinnan, CSS, CWE: For 35 years, Don Kinnan has been engaged in the fine wine trade and for most of that period has been an active member of the SWE.  He was the co-chair of the society’s CSW-founding committee and is currently serving on the SWE Board of Directors. Don spent 20 years as Director of Corporate Education for a major fine wine importer and is presently the Burgundy Specialist and Lead Instructor of the Wine Scholar Guild’s Master Burgundy Certificate program.

Don’s session, “Exploring the Backroads of the Cote d’Or (Part 2)” will be presented on Saturday, August 12th at 3:00 pm, as part of the 41st Annual Conference of the Society of Wine Educators, to be held August  10 to 12, 2017, in Portland, Oregon.

Photo credits: Don Kinnan; photo of Don Kinnan by Tenley Fohl Photography.

Conference Preview: Aging and Blending Taylor’s Tawny Ports



Today we have a conference preview from Adrian Bridge, the CEO of the Fladgate Partnership and The Yeatman Hotel. Adrian gives us a preview of his session entitled ““Mature Tawny Ports: The Art of Aging and Blending.”

Taylor’s aged Tawnies—10-, 20-, 30- and Over 40-Year-Old—are not only as significant a part of the business as Late-Bottled Vintage Port, but they have grown in importance, a trend which seems set to continue as more and more people discover them. Already the 20-Year-Old is the most popular pouring Port in restaurants in the US and the 10-Year-Old is the leading aged Tawny in Britain. Back home in Portugal, Taylor’s has been adding to its stocks of maturing Tawnies since the mid-1990s, so much so that Tawny stocks now top all other styles.

Aged Tawnies are blends of the wines of several different years, each batch blended to match the last (and labelled, incidentally, with an age which is a guide, not a mathematical calculation). A bottle of Taylor’s 10-Year-Old bought this year will taste the same as one bought last year and one bought in five years’ time.

Being more delicate in taste than bottle-matured Ports they start life in the same way.  What makes them different is the way they’re matured. But first, they have to be chosen.



Early in the new year samples of the 200 or so Ports from the previous harvest—from Taylor’s own quintas and from farmers with whom it has contracts (some dating back a century)—are sent down from the Douro to Vila Nova de Gaia for tasting, categorising and classifying into the various styles: potential Vintage, Late-Bottled Vintage, 10-, 20-, 30- and 40-Year-Old Tawny, and so on.

So far, so simple; but the classification tasting is anything but simple. Aged tawnies are blended not at the beginning of their life, but at the end, which means that the tasters—David Guimaraens, head winemaker and his team—are not only assessing quality now, but predicting the outcome of wines that will remain in cask for years, if not decades.

The aged Tawny process starts, then, with the tasting of the new wines—always blind, every morning over a period of several weeks at the beginning of each year. “We’re getting into the soul of the wine, really getting to know it, which is why we don’t do more than about 20 a day. It’s the only time we see all these wines together like this,” says David Guimaraens. Their notes and scores are fed into the computer and matched up to each wine’s vital statistics (origin, quantity, chemical analysis) to produce a complete profile, one sheet for each wine.

So what does make a 10-Year-Old or a 40-Year-Old? Ports selected for a 10-Year-Old Tawny are likely to be from the same group as for Late-Bottled Vintage; those destined to be 30- and Over 40-Year-Olds are likely to be from Taylor’s own quintas and to be material of Vintage Port quality which hasn’t made the final cut. A future 40-Year-Old might be slightly lighter in colour than the wines selected for the Vintage; it might be more delicate, perhaps a bit more floral; it might come from a very good part of the quinta, but one that doesn’t produce quite the intensity required for a top Vintage Port.



It follows that just as Taylor’s doesn’t have the quality to produce a Vintage Port each year, it doesn’t set aside port for 30- and Over 40-Year-Old Tawnies every year. The aim is always to have suitable material for 10- and 20-Year-Olds, but nature can thwart even this: 1993 produced no aged Tawnies; and 2002 yielded nothing suitable for 20-Year-Old and above.

Selecting the right quality and style is only the beginning. The Ports destined to be Tawnies are stored in the company’s lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia and the new temperature- and humidity-regulated facility in the Douro. Here they are nurtured and guided so that they develop in keeping with the Taylor’s Tawny style. Key elements of this are freshness, fruitiness and finesse; complexity and nuttiness, too; but always avoiding the more oxidised ‘Douro bake’ character which comes from ageing in the hot, dry conditions of the Douro and from racking and refreshing the wines infrequently.

Racking, separating the wine from its sediment (including the colouring matter; hence the final tawny colour) and aerating it, is done more often early on, gradually reducing to annually. Refreshing a Tawny—“giving it something to chew on” (to translate an evocative Portuguese expression)—is, as you might expect, the blending in of some younger Port. Both procedures are critical in the evolution of aged Tawnies.

Alongside the racking and refreshing team, another is kept busy in the cooperage repairing casks. ‘The casks stay with us forever,’ David says (as do many of the staff, as it happens). Oak is used because its tight grain allows the ideal slow oxidation, but it’s always well-seasoned, never new. The last thing anyone wants is the sweet vanilla taste of new oak; port has enough flavour and sweetness of its own. Size matters, too: most of the Tawnies are in pipes (casks of 600-640 litres), but any that need refreshing may be moved from cask to large vat to slow the ageing.

Photo via

Photo via

With selection and classification at the beginning of the year and quality control ongoing, what remains is the all-important blending in November, the quiet after the storm of the harvest period.

Blending the aged Tawnies is thus anything but whimsical or random. It requires exceptional tasting skills, but also a dab hand with a calculator. As David and his team pick their way through 50 or 60 potential components for the 10-Year-Old, lined up round the tasting room with the age of each written in front on the counter, they are calculating both the average age and the quantity that will result: 140 pipes of number three (the age of which is  seven years, ten month)—“lovely zing and bite”—76 pipes of number 27 (aged ten years eight months); four pipes of 51 (20 years three months years)—“for complexity”. It takes a couple of mornings to do the 10-Year-Old; less to do a 40-Year-Old because there are fewer possible components. But the 40-Year-Old will have a wider variation of age. The current Over 40-Year-Old may contain some wine from the 1930s, but with younger wines to bring the age to within a few years either side of 40.

Blends chosen, the blending itself is done, the finished tawnies are bottled and within months they’re shipped. The rest is our job: drinking them.

Click here to download the Tasting Notes – Taylor Tawny Ports

Photo of Adrian Bridge via

Photo of Adrian Bridge via

About the speaker: Adrian Bridge is the CEO of the Fladgate Partnership and The Yeatman Hotel. Adrian has worked for Taylor’s since 1994 and in 2000, formally took over the role of Managing Director of the Taylor Fonseca Port Group. Having been instrumental in the group of buying the assets of Borges Port in 1998, he further expanded the company with the purchase of Croft Port and Delaforce Port in 2001, from Diageo. The subsequent reorganization of the group, to form The Fladgate Partnership, and repackaging of these brands has helped the group to become a leading supplier of Port in the major premium markets of the world. Adrian is the creative force behind The Yeatman, a project that he started in 2006. He was involved in every detail of the project: design, branding and launch of the hotel.

Adrian’s session, “Mature Tawny Ports: The Art of Aging and Blending” will be held on Saturday, August 12, 2017 at 4:45 pm as part of SWE’s 41st Annual Conference, to be held August 10 – 12, 2017 in Portland Oregon.

Conference Preview: Teaching Insights with Tim Gaiser, MS



Today we have a conference preview from Tim Gaiser, MS. Tim has been one of the top-rated speakers at our conference for many years now, and his sessions fill up fast! This year we are lucky enough to have Tim presenting two sessions, which he will tell you about in his own words, below.

I’ll be doing two sessions at the conference this August in Portland. My first session, “Insights: Best Practices for Teaching Professional Tasting,” will focus on strategies for teaching tasting. I find teaching tasting to be one of the most rewarding things I do as a wine professional—but it can be one of the most frustrating as well. Everyone is wired differently and I need multiple strategies to teach any group, much less to coach an individual student.

These strategies include memorizing a tasting grid; improving recognition and memory of common wine aromas and flavors; calibrating structural elements (acidity, alcohol, and tannin) consistently and accurately; and deductive logic—putting sensory information together in order to make good conclusions in a blind tasting. In this past year I created a survey with the intention of collecting best practices for teaching tasting. I sent the survey to over 50 fellow Master Sommeliers and all were generous in sharing their strategies. This session will focus on strategies taken from the survey as well some of my own. To help illustrate the strategies we’ll taste through a flight of four outstanding wines. Join me as we deconstruct the best the practices of teaching professional tasting.

My second session, “Hungarian Furmint: Ancient Grape, Modern Wines”  will focus on Furmint, arguably Hungary’s greatest white grape variety. Furmint has been the primary grape used in the production of Tokaji, one of the most remarkable, historic, and complex dessert wines of the last several centuries. In the last decade a new generation of winemakers has been using Furmint to produce some of the most exciting dry white wines found anywhere. Join me as we take a tour through the history and vineyards of Tokaj and Csopak, and discover the brilliance of dry Furmint by tasting an outstanding flight of wines.


Tim Gaiser, MS

About the speaker: Tim Gaiser is an internationally renowned wine expert and lecturer. He is one of 175 individuals worldwide to ever attain the elite Master Sommelier wine title.  Over his 25-plus year career, Tim has taught thousands of students in wines and spirits classes at every level as well as developing wine education programs for restaurants, winery schools and wine distributors. He has experience in all phases of the wine industry – online, wholesale, retail, winery, and restaurant – including stints at Heitz Wine Cellars in the Napa Valley and Bix and Cypress Club restaurants in San Francisco, and Virtual Vineyards/the original

Tim has written for a number of publications including Fine Cooking Magazine and Sommelier Journal. He also writes for numerous wine and spirits clients including Champagne Perrier Jöuet, Wines of Germany and the Portuguese Cork Quality Association. Gaiser has served as the author and lead judge for the Best Young Sommelier Competition and the TopSomm Competition, the two major American sommelier competitions. Considered one of the leading wine tasters and educators, Gaiser was recently featured in the Think like a Genius Wine Master training product, created by the Everyday Genius Institute.

Tim’s first session, “Insights: Best Practices for Teaching Professional Tasting” will be held on Friday, August 11, 2017 at 8:45 am. The session on Hungarian Furmint will also be on Friday, August 11, at 3:00 pm. For more information, see the website of the 41st Conference of the Society of Wine Educators to be held on August 10 – 12, in Portland, Oregon.


Conference Preview: Three Panels with Somm Journal!



Today we have a conference preview written by Meridith May, who is bringing several panels of experts from The Tasting Panel Magazine and Somm Journal to our August Conference in Portland. Read on to learn more about these fascinating sessions! 

Since I took over The Somm Journal, we have opened doors to thousands of new readers from all aspects of the wine industry. Our audience continues to grow at breakneck speed, from wine buyers at restaurant and retail to winemakers, F&B Directors, distributors and importers.  From this perspective we are thrilled to bring in three panels to SWE’s August conference in Portland, and proud of the panel moderators we have gathered together. It will be thrilling to observe and learn from the panelists and we plan to document these panels in word and image in our October issue.

On Thursday, August 10 at 10:00 am, spirits expert/mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler will moderate our panel entitled “Deconstructing Spirits.” Jeffrey will question his panel of brand experts on what goes into creating the flavor profiles, the distillation processes, and the ingredients of eight different spirits – which the attendees will taste along with the panel.



We will “Dig into Unique Terroir” on Friday August 11 at 3:00 pm with moderator Eric Hemer, MW, MS – Senior VP of Education for Southern Glazer’s. Eight winery representatives from regions such as Victoria, Australia; Navarro, Spain; Rias Baixas; Mendoza, Argentina and Alto Adige will taste their wines with attendees and dive deep into how terroir affects the character of these wines.

Our third session, scheduled for Saturday, August 12 at 10:30 am, will feature a “Coached Blind Tasting” program. While attendees attempt to blind a flight of wines, they will be coached by moderators Bob Bath, MS/Head Beverage Professor at CIA Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, and Somm Journal’s Deputy Editor/Advanced Sommelier Allyson Gorsuch. While the attendees taste and write down their guesses, the two coaches will give hints about the regions and varietals. When time is up, papers will be collected and each winery’s representative will “reveal” their respective wines and discuss the details.

All of these fascinating sessions will be presented at the Society of Wine Educators’ 41st Annual Conference, to be held August 10 to 12, 2017 in Portland, Oregon. See you there!

Guest Blogger: Discover Mexico’s Baja Wine Country

The courtyard at Adobe Guadalupe (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

The courtyard at Adobe Guadalupe (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

In this guest post, Matilde Parente, MD, CSW gives readers a lovely armchair tour of the wine, food and history of the Guadalupe Valley, a region that’s putting Mexican winemaking on the world’s wine maps.

Wine country adventurers now have another destination to explore: Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley, located 90 miles south of San Diego in Baja California. About half the size of the Napa Valley, this Mexican valle offers a low-key and rustic wine, food, and cultural experience that will jolt your palate and swaddle you with its warmth and beauty.

Although Mexican wine has only recently burst onto the radar of norteños, our southern neighbor has been making wine since the 1500s, after conqueror Hernán Cortés requested grapevines from Spain and before vineyards were planted in Chile and Argentina.

Milestones in Baja winemaking include efforts by the Jesuits in the early 1700s, the 1888 founding of Bodegas de Santo Tomás, Baja’s oldest continuously operating winery and the winegrapes  planted by Russian Molokan refugees in the early 1900s. More French and Italian varieties were introduced to Baja in the early 20th century, aided by Wente’s James Concannon and the Piedmont-born Italian viticulturist Esteban Ferro.

The vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe photo credit: Matilde Parente)

The vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

The modern era in Baja winemaking began in 1972 with the founding of Casa Pedro Domecq and has accelerated since the 1980s, which saw the emergence of the Valle’s first boutique winery, Monte Xanic, and the rising prominence of the Bordeaux-trained enologist Hugo D’Acosta. In 2004, D’Acosta founded a winemaking school, the Estación de Oficios Porvenir, affectionately known as La Escuelita, to train and help support small-scale winegrowers.

Common red grape varieties planted today include heat-loving Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Carignan, Aglianico, Syrah, and Petit Sirah—along with Barbera, Nebbiolo and Spain’s original Mission grape. White varieties include Chardonnay, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, and Viognier. Delicious rosés are also made from many of these varieties, notably those from Nebbiolo.

Although some single-varietal wines are made, most Valle wines are blends, some of which are unusual, such as the outstanding Rafael, a Cabernet-Nebbiolo blend by Adobe Guadalupe. Limited more by their imagination than AOP-type regulations, Mexican winemakers continue to experiment with their terroir and winemaking decisions.

Guadalupe Valley soils are a mixture of sandy loam and red clay. Lying just within the 30-degree latitude for quality winegrowing, the arid Valle receives only about 3–4 inches of rain annually with daytime temperatures averaging 86°F in summer and 42°F in winter. Yields average 2–3 tons per acre.

The view just before sunset at Ensenada’s Cuatro Cuatros resort and outdoor restaurant (Photo Credit: Matilde Parante)

The view just before sunset at Ensenada’s Cuatro Cuatros resort and outdoor restaurant (Photo Credit: Matilde Parante)

Today, the more than 60 Guadalupe Valley wineries account for 90% of Mexico’s wine production with L.A. Cetto, Domecq and Monte Xanic producing the lion’s share of the region’s wines. According to 2014 figures, Mexican wineries produced just over two million cases of wine a year, which accounted for about one-third of domestic (Mexican) wine sales. Most other wineries and artisan winemakers are small-production, family-owned and -operated enterprises with limited marketing and distribution opportunities, even within Mexico.

Traditionally, beer and tequila have been the nation’s most popular adult beverages. However, Mexican wine consumption has seen a 12% increase over the past decade, especially among the upper middle class and younger consumers. Key Mexican wine markets are Mexico City and Guadalajara restaurants and their more affluent residents.

The two-lane Ruta del Vino (wine route) tracks north and east from coastal Ensenada towards Tecate. Wineries that deserve a stop and a few sips include the Adobe Guadalupe (with a free tasting and homemade breakfast included with your stay), the architecturally stunning Monte Xanic, Villa Montefiori, Viña de Frannes (where Michel Roland consults), Vinicola Torres Alegre y Familia and La Lomita Winery.

On and off the the well-marked Ruta you’ll also find a range of accommodations, from the air-conditioned cabins of Ensenada’s glamping hot spot Cuatro Cuatros to the relaxed country sophistication of the six-room Adobe Guadalupe, which is also home to its outstanding winery and Azteca horse stables.

Finally, no wine country would be complete without great food and a museum. The $5.3 million Museo de La Vid y El Vino inaugurated in 2012 is a spacious modern architectural wonder where you can learn more about the region’s fascinating history.

A view of the vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe from the Azteca horse stable (Photo Credit" Matilde Parente)

A view of the vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe from the Azteca horse stable (Photo Credit: Matilde Parente)

The Baja food scene evolved along with the emerging wine scene, propelling it forward gastronomically. Known as Baja Mediterranean, the local cuisine is creative, healthful and farm-fresh. Along with al fresco pleasure, freshly caught seafood and flavorful Valle-grown produce are exceptional. Many dishes are prepared with the local olive oil, a must-buy at many wineries.

Homegrown and resettled chefs such as Javier Plascencia (Finca Altozano), Drew Deckman (Deckman’s en el Mogor), Angelo Dal Bon (Tre Galline at the Villa Montefiori winery), Leda Gamboa (The Adobe Food Truck at the Adobe Guadalupe) and Diego Hernandez (Corazon De Tierra) continue to transform, elevate and energize the local food scene with their creativity and enoturismo evangelism.

For those unwilling or unsure about driving down to the Valle, a few reputable companies offer guided tours for small groups and individuals, including Fernando Gaxiola’s Baja Wine + Food. Although 4-wheel drive isn’t required, most roads leading up to the wineries are pocked dirt roads and dusty feet are guaranteed – a good enough reason to kick ‘em up and enjoy another sip of delicious Guadalupe Valley wine.

About the author: Matilde Parente, MD, CSW blogs at and tweets @winefoodhealth.


  • Covarrubias J, Thach L. Wines of Baja Mexico: A qualitative study examining viticulture, enology, and marketing practices. Wine Economics and Policy. Vol 4, Issue 2, Dec 2015, pp 110–115.

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Conference Preview: Orange Wines: Contemporary Winemakers Are Putting Some Skin in the Game



Today we have a post from wine educator and author Jim Laughren, CWE. Jim gives us a sneak peak at his session about orange wines, which will be presented as part of SWE’s 41st Annual Conference in August of this year.

Orange, aka amber, aka skin-fermented, aka macerated, aka off-white—white wine made like a red with days, weeks, or months on the skins and stems—is either the new “love-to-hate-‘em” or “dang-that’s-intriguing” or “wow-this-is-really-superb-savory-unexpected” wine kid on the block. Its resurgence began with a gush of “natural” and “non-interventionist” hoopla that was too often shorthand for funky, nasty, BAD tasting wine. Try a dozen, if you could find them, of these nouveau ancient bottlings ten years ago and chances are excellent that at least half of them were, hmmm … questionable, at best.

No matter that orange was likely one of the two original wine colors (the other being red) as folks in the Neolithic were less obsessed with whisking the juice from its skins and stems and producing that star-bright white of which we have become so enamored. Simpler folks, simpler times and all that. Despite all the “advances” in equipment, technique, storage, bottling, and so forth, these ARE wines the ancients would recognize, at least as far as taste is concerned.

Whipsawing our way back to the present, orange winemakers have become more concerned with delicious and drinkable. In fact, it’s now rather easy to find orange wine that has been made in qvevri, amphora, tinaja, wood, concrete and/or stainless steel. Winemakers are plying the better tools of their trade, along with skin contact, to produce a new “generation” of orange wines that are at least alluring, if not downright delectable.



What fruit they offer is more in the peach, pear, apricot, tangerine spectrum. And yet, depending on the specific wine, they are redolent of earth and herbs and tea and seashell and dried flowers and, thanks to their very noticeable tannins (such an organoleptic disconnect: white wine and tannins) coupled with their rich savoriness, orange wines are a nearly perfect food match with almost everything.

So join me, explorers and skeptics alike, and let’s put these autumnal-colored babies to the test. It’s all balderdash until it hits the old olfactory epithelium anyway. A little history, both ancient and recent, a lot of color, and a lovely lineup of orange for your tasting pleasure. Hope to see you in Portland!

Jim’s session, “Orange Wines: How a Collection of Contemporary Winemakers are Putting Some Skin in the Game” will be offered on Thursday, August 10th at 1:00 pm, as part of the Society of Wine Educators’ 41st Annual Conference, to be held in Portland, Oregon.

About the speaker: Jim Laughren, CWE, is committed in his educational endeavors to chop off the highfalutin’ right after the first “i” and present wine and all its glorious permutations in a manner that’s friendly and welcoming to all.  He is the author of A Beer Drinker’s Guide To Knowing & Enjoying Fine Wine, named a Kirkus ‘Indie Book of the Year’ in 2013 and has a second volume, 50 Ways To Love Wine More, scheduled for release later this year. Like many of us, he travels frequently to wine regions around the world and enjoys introducing new drinkers to the pleasures of the sacred juice.


Italy Approves its 335th DOC: Delle Venezie DOC

Photo via:

Photo via:

Earlier this month, during a “talk show” on center stage at Vinitaly, a new DOC was announced. The new denominación de origen (DOC), Italy’s 335th, will be known as the Delle Venezie DOC and is approved for Pinot Grigio (still as well as sparkling) and white blends (bianco). The delineated region includes the entirety of the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions, as well as the province of Trentino.

The super-star wine of the DOC will undoubtedly be its Pinot Grigio. A large majority of the varietal Pinot Grigio produced in Italy comes from this area, and much of it will now qualify for DOC status. While the new DOC is still awaiting approval from the EU, the Italian Ministry of Agriculture has stated that we may expect to see the Delle Venezie DOC used on wines beginning with the release of the 2017 vintage.

In line with EU standards, Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC will be required to be at least 85% Pinot Grigio. The remainder may be any white grape allowed to be grown in the region, which includes Chardonnay, Friulano (aka Tai), Garganega, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, and Verduzzo, among others.  Sparkling Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie DOC must be tank-fermented, and must contain less than 32 g/L of residual sugar.

Blended white wines (bianco) of the DOC will be allowed to be made with any aromatic white grape that is permitted to be cultivated in the area, as long as at least 50% is comprised of one or more of the following:  Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Müller-Thurgau, Garganega, Verduzzo, or Friulano (aka Tai).

The protected geographical indication formerly known as the IGP delle Venezie will now be known as the IGP Trevenezie.

References/for more information: