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:

Guest Blogger: What is Your Wine Lens?



Today we have a guest post by an anonymous writer, who we know by the name Candi, CSW. In this essay, Candi discusses her particular way of looking at wine, and along the way encourages us all to find our own individual wine lens.   

What is Your Wine Lens?

By Candi, CSW

My wine lens?

Most certainly. I am not talking about viewing wine through rosé-colored glasses. Nor, heaven forbid, through “beer goggles”. My lens is the context through which I view wine, my life experiences, and their mutual influence upon each other. My unique terrior.

This is a topic I have been contemplating since I completed my most recent wine-related trip. And it might be a subject for you to consider, maybe with the company of a glass or two.

I believe we all have a unique wine lens. Beginning to view my lens more clearly has been a gift; a gift of learning, enlightenment and reflection.  All of these I appreciate more and more as I age. So I thought it might be helpful for other wine professionals to more clearly understand the distinctive value they bring to the table. Along with the vino.

Here are a few points to ponder, with fragments from my lens to illustrate. Okay, to magnify if you must.



Family and Geography: I grew up in the Midwest, in a small town when domestic manufacturing was an established and thriving part of our local economy. My hometown was classic Middle America, complete with solid values, good public schools, church on Sunday. My parents were raised on solo family farms. My father was a small businessman; my Mom, like most women in our town, did not work outside the home.

My parents had grown up in the Depression. Given this setting, I was raised to be frugal; to live below my means. The wine lessons? I prefer finding value wines that taste above their price; the wines that “over deliver.” Further, there are many red value wines that taste substantially better than the wine used for communion that I first experienced at the age of thirteen. I wonder if there is a designated product line for nasty communion wine. No offense to traditional churches intended.

Non-wine education and work experience: My career was in health care; my first career-level position was in consulting. I found that the more years I spent in the industry, the less I was inclined to rely exclusively on the medical model within the current care delivery system. My horizon broadened to include what is popularly known as “complementary and alternative” medicine. There appears to be a significant amount of research that supports reasonable consumption of wine as part of an overall healthy lifestyle. Wine can fit into a wellness program for some of us. It works for me.



Hobbies and interests: We lived in a major Midwest City early in our marriage. Unlike where I grew up, there were quality museums, plays, restaurants—a diverse cultural landscape. We visited all the major museums and discovered a fondness for Impressionist art. I would stand really close to a painting, hands clasped behind my back to signal to the docent that I’d just look and not touch. And I would contemplate the beauty and the effort that went into the work. This was also my first exposure to key cuisines, primarily Italian. As my time to spend in the kitchen increased, Italian became my first specialty. I discovered that Italians often put as much love into their value-priced wines in each region as they do into the upper-tier wines. For example, we enjoy Barbera and Dolcetto as great value choices. And I buy Barolo for special occasions. As for art? Wine is both an expression of the artistry of the vintner and of terroir.

Entry into the professional world of wine: I began with wine as a hobby. Read the popular magazines, bought the occasional recommended wine listed as less than $10 that I could find. Mostly white wine and slightly sweet rosés. The memory of nasty red wine was quite powerful after more than 15 years. To appreciate a broader range of wine required a red wine epiphany.

The setting was a cold winter night, by the fireplace. Early marriage, Saturday night, just the two of us. My husband had purchased a Chilean Merlot from the local liquor store for the princely sum of $5. I was hesitant, but also curious and lazy. I sliced some cheese and served with crackers. I just could not approach a red without food. Simple dinner, value red. And I ate cheese, followed by red wine. Then red wine first, then cheese. Whoa – this is red wine? And I like it? So a bottle of Merlot began my red wine journey. And to this day, on lazy weekend evenings, it’s just wine and cheese. Often better wine and usually better cheese. But the memory lingers. And Chilé is, like Italy, one of our favorite wine-producing countries known for value. My hobby took off.



Fast forward to a decade or two later.  I began to spend less time in consulting and started to more fully enjoy other interests. Wine then turned from a hobby into a passion. I took a rigorous wine “boot camp” course at a local university. Adult learning, non-credit. I was one of the oldest people in the class. And I did well, much to my surprise. I focused on getting the information I wanted out of the course. Despite lack of trade experience, obtaining my CSW became a quest. For the enjoyment of the achievement. A 300-page study guide was not intimidating because I wanted to learn the contents. The desire was there. After four months of daily study, I decided to go for it. Passing that day literally brought tears to my aging eyes.

Demographics: Here we get into the statistics; age, sex, income level, blah, blah blah. Suffice to say I am, ahem, one of the older wine professionals. Being Candi, I am of the female persuasion. Semi-retired with primary interests in wellness, reading, a bit of travel, volunteering, and wine. Serving as a volunteer somm is a very good fit.



Personality: I am without doubt an introvert. Staying at home on weekends energizes; being with a large group of people depletes. Except when I am in a setting that involves wine; then, I turn into a geeky person who often comes across as “selling” a wine if I’ve taken it to a party. But I am selling, because I believe in the wine. I have had the joy of introducing white-only drinkers to Spanish (value!) Monastrell. And of helping some to understand that not all pink wine is sweet. And I love any type of tasting, such as trade events that offer opportunities to meet and talk with vintners.Putting it all together, I do some wine consulting here and there. When people I meet discover what I true wine geek I am, they tend to become curious. Most frequent question: what are some nice wines I can buy that don’t cost an arm and a leg? I have learned that, even given the Great Recession, people are still interested in wine. My niche has become recommending a few value-priced wines available locally. My reward?

People of all ages, backgrounds, other demographics come back to be with feedback. They are so happy; they have found a way to enjoy wine. And they begin to explore further. And their journey begins.

What is your wine lens? Enjoy the exploration.

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Guest Post: Is Wine from Cornwall Actually Cornish?

Today we have a guest post from Ted Lui, CSS. Ted tells us about his exploration of the wineries of Cornwall and invites us to ponder the question: Is wine from Cornwall actually Cornish? 

Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall, England

Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall, England

Is the wine produced in Cornwall actually Cornish (in style)?

Before answering this question, I’d like to say something about my interpretation of wine, from the point of view of 21-year-old man. I believe that there must be a big difference between the ideas of well-experienced wine experts and young “wine enthusiast” adults, particularly when it comes to defining the “meaning” of wine.

In this case, I am going to explore the world of wine with you via a journey to a “young” wine production region, and from a young person’s perspective.

I first discovered British wine in Cornwall—not the one in New York but in the UK. I knew nothing about British wine before visiting that prior to my visit to some of the vineyards- Camel Valley Vineyard, Polgoon Vineyard, and Knightor Winery.

Although Cornwall is not a traditional winemaking region compared to France and other countries that have produced wine for centuries, it does have a wine history of its own. There is evidence that the origins of British wine dates back to 955 when King Edwy permitted winemaking in Somerset (Harding and Robinson, 2015). Therefore, it would be inaccurate if one claims that British wine has nothing to do with history.

Map of the United Kingdom - Cornwall is in the far south/west of England. Click to enlarge.

Map of the United Kingdom – Cornwall is in the far south/west of England. Click to enlarge.

Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall has its own history, although it only goes back about 30 years. This is not a long period of time by Old World standards, however, it is a good enough place to begin in my quest to determine if the wine is truly Cornish in style or something just resembling Champagne.

For starters, Champagne grape varieties account for 45% of the grapes used in producing British wine (Johnson and Robison, 2013). I found that most of the sparkling wines produced by Camel Valley were made using Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, while others included some Seyval Blanc and Reichenstenier. The wines were fruity and floral on the nose in addition to the palate, and the flavour intensity was rather medium (-) generally.

Interestingly, despite some French terms revealed on the labels like blanc de blancs and demi-sec, they were British-style for sure in terms of their refreshing and fruity profiles. Champagne lovers may find them too light in terms of body and intensity when the wines are compared to traditional Champagne. In fact, the “young” profiles made the wines sui generis, particularly a new red sparkling using Pinot Noir.

The red sparkling Pinot Noir was definitely a non-Champagne style of wine, and made me realize that the success of British wine, such as that at the International Wine Competition (Abbot, 2010) had to do not with the fact that it could imitate Champagne, but rather that they were producing award-winning wines was probably due to their modification of some production methods, for example, the replacement of grape varieties by local grapes. There will be no place for further development if the aim is to copy Champagne from every perspective except the PDO.

The English wine industry shares the ambition of a world top-five spot sometime in the near future (Harpers Wine & Spirit, 2015). Camel Valley Vineyard absolutely presents a step forwards towards the next success of British or Cornish sparkling.

Ted Lui with the winemaker at Carmel Vineyard

Ted Lui with the winemaker at Carmel Vineyard

The limitations of British or Cornish wine are probably going to be attributed to the maritime climate. Gale-force winds and high summer precipitation in 2012 caused a drastic decline in the total crop by two-thirds (Harding and Robinson, 2015). The changing climate has been a crucial factor in determining the quality of wine for many years. The acidity of the wines produced in Cornwall is one of the examples that explain the difficulty of quality control in Cornwall. It is slightly high in general, resulting in a minute imbalance in which the body, the flavour intensity and the finish are good. Still, it has been a stimulating start of the modern British or Cornish winemaking industry.

Time to end up with an answer to the question. I believe the wine made in Cornwall is indeed Cornish, and unique enough to find its own niche without having to imitate Champagne. Cornish wine has proven itself by the use of unusual grapes, sparkling red versions, and unique flavour characteristics. There is always room for the improvement, and perhaps the wine will evolve to find its sweet spot in terms of the flavour intensity and the balance of acidity. With the winemaker of Camel Valley


  • Abbott, J., 2010. UK sparkling wine producer beats Champagne to win global award. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2017].
  • Harding, J, and Robinson, J., 2015. The Oxford Companion to Wine. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Harpers Wine & Spirit, 2015. Profile on Chapel Down: Shaking up the UK wine scene. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 18 April 2017].
  • Johnson, H. and Robinson, J., 2013. The World Atlas of Wine. London: Mitchell Beazley.

Ted LuiAbout the author – Ted Lui, CSS: Ted Lui, CSS is a wine enthusiast and an undergraduate studying at the University of Exeter. Ted holds Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS) certification from the Society of Wine Educators as well as the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines & Spirits. He is also an International Kikisake-shi and Certified Sake Sommelier approved by Sake Service Institute and Sake Sommelier Association respectively. You can find out more about Ted on Instagram @ted_gin, or contact him via email

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Conference Preview: The Chemistry of Wine Tasting



It’s pretty typical for a wine lover to approach a glass of wine, take a sniff, take a taste and then…watch out, because here it comes: all this talk about acidity, freshness, structure, body, aroma, flavor, and that’s just for starters. We’ve all done it, and will continue to do so!

But what does all that mean?  Really, how did we get to those categories just by sipping wine?

The truth is that tasting wine is a multifactorial issue with the human body. (That means “involving or dependent on a number of factors or causes” for the non-scientists among us.)

For starters, there is the visual which sets the stage for the anticipated gustatory pleasure, and upon tasting, all these sensations get a fast trip to the brain where the information gets jumbled around until we decide to vocalize our thoughts, which involves another part of the brain.   I am tired just thinking of it.

What scientists have learned is truly startling when it comes to breaking down the process by which we actually perceive—and describe—wine. It involves a precise series of physiologic changes in the mouth and nose.  These changes affect specific areas in the brain that in turn establish objects that form memories, and when this happens……voilà!  We have an experience and new-found knowledge that we are just dying to let out to whomever will listen.

We are all trained this way, and wouldn’t it be nice if we understood how we all got here?  Well hopefully, during this year’s conference session titled “The Chemistry of Wine Tasting,” which will include a brief lecture and some examples you can experience for yourself, you’ll be able to see just how this process comes about.



Mike Cohen will offer his session on “The Chemistry of Wine Tasting”” as part of the Society of Wine Educators’ 41st Annual Conference, to be held August 10 to 12, 2017, in Portland Oregon. Mike’s session is scheduled for Saturday, August 12, at 10:00 am.

Mike Cohen, CO, FAAOS, CWE, is an orthopedic surgeon who has retired from a surgical practice into a consulting practice and has found a passion in wine.  He has been involved in wine almost as long as he has been involved in medicine, beginning in medical school where he found himself the “designated sommelier” of his study group. This led him to multiple Napa Valley visit, which led to certifications from the American Sommelier Association and The Society of Wine Educator (he’s a newly-crowned Certified Wine Educator [CWE]).  Currently , he teaches wine, beer, and spirits  from a business and a scientific point-of-view at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC.

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 –