Farewell, Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France…

Château de Villandry, in the lovely Loire

Château de Villandry, in the lovely Loire

Farewell, Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France…hello IGP/Vin de Pays Val de Loire!

French wine laws, along with the wine laws of many members of the European Union, continue to evolve.  While consumers are still apt to find their favorite place-names and AOC terms on their favorite wine labels, many “behind the scenes” revisions took place in 2009.

The entry level of French basic wine, formerly referred to as vin de table, is now known simply as vin. Basic French “Vin” can come from anywhere in France and has few specific regulations apart from those required for health, safety, and commercial trade. Vin is not a particularly important category in France, as it accounts for only about one-eighth of all French wine produced, and most French vin is consumed locally.

The next tier of French wine was formerly known as country wine (vin de pays), and it accounts for more than one-third of French wine. In the new EU system, these are considered table wines with geographical indication (PGI). The wines may be varietally labeled, and may use the term Indication Géographique Protégée (IGP), the traditional “Vin de Pays,” or a combination, as in “IGP–Vin de Pays.”

There are few restrictions on these wines, except that at least 85 percent of the grapes must come entirely from within the boundaries of one of the 152 delimited Vin de Pays regions. At this level, French wine seems more focused on grape variety than on region of origin – and, in many cases, this allows these wines to compete directly with the consumer-friendly varietally labeled wines of the New World.


The Kitchen Garden at Château de Villandry

The Kitchen Garden at Château de Villandry

There are five large regional IGPs:

  • IGP/Vin de Pays d’Oc, perhaps the best known of the regions, covering the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
  • IGP/Vin de Pays Val de Loire, covering the entire Loire Valley, was formerly known by the lovely title Vin de Pays du Jardin de la France.
  • IGP/Vin de Pays Comtés Rhodaniens includes portions of the Northern Rhône Valley, Jura, and Savoie.
  • IGP/Vin de Pays de Méditerranée, covering southeast France.
  • IGP/Vin de Pays  Comté Tolosan, covering southwest France.

Two other regional Vin de Pays designations, Vin de Pays de l’Atlantique, covering Bordeaux and Charentes (Cognac), and Vin de Pays de Gaules for the Beaujolais region, were also approved in 2007, but have been disputed, and remained unpublished in the Official Journal of the European Union.

There are fifty-two departmental IGPs whose boundaries match the political boundaries of a French département (“county”), located within the larger regional IGP areas. Another  ninety-plus IGPs, known as vin de pays de zone, are smaller, locally specific areas, often named after a historic or geographical feature.

Thankfully, the terminology and titles of most of your favorite French AOCs remain the same…but you might be seeing the term “AOP” replace “AOC” as time goes by.

The changes in the status of the Vin de Pays are some of the many wine-world updates you can find in SWE’s new, improved, and updated CSW Study Guide, to be released in September 2013.

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


Sake Event Invitation for Members in San Francisco!

discover_sake_web-logo SF

Wednesday September 25, 20132:00 – 4:00 pm

HOTEL MONACO 501 Geary StreetSan Francisco, CA 94102

Please join thirty of Japan’s premier Sake brewers for a delicious and informative tasting of over 100 of their finest bottles at the Hotel Monaco in San Francisco. 

As if that weren’t enough, we’ll also showcase some delicious Japanese foods that can revitalize your menus. The participating importers will be on hand to answer all of your questions.
      For detailed information on this exciting event, such as the list of Sakes to be poured, links for all the brewers involved, directions and   how to register, click here, or to register by email click here.
Please R.S.V.P. by noon Monday, September 16.

      Additionally, Sake Samurai Timothy Sullivan will present “How To Sell Sake” from 1–2 p.m. Space for this seminar is limited to 30 lucky attendees. Please register separately from the event for this seminarhere to ensure your seat.
      Sponsored by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO)

We hope to see you there!   

Sake Event Invitation for Members in Los Angeles!

discover_sake_web-logo SF

2:00 – 5:00 pm
11301 Olympic Blvd. West Los Angeles, CA 90064

Please join thirty of Japan’s premier Sake brewers for a delicious and informative tasting of over 100 of their finest bottles at the Olympic Collection Banquet Hall & Conference Center in Los Angeles.

As if that weren’t enough, we’ll also showcase some delicious Japanese foods that can revitalize your menus. The participating importers will be on hand to answer
all of your questions.

For detailed information on this exciting event, such
as list of the Sakes to be poured, links for all the brewers involved, directions and how to register, visit our FACEBOOK PAGE.

Please R.S.V.P. by noon Monday, September 16.

Sake Graphic

Additionally, Sake Samurai Timothy Sullivan will present an “Introduction to Sake and Sake Pairing” from 2–3 p.m. Space for this seminar is limited to 100 lucky attendees. Please register for this seminar separately from the event at our FACEBOOK PAGE to ensure
your seat.

Sponsored by the
Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO)

We hope to see you there!

Hugel’s Law

Alsace SceneAlsace, with its strategic location tucked between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River, has passed between French and German rule for hundreds of years. As a matter of fact, in the period between 1844 and 1919, Alsace was passed back and forth between the two regions four times! However, with the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Alsace became officially French.

Alsace has a long history of wine production…viticulture and wine making in the region has been traced to the fourth century BC!  However, due to the fact that even after Alsace’s return to France in 1919, German wine laws remained in effect for quite some time, Alsace was not granted an Appellation d´Origine Controllê until 1962.

Currently, 119 communes are allowed to produce Alsace AOC using the following ten grape varieties: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner, Muscat, Chasselas, Auxerrois, or Klevener de Heilgenstein.  (Klevener de Heilgenstein, aka Savignin Rose, may only be grown in a few areas.)

The AOC for Traditional Method Sparkling Wines – Crémant d’Alsace – was approved in 1976. Crémant d’Alsace may be produced using any of the 10 approved grapes of the region, and may include Chardonnay as well.

Johnny Hugel in 2004

Johnny Hugel in 2004

Despite the fact that most Alsatian wines are dry, in 1983 two new designations were introduced – Vendange Tardive (Late Harvest) and Sélections de Grains Nobles (Botrytis-affected) – which may be used for sweet wines. These changes, now known affectionately as “Hugel’s Law,” came about as a result of an effort by Jean “Johnny” Hugel, who first described a wine as a “vendage tardive” after the long, hot summer of 1976.  Interestingly enough, up to this point the laws of the Alsace AOC stated explicitly that the wines be dry, despite the region’s Germanic influences and the long history of dessert wine production just across the border.

Johnny Hugel recognized that despite the laws, warm vintages had produced wines with residual sugar and the accompanying lushness and longevity.  He also knew that shortcuts could be taken in the cellar to produce sweet wines, so he drafted a set of strict rules and regulations for Vendage Tardive* and Sélections de Grains Nobles, which were eventually accepted by the INAO in 1984 (with the minimum sugar levels increased in 2001).  The Hugel & Fils website has a very nice summary of the regulations, and an homage to Johnny and his dedication in getting Hugel’s Law passed…click here and follow the link to “Vendage Tardive and SGN.”

Alsace ViewIn 1975, the laws were revised once again to designate some of the outstanding vineyards of Alsace as “Alsace Grand Cru.” Beginning with the 1983 harvest, 25 vineyards were allowed to use the “Grand Cru” designation on their labels.  The law was revised in 1992 when another 25 vineyards were added to the list.  The 51st Grand Cru, Kaefferkopf, was awarded in 2007. As of 2011, each of the Alsace Grands Crus was awarded its own AOC.

With very few exceptions, all of the Alsace Grands Crus wines are 100% varietal white wines and must be exclusively produced with one of the four “approved” varieties of the Alsace Grand Cru:  Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer.  The few exceptions include:

  • Zotzenberg, which may be produced from 100% Sylvaner; blends are also allowed.
  • Altenberg de Bergheim, which may produce blends containing 50-70% Riesling, 10-25% Pinot Gris, and 10-25% Gewurztraminer; as well as up to 10% (total) of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Muscat, or Chasselas – but only if the grapes were planted before 26 March 2005.
  • Kaefferkopf, which may produce blends containing 60-80% Gewurztraminer, 10-40% Riesling, up to 30% Pinot Gris, and up to 10% Muscat.

The website Alsace-Wine.net has a sortable list of Alsace Grand Cru linking to a great deal of information about each of these fascinating vineyards!

*Interesting Factoid:  The name “Vendage Tardive” is sometimes written in the plural form, “Vendages Tardives,” to indicate that several actual “sweeps” of the vineyard might be used during harvest. Both versions are correct.


The changes in the status of the Alsace Grand Cru is one of the many wine-world updates you can find in SWE’s new, improved, and updated CSW Study Guide, to be released in September 2013.

 Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE – your SWE Blog Administraor bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org



PX: Thin Skinned and Not Too Sharp

PX BarrelsThin-skinned and not too sharp. It would sound like an insult if hurled towards a person, put for the distinct grape known as Pedro Ximénez, it is just a statement of fact. And it is just those qualities, the thin skin, the low acidity, and an array of other grapey-uniqueness such as extra-large bunches, susceptibility to Botrytis, and berries of uneven size, that make Pedro Ximénez the star of an interesting array of truly unique wines.

Pedro Ximénez is grown widely throughout Andalucía in the south of Spain, including Jerez, Málaga, and particularly Montilla-Moriles. The grape is also grown in small amounts in some far-flung regions of Spain, such as the Canary Islands, Valencia, La Mancha, and Extremadura; as well as parts of Portugal.

Pedro XimenezFurther afield, Pedro Ximénez used to be quite widely cultivated and is still grown in a few plots in Australia, where it often goes by the nickname “Pedro.” Pedro is, not surprisingly, used in some of the “stickies” produced in Australia.

PX should not be confused with PG, although it is hard not to confuse “Pedro Ximénez” with “Pedro Giménez,” a grape grown in Argentina and Chile. In South America, Pedro Giménez (Pedro-with-a-G) is sometimes used to produce simple, fruity, dry white wines; but the majority is distilled into Pisco. PG, it is thought, is related to but not identical to PX. Rather, it is believed that Pedro Giménez is native to Argentina, having mutated or descended from the original Mission/Pais grapes that were originally brought to the Americas from Europe, so many centuries ago.

To students of wine, Pedro Ximénez is best known as the third player in the three grapes of Jerez.  Any one of my students can probably recall reciting “Palomino, Moscatel, and Pedro Ximénez” over and over in preparation for the CSW. What is rather surprising, however, is that much of the Pedro Ximénez that makes its way into Sherry is actually grown in neighboring Montilla-Moriles.

PX 2Producers of Sherry are allowed to purchase Pedro Ximénez grapes grown in Montilla-Moriles for use in their wines, as long as the wine is aged in Jerez.  This unusual law most likely came to be as the PX grape variety does not really thrive in the humid atmosphere of Jerez. PX is often used to make sweet Sherries, and is blended with Oloroso to make Cream Sherry.

In Montilla-Moriles, the grape is used to make a variety of wines, including low acid, dry white wines and fortified wines somewhat similar to the various styles of Sherries.  However, the truly outstanding wines of Montilla-Moriles are its rich Pedro Ximénez-based dessert wines, some of which are fortified, and most of which are aged solera-style, like the wines of Jerez.

The extreme heat and rugged conditions of the Montilla-Moriles region produces Pedro Ximénez grapes with extraordinary richness and very high sugar levels.  After harvest, the grapes are dried in the sun for several days. The concentrated, shriveled grapes are then pressed and the resulting rich, thick, syrup is fermented and aged, solera style. The resulting wine is unbelievably dark, rich, and sweet, with flavors of chocolate, caramel, smoke, dates, nuts, and figs.  Montilla-Moriles PX is a natural match for rice pudding, ice cream, or any dessert made with caramel, toffee, figs, dates, hazelnuts, or chocolate.

PX Montilla MorillesA colorful legend tells that the Pedro Ximénez is indigenous to the Canary Islands, and somehow got transported to Germany where it thrived.  Somehow, somewhere the grape was then smuggled into Jerez in the belongings of a soldier named Peter Siemens who had served under Charles V (1500-1558) in the Spanish Netherlands.

Like many a really good tale, this one is most likely not true, as it seems unlikely that a warm weather grape such as PX would have survived so far north. Current wisdom points towards Andalucía or the Canary Islands as the most probably homeland for Pedro Ximénez, and it is likely that the name was borrowed either from a local winemaker, as  Ximénez/Ximénes is a common name in the area; or from the town of Jiménez near Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, CWE; your SWE Blog Administrator – bevspecialist@societyofwineeducators.org



Tour de Blog 2013

Corks and CorkscrewWelcome to the Tour de Blog 2013!

We’ve been busy adding lots of resources here at Wine, Wit, and Wisdom, and thought we’d let you know about some of them.  Hopefully, you will find some of these helpful in your studies, or with the classes you are teaching~!

Wine Maps! If you are studying for the CSW, CWE, or planning on teaching a class, SWE’s wine maps are now available on-line.  This makes for very convenient studying from your mobile device, or as a printable resources. Click here for links to all of the SWE Wine maps, which are available both as webpages and pdfs.

Wine Links! The SWE Blog provides one of the most comprehensive lists of links to quality wine websites available on the internet.  For instance, did you know that a database called “E-Bacchus” lists every AOP/PGI wine in the European Union? And its daddy database, the European Union’s department of Agricultural and Rual Development lists every AOP and PGI-designated agricultural product, from Walnuts from Périgord, Lavender Oil from Haute-Provence, and Chickens from Bresse (not to mention all the cheeses).

Whether you are researching Fitou or Fino, Madeira or Modena, you’ll find useful links on our site. Click here for our wine links page.

Games and Quizzes! One of our goals at SWE is to provide our community with educational tools and activities.  While we are just getting started, if interactive wine quizzes are your thing, click on the category “games and quizzes” to be directed to our current offerings.

SWE Exam Calendar! We get lots of inquiries about the availability of SWE Certification Exams, and the latest, greatest, up-to-datest version is always available on the SWE Website, which you can access here.

Information on SWE’s Education and Certification Offerings! If you are interested in more information about the CSW, CWE, CSS, or Beverage Specialist, all of the best information is to be found on our website, which you can access by clicking here.

red wine tasting line up of glassesContact information for the SWE Home Office! If you need to speak with a customer service representative, need help navigating the catalog or have a question for our educational and certification consultant, just click here for contact information.

It’s our goal to become your trusted source of wine and spirits news and knowledge…if there is anything else you would like to see us tackled here on the blog, just let us know!


Meet the Board of Directors: David Glancy

Today we are continuing our series of posts to introduce you to the new members of SWE’s Board of Directors.  Read on to meet Master Sommelier David Glancy!

David GDavid Glancy has been a wine professional for over twenty years, and has earned more than his fair share of impressive credentials along the way. David is a Master Sommelier, Certified Wine Educator, Certified Specialist of Spirits, and French Wine Scholar. If we were to spell out all of his post-nominals it would look something like this:  David Glancy, MS, CSS, CSW, CWE, FWS.

After several years in the hospitality industry both the U.S. and Asia, David created and taught the Certified Sommelier Program at the Professional Culinary Institute (now known as the International Culinary Center) in Campbell, California. His educational experience also includes teaching wine and business management at Le Cordon Bleu’s California Culinary Academy in San Francisco.

More recently, David launched the San Francisco Wine School, offering professional wine courses and certification prep courses, in June of 2011. In addition, David currently runs SFsommelier Consulting, is on the Editorial Advisory Board of Sommelier Journal, and is Echanson Provincial for the Chaine des Rotisseurs Pacific Northwest.

David’s first love was a glass of Vouvray, soon followed by another glass. Today, he says he could happily live on Champagne alone. Welcome, David!

Meet the Board of Directors: Missi Holle

Last week, 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, Missi Holle…and thank her for her service to the Society!

Missi HolleMissi Holle, CSW, CSS is a newly elected member of the Board of Directors for the Society of Wine Educators.  She has over 16 years of experience in the wine and spirits industry, has trained through the Court of Master Sommeliers and has most recently earned the Wine Location Specialist (with distinction) designation through the Center for Wine Origins.

Missi found herself “accidentally” in the beverage industry after earning her Marketing degree from the University of Florida.  Having worked nights and weekends as a server and bartender throughout college, her hospitality experience and the attraction of daytime hours led her to a full time job with a Central Florida wine & spirits distributor.  After 2 years, she decided to try her hand within the Corporate Meetings industry, working for Hard Rock Café and GES Exposition Services before passion led her back into the beverage business as a National Account Manager for Banfi Vintners (4 years) and now Kobrand Corporation (10 years).

Education has always been a focus for Missi and today, in addition to her position as National Account Manager for the southeast US, she is the Education Specialist for the Channel Division at Kobrand.

When not working, her favorite times are spent at the dinner table sharing her husband’s home cooked meals and great beverages with family and friends.  She loves to travel and check out new restaurants and bars, enjoys running and a good book!

Welcome, Missi Holle!