South Africa Expands its Wine Repertoire

Bo-kaap Neighborhood in Cape Town, South Africa

Bo-kaap Neighborhood in Cape Town, South Africa

South African wine is serious…serious about shedding its bulk/fortified/ co-operative-made reputation of the past, serious about producing world-class wines from modern producers, serious about protecting its heritage grapes, and serious about regulating its high-quality wines and spirits. (Try some South African pot still brandy for a real treat.)

South African wines are regulated and controlled via the WSB – the South African Wine and Spirit Board.  They regulate the grape varieties that may be used (102 at last count), the regions, districts, and wards that represent geographical indications (99 at last count), labeling requirements and other legalities, and – a true quality control if ever there was one – also taste, sample, and approve every product that earns the right to bear their seal.

THE WSB regulates and approves wines according to “class.” To be approved, a wine needs to meet the parameters of one of these 45 pre-defined categories. Some examples of these categories include dry wine, noble late harvest wine, sweet natural wine (in these regulations, “natural” means non-fortified), tank-fermented sparkling wine, and bottle-fermented sparkling wine. Categories that are somewhat unique to South Africa include Cape Ruby – a young, fruity, fortified wine and Cape White – made from non-Muscat varieties and oak-aged for at least six months.

View of Cape Town from the waterfront

View of Cape Town from the waterfront

Six new classes of wine, approved on August 21, 2015, are now among the 45 approved categories of South African wine. These newcomers were proposed to the WSB over two years ago by the Swartland Independent Group – a group of young winemakers working in the Swartland District. Swartland is a rugged district, despite being only an hour’s drive north of Cape Town. Swartland is one of the newer winemaking regions of South Africa, and has rapidly developed a reputation for unique wines in addition to high-quality wines of the more conventional styles.

For the record, the six new categories of South African Wine are:

  • Skin-macerated white: A white wine fermented and macerated on its skins for at least 96 hours, should be light golden to deep orange in color.
  • Extended barrel-aged white/gris: A wine produced from white or gris grape varieties, aged in oak casks at least 2 years, should show a golden or amber hue, and have a nutty, oxidative character.
  • Natural pale: An unfortified white wine matured in oak casks under flor yeast for at least two years.
  • Watsonia Tabularis - Unique member of the Fynbos (Cape Floral Kingdom) growing atop Table Mountain
    Watsonia Tabularis – Unique member of the Fynbos (Cape Floral Kingdom) growing atop Table Mountain

    Methode Ancestrale: A slightly sparkling wine made from fermenting must which completes its fermentation while stored in the bottle in which it is sold.

  • Alternative white/red: A dry white with a gold or amber color, or a dry red with a light red to deep purple color.
  • Sun wine: A white wine that has undergone maderization; must be pale gold to deep gold in color.

To download the entire set of regulations, which include the list of 99 approved grape varieties, the entire cast of categories and spirits regulations as well, click here for the: Wine and Spirits Regulations – South Africa WSB

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

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Meet the Board: Lorraine Hems

Lorraine Hems having a good time at the Masked Ball at this year's SWE Conference

Lorraine Hems having a good time at the Masked Ball at this year’s SWE Conference

Last August, at our annual conference, SWE welcomed its new Executive Committee and Board of Directors.  While many of our board members have served for quite a few years, there are also some new faces in the group as well.  Today we’d like to introduce you to one of our new board members, Lorraine Hems…and thank her for her service to the Society!

Lorraine Hems, CSS, CWE, is a newly-elected member of the SWE Board of Directors. Lorraine has been in the wine and spirits industry at the retail, wholesale, and educational levels for over 30 years. She currently teaches wine and spirits studies as a full-time lecturer in the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY.

Lorraine is also a Certified Bordeaux Educator with L’Ecole du Vin de Bordeaux/SOPEXA. She stays active in the wine industry through various roles with SWE, Women for WineSense, and the American Wine Society that have included volunteering, teaching at local events, and presenting at national conferences. In 2012, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Chapter of Women for Wine Sense.

Lorraine is an active advocate for the wines of the Finger Lakes, the area she calls home. Even though she is lucky enough to live in such a lovely wine region, she still enjoys travelling, particularly while checking  the various wine regions of the world off of her “spit bucket” list while presenting and judging at wine and spirits competitions throughout the world.

Welcome, Lorraine!

Connecting the Bubbles: The Méthode Marlborough

image via:

image via:

The most successful people in the wine industry, whether they are conference speakers, teachers, or salespeople, are skilled at drawing connections and parallels within the world of wine.  Tying regions, styles, history, and current events together is thought provoking and shows a deeper understanding of the world around us.

On the surface, this post is about the newish Méthode Marlborough; however, the subject also brings into play the greater world of sparkling wine world, as well as the on-going debate of New World vs Old World.

The Méthode Marlborough is a society, created in September 2013, in order to promote the high-quality Traditional Method sparkling wines produced in Marlborough. The requirements for a Mèthod Marlborough sparkling wine include:

  • Produced using 100% Marlborough grapes
  • Made in Marlborough and exclusively produced using the Traditional Method of sparkling wine production
  • Made using the traditional Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier
  • Aged in the bottle, on the lees, for a minimum of 18 months

There are currently 10 producers that are making this style of wine and have joined the club:

  • Allan Scott
  • Cloudy Bay Vineyards
  • Hunter’s Wines
  • Johanneshof Cellars
  • Lion
  • Nautilus Estate
  • No. 1 Family Estate
  • Spy Valley Winery
  • Summerhouse Wine Company
  • Tohu Wines
photo via:

photo via:

These wines are just now beginning to show up on store shelves. The first-ever Méthode Marlborough sparkler to be released was No. 1 Family Estate’s Assemblé, which was sabered in celebration on August 14th 2015.

It is perhaps fitting that No. 1 Family Estate, owned by Daniel Le Brun, was the first winery to release. Le Brun is, after all, part of a Champenois family, and has produced this style of Traditional Method sparkling wine from the three Champagne grapes in Marlborough since the winery was established in 1999.

This is impressive coming from a region that specializes in – and stakes its reputation on – Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, 77% of all the vineyards in Marlborough grow Sauvignon Blanc, and some of it is used to create delightful (if, admittedly, simple) Charmat method sparkling wines.

As lovely as these Charmat method sparkling wines are, it is just this type of wine from which the Méthode Marlborough producers are trying to distance themselves. South Africa was the first new world region to recognize the need to differentiate their quality sparkling wines, and, in 1992, created the Cap Classique Producers Association. However, Cap Classique rules are a bit less stringent that those of the Méthode Marlborough is attempting to do: Cap Classique can come from anywhere in the large, diverse Western Cape Geographical Unit, the lees-aging requirement is only 12 months, and they allow the use of Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc in addition to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

image via:

image via:

Perhaps – and this is where the “Old World/New World” aspect of this discussion begins – a set of Old World-style quality controls is ever more important in a category of wine where the production methods can be elusive, the grapes in the blend are a mystery, and vintages are rarely discussed or disclosed. Time spent on the lees, which is a major component of a finished sparkling wine’s flavor, is also not discussed. Essentially, we’re missing the what, where, when, and why of the wine. (Thankfully, the who is published on the label.)

Controls such as these are built into the production standards of the DOCs and the AOCs of the Old World, so the customer at least has a good idea of what they are getting in the bottle, and adherence to their standards is mandatory if the producer wants to use their “stamp of approval” on the label. However, in the case of New World producers bonding together for a marketing and consumer-driven end, admission to the club is voluntary.  As such, there will always be “rebels” who refuse to join – perhaps because they believe their brand is stronger that of the association – such as Kim Crawford’s “Fizz,” produced using the Traditional Method from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The topic brings up many questions. Will these New World quality alliances that imitate Old World appellations will stand the test of time.  How much do we rely on the Canadian VQA or the San Rafael DOC in Mendoza over individual brands? Will more regions around the world band together to “guarantee” quality in the nebulous world of sparkling wine?  (I’m keeping my eye on England, Brazil, and Tasmania.)

We wait with curious minds and palates as the ten producers of Méthode Marlborough captivate our attention – and we promise to bring the bubbles, no matter what.

For more information:

MarkPost authored by Mark Rashap, CWE. Mark has, over the past ten years, been in the wine world in a number of capacities including studying wine management in Buenos Aires, being an assistant winemaker at Nota Bene Cellars in Washington State, founding his own wine brokerage, and working for Texas-based retail giant Spec’s as an educator for the staff and public.

In August of 2015, Mark joined the team of the Society of Wine Educators as Marketing Coordinator to foster wine education across the country.







Meet the Board: Jorge Hernandez


.Jorge Hernandez presenting at the 2013 Conference of the Society of Wine Educators

Last month, at our annual conference, SWE welcomed its new Executive Committee and Board of Directors.  While many of our board members have served for quite a few years, there are also some new faces in the group as well.  Today we’d like to introduce you to one of our new board members, Jorge Hernandez…and thank him for his service to the Society!

Jorge Hernandez is a newly elected member of the Board of Directors for the Society of Wine Educators. Jorge is the National Director of Wine and Spirits Education for Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, responsible for conducting educational seminars for all aspects of the beverage alcohol industry and the public at large. 

Jorge has been a passionate wine educator since 1983, when he hung out his shingle in an independent wine consulting business known as “Palate for Hire.” This led to employment with R.H. Philips, Kendall Jackson’s Artisans and Estates, Seagram’s Chateau and Estate Wines Company, and Diageo. In the early and mid 1990s, Jorge also wrote and recorded a series of fine wine radio spots that were broadcast weekly in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. 

Jorge was born in Colombia, but is proud to have traveled to all 50 of the United States, as well as Washington DC. In his free time, he enjoys playing music – particularly stringed instruments such as the guitar and ukulele, and writes original musical compositions as well.

Welcome to the board, Jorge Hernandez!  

Uisce Beatha Eireannach Goes Legit!

Dunguaire Castle, County Galway

Dunguaire Castle, County Galway

Ok, for the record, Uisce Beatha Eireannach – Irish whiskey – has always been legit! However, soon, the legal standards that regulate the spirit will be greatly expanded and enhanced.

As every good CSS student knows, Irish whiskey has been defined and regulated since 1980 by the Irish Whiskey Act.

The Irish Whiskey Act of 1980 is a fairly concise document – no more than one page long – and states that Irish whiskey must:

  • Be distilled in Ireland from a mash of cereal grains
  • Be distilled to an alcoholic strength of less than 94.8% alcohol by volume (189.6 proof)
  • Be distilled in such a way so that the distillate has an aroma and flavor derived from the materials used
  • Contain no additives except for water and caramel coloring
  • Be stored in wooden casks in Ireland for no less than three years

The act further goes on to define blended Irish whiskey as a spirit which must be comprised of at least two different distillates. And that’s it!

However…as of October 30, 2015, a new set of technical standards will be implemented in accordance with the European Union requirements for the PGI status of Irish whiskey.

These standards expand upon the Irish Whiskey Act of 1980 and include the following regulations:

  • Irish whiskey must be bottled in Ireland or, if not bottled in Ireland, it must be shipped off the island in inert bulk containers and subject to company controls and strict verification to ensure the safety and integrity of the product.
  • Irish whiskey is not allowed to be exported from Ireland in any type of wooden container.


These new regulations also provide definitions for the following types of Irish whiskey: 

Irish Malt Whiskey: Irish malt whiskey must be made from 100% malted barley. The wort is separated from the solids before fermentation. Irish malt whiskey must be distilled in pot stills. The traditional practice is to use smaller pot stills in order to encourage complex flavors and a full, oily texture, however, there are no requirements as to the size of the still.  Irish malt whiskey is traditionally triple-distilled, although double distillation may be used.

Irish Grain Whiskey: Irish grain whiskey is produced from a mash containing a maximum of 30% malted barley. The remainder is made up of unmalted cereal grains – typically maize, wheat, or barley. The mash typically does not undergo any separation of the solids from the liquids before distillation. This type of whiskey is continuously distilled using column stills.  Irish grain whiskey may have either a light or a full flavor profile, depending on the cut points and other techniques employed by the distiller.

Irish Pot Still Whiskey:  Irish pot still whiskey is required to be produced using a mash containing a minimum of 30% malted barley and a minimum of 30% unmalted barley. The remainder of the mash may be either malted or unmalted barley, and may include up to 5% other unmalted cereal grains (usually oats or rye). The wort is separated from the solids before fermentation. This type of whiskey must be batch distilled in pot stills. The traditional practice is triple-distillation in large pot stills, although double distillation may also be employed and there are no requirements as to the size of the still. 



Blended Irish Whiskey: Blended Irish whiskey is a blend of two or more different whiskey types, which must be made in accordance with the standards stated above, and which may include Irish malt whiskey, Irish grain whiskey, and/or Irish pot still whiskey. The whiskeys that make up the blend may also be chosen from different distilleries, ages, types of cask finish, and flavor profiles in order to achieve the desired flavor and consistency.  Blended Irish whiskey tends to be smooth and mellow with a range of flavors, and a light, silky mouth feel.

So on October 30, 2015 (and maybe every other day of the year), raise a glass – of Jameson, Tullamore DEW, Kilbeggan, or whatever you choose – and toast your friends “Sláinte mhaith!”

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator

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The AVA Shuffle: Introducing the Squaw Valley-Miramonte AVA!

The 2015 harvest at Sierra Peaks Winery - via

The 2015 harvest at Sierra Peaks Winery – one of 3 wineries in the new Squaw Valley-Miramonte AVA

There’s a new AVA in town!!

Officially established on September 8, 2015, the Squaw Valley-Miramonte AVA is located in California’s San Joaquin Valley and snuggled safely into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

But before we move on, let me clarify a few things that this AVA is NOT:

  • Despite the name Squaw Valley, this is NOT the famous ski resort, host of the 1960 Winter Olympics (The ski resort of the same name is actually located about 300 miles away, near Lake Tahoe).
  • Despite the fact that the AVA is indeed located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, this new AVA is NOT part of the Sierra Foothills AVA.  The southern end of the Sierra Foothills AVA is actually about 50 miles – and at least two counties – away. (Keep in mind that the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range is over 400 miles long.)

So now we can turn to a few things that are indeed true concerning this new AVA:

  • The new viticultural area covers approximately 44,690 acres in Fresno County, California. The area is mostly rural and located in the foothills about 40 miles to the east of the city of Fresno.
  • Approximate location of the new Squaw Valley-Miramonte AVA

    Approximate location of the new Squaw Valley-Miramonte AVA

    The AVA is located along the highway to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National parks. (Sequoia Sequoia National Forest is the home of the giant Sequoias, considered to be among the largest trees, and the largest living organisms, on earth).

  • The area currently has 2 wineries and 3 commercial vineyards totaling about 7.5 acres, including Sierra Peaks Winery , Riffelhoff Winery, Buttercup Vineyards,  and Purgatory Vineyards. The region grows mostly warm weather varieties.
  • The topography of the AVA varies from the gentle rolling hills of the lower elevations to steep and rugged hillsides covered with boulders and oak woodlands as on travels east.
  • Elevations range from 1,600 to 3,500 feet with slope angles measuring from 15 to 40 percent, which generally requires all vineyard work – including harvesting – to be done by hand.
  • Other distinguishing features of the AVA include cooler daytime temperatures and warmer nighttime temperatures than the surrounding San Joaquin Valley, and significantly more rainfall than the surrounding valley (but less than the forest to the north).

You can catch the full details – straight from the TTB – just click to read the document concerning the:  Establishment of the Squaw Valley-Miramonte Viticultural Area

Welcome to the world, Squaw Valley-Miramonte AVA!

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator.

Meet the Board: Valerie Santoro

Last month, at our annual conference, SWE welcomed its new Executive Committee and Board of Directors.  While many of our board members have served for quite a few years, there are also some new faces in the group as well.  Today we’d like to introduce you to one of our new board members, Valerie Santoro…and thank her for her service to the Society!

Newly elected SWE Board Member Valerie Santoro, CSS, CSW

Newly elected SWE Board Member Valerie Santoro, CSS, CSW

Valerie Santoro, CSW, CSS is a newly elected member of the Board of Directors for the Society of Wine Educators. Valerie is the Director of Training at Great Lakes Wine & Spirits (GLWAS), Michigan’s largest distributor of alcoholic beverages, supplying over 6,500 wine, 1,500 spirit, and 1,000 beer items, and servicing all 83 Michigan counties.  Valerie is also a Certified Specialist of Wine and a Certified Specialist of Spirits, with a B.S. in Viticulture and Enology from Michigan State University.

Valerie has always been interested in wine, from her earliest memories of red wine served with the family dinner meal, night after night.  Here interest grew when she first attended Michigan State University, with the intention of studying Botany. However, one day while walking through the Plant & Soil Building, she passed a plaque on the wall that read “Viticulture Lab” and was intrigued! She applied for a got a job in the Viti Lab analyzing fruit and berry samples for the local and the school’s research plots.  This led to helping out in the research winery and not much longer, Valerie was in love with wine and switched majors to Viticulture and Enology.

Prior to working for GLWAS, Valerie worked in wholesale wine sales, and while she enjoyed the work (and the travel opportunities it afforded), she found that here favorite part of the job was the “ah-ha moments” her customers would experience during staff and customer trainings. In her current job, Valerie is in charge of staff training in wine, spirits, and business, and handles on-boarding as well.

In her “spare” time, Valerie is an avid hiker, cyclist, gardener, wife, and mother to two active children. Her daughter and son are both soccer players, and members of youth orchestra – that is, when they aren’t trying to talk their mother into playing a round of Minecraft.

Welcome, Valerie!

Meet the Board: Maeve Pesquera

Last month, at our annual conference, SWE welcomed its new Executive Committee and Board of Directors.  While many of our board members have served for quite a few years, there are also some new faces in the group as well.  Today we’d like to introduce you to one of our new board members, Maeve Pesquera…and thank her for her service to the Society!

New Board Member Maeve Pesquera, CSS

New Board Member Maeve Pesquera, CSS

Maeve Pesquera, CSS is a newly elected member of the Board of Directors for the Society of Wine Educators. Maeve has over 20 years of experience in fine dining and currently serves as the Director of Wine for the nationwide Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar group. During her time at Fleming’s, she has curated the award-winning wine list, created many innovative staff training programs, and implemented Fleming’s unique WiNEPAD.

Maeve’s love affair with wine began in France, as her family spent many summers in Provence, in a picturesque village with a small family vineyard. Her family, particularly her “Grandpapa,” who was  89 or 90 at the time, was the one who showed her that wine was not just a drink, not just a beverage, but something much more special than that.

Maeve recalls this time with her grandfather, as “every night at dinner he would pour each of us a tiny glass of wine and encourage us, guide us, to smell it, put our nose in the glass-just inhale and enjoy. His gentle guidance taught me how to discover wine, guided me to understand that it is an experience, an emotion, a connection. He guided me onto my own journey with wine, and that led me into the wine world.”

These days, in her spare time, Maeve likes to focus on her family, which includes her husband, Luis, and their five sons. This big, happy family enjoys weekend soccer, cross-country, and baseballs games as well as enjoying the beautiful beaches of southern California.

Welcome, Maeve!


Guest Post: Holiday in Champagne!

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

Holiday in Champagne!

Photo of the Argence Fountain in Troyes by Serge Collana, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of the Argence Fountain in Troyes by Serge Collana, via Wikimedia Commons

If you haven’t thought of Champagne as a holiday destination, now’s the time! The Champenois, with tourist boards in both La Marne and in Aube to the south, are ready for you and your family.

Champagne symbolizes success, celebration, joy, and prestige. It also symbolizes sharing, and has done so since the time that King Clovis, the first French King, was crowned there in 481. Today, at least 30 crowned Kings later, the Champagne industry employs 30,000 people.

A visit to Champagne will show you new signs on touristic routes, new hotels, oeno logical museums, timbered churches, the Lac du Der (an artificial lake in the Argonne Forest, which regulates the water flow of the Seine) where you can ride in small boats, plus six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the départements of the Marne. And don’t forget the famed 3-star Restaurant Les Crayères, established by the now-retired, renowned chef Gérard Boyer.

Structuring Your Visit

Start your trip as I did, with a flight to Charles De Gaul (CDG) airport in Paris. Then, board the TGV high-speed train towards Strasbourg, and get off 30 minutes later at the first stop, the Gare (station) Champagne-Ardennes, a region of NE France.  Then a short taxi or bus ride will take you to the center of Reims, about 20 minutes away.

Nearby, the cellars of the House of Taittinger are built on the site of the old, destroyed L’Abbaye de Saint Nicaise. The first level has remains from the Thirteenth Century, while the second level dates to the Third Century, with its Gallo-Roman chalk pits (crayères), dug by the Romans. The temperature in the cellars is a constant 20 degrees Celsius, and the humidity is 80%.

In World War I, the cellars were used as bomb shelters for families. FYI – the aromatic ‘Brut Reserve’ is the same as Taittinger’s ‘La Francais’ in the US. Personally, I feel that nothing can surpass the latest expression of Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2005, a Champagne that is never released until it is 10 years old.

The entrance to Dom Caudron (note the wooden presses and the mural of vineyard work) photo by Bill Lembeck, CWE, CSS

The entrance to Dom Caudron (note the wooden presses and the mural of vineyard work) photo by Bill Lembeck, CWE, CSS

In the Marne Valley, where 66% of the Champagne vineyards are located, you would enjoy a visit to the Champagne cooperative Dom Caudron, in Vrigny. In 1929, a priest named Aimé Caudron had the first press in the village. Since 2010, this is a cooperative with 75 grower-members. In this part of the Marne Valley, the Pinot Meunier grows very well, with many hectares of old vines.

Dom Caudron specializes in that grape, and they produce exceptionally fruity 100% Pinot Meunier Champagnes in different styles (Note: there are about 16 companies in the area producing 100% Pinot Meunier Champagnes). Dom Caudron still uses antique wooden presses, and has a small museum with a short film on vineyard work. Their “Prediction” rosé Champagne, Le Meunier au Singulier, is fruity and rich. The back label tells the harvest date and the disgorgement date, among other information.

Champagne Charlier, in the Vallée de la Marne, is a small, family-owned Champagne house – a “single grower” in today’s parlance. This category has been brought to the fore by wine importer Terry Theise, starting around the year 2000. It is now quite familiar and acceptable to serve Champagnes that are not exclusively from the famous houses.

At Champagne Charlier, they use their own grapes, do not buy any grapes, and do not sell any grapes. Their Champagnes are sold mostly in France, but some go to Belgium, England, Japan, and Italy. All of their Champagnes are aged in large oak casks from Alsace. There is no stainless steel. An oversize cask has been converted to a charming sitting room for a few people. My favorite Champagne, made mostly with Chardonnay, is their fragrant Cuvée Spéciale Club Millésimé 2004, produced from the oldest vines that have the smallest yields. The property is very decorative – with carved barrels, painted murals, and copious flowers.

A walk down the Avenue de Champagne in Épernay shows large buildings and mansions owned by many of the most prestigious Champagne houses – one right after the other. It begins at the Tourist Office, and continues for 1 km, on both sides of the wide street.

Leaving the Marne for the Aube

Flasks of liqueur for dosage at Drappier - photo by Bill Lembeck CWE, CSS

Flasks of liqueur for dosage at Drappier – photo by Bill Lembeck CWE, CSS

A visit to Urville, in the Aube, takes a little over an hour. While there, a visit to Drappier should not be missed. The home and furnishings and cellars are exquisitely mounted. Those wine cellars were built in 1152 by Cistercian monks, and the Drappier family has been cultivating the vineyards for the last two centuries. The Jurassic-era Kimmeridgian soil is like that of the Grand Cru Chablis. The white chalky soils, many former oyster beds, are best for Chardonnay, while the little valleys with stones and minerals further north are best for Pinot Noir.

Michel Drappier is the seventh-generation winemaker. His son is studying enology, while his daughter is hand-selling Drappier Champagnes with the importing company Dreyfus-Ashby in New York. Wines are made in the original stone cellars. Right now, there are 30,000 liters in wood for the reserves. A large egg-shaped barrel is being studied. Michel says it is the most perfect shape. Currently, it is the only one in Champagne.

The entire vineyard is organic, and one-third of it has now been certified. Even the Martinique sugar cane used for the dosages is organic. These dosages, incidentally, are aged for 15 to 25 years in Limousin oak tanks. It gets thick and concentrated, and one drop per bottle is all that is necessary. These “liquors” are stored in glass demijohns, some for more than 50 years. Further, Michel is using less sulfur, to reduce chances of reduction in

Pierre Auguste Renoir's "Dance in the Country" - photo via Google Art Project

Pierre Auguste Renoir’s “Dance in the Country” – photo via Google Art Project

his wines. He ferments at very low temperatures, noting that longer, cooler fermentations result in smaller bubbles.

Michel Drappier is aiming to be Carbon-zero, and solar power provides 55% of his electricity needs. Further, he uses 99% recycled glass, cardboard and wood, and 85% soda glass from the north of Paris.

The Drappier “Grande Sendrée” 2006, with almost equal parts of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, gets six years of bottle aging before release. Incidentally, this Champagne has been matched with Renoir’s painting “Dance in the Country” as part of a collection of ten independent Aube Champagnes matched to ten Renoir paintings.

Last Stop: Les Riceys

The municipality of Les Riceys, which consists of three villages, has three specific AOC/ AOP designations: Champagne (designated in 1936); Coteaux Champenois (designated in 1970) and Rosé des Riceys (designated in 1947). This region is so far from Reims and Épernay that it never had any of its vineyards designated as Grand- or Premier-Crus.

Nevertheless, still red wines from Les Riceys are used by other Champagne producers when making rosé Champagnes. Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvée Palmes d’Or Rosé, for example, is made from Pinot Noirs from the village of Bouzy (using 50%) for power, and from Les Riceys (50%) for fine aromas. Champagne Morize Père et Fils Brut Réserve and the Morize Rosé des Riceys 2011 are very fruity examples of those appellations. They go so well with food that they are often referred to as ‘gastronomic rosés.’

Wrap up your tour with a visit to the medieval city of Troyes, which was laid out like a Champagne cork. Illuminated red hearts proclaim this a “city of love.”



Harriet Lembeck, CWE, CSE is a prominent wine and spirits educator. She is president of the renowned Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years. She may be contacted at

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

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

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?