DOC Watch: Friuli

The town of Udine in F-V G

The town of Udine in F-V G

DOC watch!

Be alert, all ye students of wine…Italy’s 334th DOC region has been proposed! If it is approved, the Friuli DOC (which, just to keep things interesting, will also be known as the Friuli-Venezia Giulia DOC) will be Italy’s 334th  and Friuli’s 10th – as well as the 7th with the word “Friuli” in the name. (Lest we forget, Friuli-Venezia Giulia also has four DOCGs: Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit DOCG, Lison DOCG, Ramandolo DOCG, and Rosazzo DOCG.)

According to the online e-zine “Italian Wine Chronicle,” a region-wide DOC has been in the works for Friuli since the 1970s, and is now “almost a reality.” The proposal has now entered into a 60-day comment period, after which the Consortium of the Friuli Venezia Giulia DOCs will give their final approval to the new DOC. (After that, of course, will come the [most likely very long] period of waiting for EU approval). However, the Consortium is confident we may soon see Friuli DOC wines, perhaps upon the release of the region’s 2016 vintage.

Vineyards in Friuli

Vineyards in Friuli

The proposed Friuli DOC would cover all of the area in the southern portion of Friuli-Venezia Giulia; in other words, just about all of the area suitable for viticulture (the northern portion being taken up by the foothills and mountains of the Alps). The new DOC would not impact the existing DOCs, but will instead offer an alternative label as well as the possibility of making regionally-sourced DOC wines.

The Friuli DOC will likely be approved for dry whites, dry reds, and sparkling wines (Traditional Method or tank) from a long list of grape varieties. These styles of wine (as well as frizzante wines, rosés, and dessert wines) are produced in many parts of the region. There will be one style of wine unique to the Friuli DOC, however–the way the rules are written, the new DOC will be allowed to produced sparkling wines using the Ribolla Gialla grape variety (something which is not permitted in any of the existing DOCs or DOCGs in Friuli-Venezia Giulia)1


The wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia are not too well-known internationally, although fans of Italian wine would agree that they are among the most diverse, delicious, and impressive of Italian wines. The region is particularly renowned for its white wines, as well as its traditional orange wines and oxidized wines made from the indigenous Ribolla Gialla grape variety.

For the adventurous, here is some Friuli-Venezia Giulia Wine “not-so-trivia”:

  • What three DOC/DOCG regions in Friuli-Venezia Giulia are shared with the Veneto?
  • What type of wine is produced in the Ramandolo DOCG?
  • What type of wine is produced in the Rosazzo DOCG?
  • What (currently) are the six DOCs of Friuli-Venezia Giulia that have the word “Friuli” in their name?
  • Two of the DOCGs of Friuli-Venezia Giulia overlap with similarly-named DOCs. What are they, and what type of wines do they produce?

Click here for the answers: DOC Watch – Friuli not-so-trivia Answers



post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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


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

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

Here’s another hint…

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

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

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

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


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

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

Click here to return to the SWE Website.


Conference Preview – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: Tuscany’s Tiny Gem

Panoramic view of Montepulciano

Panoramic view of Montepulciano

Today we have a Conference Preview on a session to be presented by Paul Wagner and Silvia Loriga entitled Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: Tuscany’s Tiny Gem. Read on for some thoughts on the session written by Paul Wagner:

The first time I visited Montepulciano, I was there to research a project for introducing the wines into the larger consciousness of the US Market.  I was looking forward to learning more about the wines, but I wasn’t expecting a state visit.

All that changed when the people from the Consorzio office asked if we would like to meet the mayor of Montepulciano, a town of roughly five thousand in habitants that perches high atop a hill in the province of Siena.  We expected a short greeting, a quick shake of the hands, and a few minutes of small talk interjected into our day of tasting, visiting wineries, and tasting more wines.

But we were wrong.

Montepulciano's "Town Hall"

Montepulciano’s “Town Hall”

The first clue was when we were shown the city hall. Built in the 16th century as a monument to the influence of the Medici’s in nearby Florence, it sits on the main piazza (Palazzo Pubblico) of Montepulciano, and dominates the square.  (Fans of the Twilight films will recognize it immediately.) The other buildings on the main square are a palace that holds the Consorzio’s offices, another palace that is home to the Contucci family and its winery, and the unfinished Cathedral.  There’s no question who is in charge here, and the Palazzo Communale, or city hall, is an architectural masterpiece, clearly emulating the Palazzo Vecchio of Florence.

At the appointed hour we entered the massive front door and walked up the marble staircase to the second floor, where we were to find the mayor in his office, only to be greeted by five well-dressed older men who introduced themselves as the assistants to the mayor.  The mayor was quite busy that morning, and so we were very formally introduced to his consiglieri–this in a town of 5,000 people.

Just as our conversation bogged down a bit, the mayor appeared, and we went through the formal introductions all over again.  The mayor invited us into his office, where we sat around a huge table, joined by all of his consiglieri.  He waited for us to get comfortable and then made a speech, welcoming us to Montepulciano, and stressing the importance of wine in both the history and future of the town.  Then he waited.

The Sanctuary of San Biagio in Montepulciano

The Sanctuary of San Biagio in Montepulciano

I took this as a cue, and made a speech thanking him and his staff for being so kind, and assuring him that we were fully committed to continuing that grand traditional of viticultural success.  He thanked me, and then invited his primary consigliero to make a speech.  And then one of the experts in my group responded with a speech.  And around the table we went.  Everyone had an opportunity to make his or her opinion known, and everyone felt included in the conversation.  It was quite a ceremony.

When no more speeches were forthcoming, the mayor thanked us and stood up, and we followed suit.  His consiglieri brought him gifts which he bestowed on us, and amid countless handshakes and smiles, we were formally escorted back to the gleaming marble stairwell to continue our visit to Montepulciano.

As I walked back out into the sunlit piazza of Montepulciano, I had a pure sense of time.  Surely such meetings had happened for five hundred years in the Palazzo Communale, with generations of VIPs before me.  And now I could say that I had been a part of that tradition–and it was time to taste some wine.

Before we left Montepulciano that day, we were invited to visit the museum in town (Museo Civico Montepulciano) just blocks off the piazza.  It was normally closed, but the mayor had asked the director to open it that day for us, and to give us a tour.  Apparently, there was some excitement about a new exhibit there.

Portrait of a gentleman (Scipione Borghese?) by Caravaggio (1598-1604)-photo via Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of a Gentleman (Scipione Borghese?) by Caravaggio (1598-1604)-photo via Wikimedia Commons

As we toured the museum the director could not help but give us a knowing smile every once in a while.  And at the end of the tour, we learned why.  In a newly constructed exhibit, she showed us through a door into a room with a stunning painting (Portrait of a Gentleman) by Caravaggio.  It had been discovered by an expert who was visiting the museum the previous year.  Hanging high on the wall in a neglected corner of the museum, the painting caught the attention of the international expert, who suggested that it might actually be quite an important painting.

Now ensconced in a place of honor, Caravaggio’s newly cleaned and restored work glowed with character—a true masterpiece with roots centuries old, yet still conveying the beauty, elegance and charm to admirers today.

At this year’s SWE Conference, Silvia Loriga from the Consorzio office will lead us in a tasting of the noble wines of Montepulciano. While the basics of these wines are similar to their better known neighbors of Chianti Classico and Brunello di Montalcino, the small differences still give the wines a unique opportunity to shine.  In some ways these wines are a bit more focused on tradition than the muscular Brunellos or the constantly evolving Chianti Classicos.  But that is not to say they don’t have all the makings for great wine:  concentration, elegance, and a clear statement of style.  This session–Vino Nobile di Montepulciano: Tuscany’s Tiny Gem–will be held on Friday, August 12, 2016 at 10:30 am.

Conference Preview 2016: CWE Boot Camp


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 August 9, 2016 as part of the Pre-Conference activities at SWE’s 40th Annual Conference, to be held in Washington, DC. 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 –


Conference Preview: Diamonds in the Rough

Photo Credit: Consorzio di Tutela del Vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene

Photo Credit: Consorzio di Tutela del Vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene

Today we have a Conference Preview on a session to be presented by Alan Tardi. Alan’s session is entitled “Diamonds in the Rough: The Many Facets of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG”

Prosecco is enjoying an incredible boom in popularity throughout the world, a meteoric rise that has not yet reached its peak. But most consumers—and even many wine professionals—have no idea what it really is.

Most people think of Prosecco as a ‘simple’ (as in without much character), pleasant, easily quaffable, inexpensive alternative to Champagne. And it is—but there is much more to this quintessentially Italian sparkler than that.

First of all (unlike Champagne) there is not just one Prosecco appellation but three: two of them—Prosecco DOC and Asolo Prosecco DOCG—were created in 2010 at the same time that the classic area of Prosecco production was upgraded from DOC to DOCG and renamed Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco after its two principal towns. Needless to say, the new name throws a big obstacle before most consumers who are simply looking for a nice bottle of bubbly, and the multiple appellations yet another. But the confusion (which many retailers are not adequately equipped to clarify for their customers) obscures a critical fact: there is an enormous, fundamental distinction between DOC and DOCG that has to do with the growing area.

The new DOC covers an extensive area encompassing two regions (Veneto and Friuli), nine provinces, and 556 towns, and much of it is in flat areas that can be mechanically worked, all of which provides much higher yields at a much lower cost. On the other hand, the tiny Conegliano Valdobbiadene area—consisting of 15 small municipalities—is completely up in the hills, many of which are so steep they are difficult to stand up in, and accessible only on foot.

Prosecco Paesaggio

Prosecco Paesaggio Photo Credit: Alan Tardi

The Dolomite Mountains located right behind Conegliano Valdobbiadene form a protective barrier from harsh northern temperatures while the Piave River valley in front of it stretches south to Venice and the Adriatic Sea, creating a unique combination of continental and Mediterranean climates. Moreover, due to complex geologic events, there are numerous different soil types and microclimates within this small area.

The time required to work the vines in this area is extremely high—more than four times higher than in the valley—and most of it is done by thousands of independent farmers tending tiny family plots who supply grapes to the 183 wineries. Over the centuries, these farmers have handcrafted the vineyards to the contours of this dramatic and complex landscape, creating a unique synergy between humans and nature. It is not unusual to find old vines (many over 100 years old) here, and besides the predominant Glera (formerly known as Prosecco) it is also possible to find indigenous varieties such as Verdiso, Perera and Bianchetta Trevigiana.

But this is just the beginning.

Though most Prosecco is made in an autoclave—a technique that was perfected in the late 1800s at Italy’s oldest enology school in Conegliano—not all of it is. The autoclave was not really diffused throughout the area until the post-war resurgence of the1950s and ’60s. Before that, winemakers made still wine, albeit with a natural tendency to re-ferment in bottle (like in Champagne).

Photo Credit: Alan Tardi

Photo Credit: Alan Tardi

While spumante made in autoclaves accounts for nearly 95% of the Prosecco on the market today, many producers continue to make both still Prosecco (known as “tranquillo”) and sparkling wines with second fermentation in bottle in the traditional method leaving the sediment is left inside (“Col Fondo”). Other producers are also experimenting with the Classic Method of second fermentation in bottle with disgorgement.

Finally, though Prosecco has developed the reputation of being a wine that should be consumed as young and fresh as possible, preferably within one year of the vintage, this is not necessarily always the case.

There is much more to Prosecco than meets the eye, and new developments are continuing to taking place as producers search for new (or old) and better ways to express their unique terroir and long winemaking tradition.

The session, “Diamonds in the Rough,” will offer a unique opportunity to explore many different and little known facets of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco through a lineup of unusual wines, many of which are not currently available in the US. To begin with we will have the extremely rare opportunity to sample the four principal indigenous grape varieties of Prosecco side by side in still form. After that we will taste a Prosecco made from a single parcel located inside a Rive (a single village appellation); a Prosecco made from selected grapes of extremely old vines; an extra-brut classic method Prosecco from the famed Cartizze subzone, and another re-fermented in the traditional Col Fondo method. We will cap off this survey with a very special surprise demonstrating that Prosecco does not necessarily have to be drunk within a year.

All in all, this not-to-be-missed session will offer an enlightening glimpse into a fascinating region that is bound to change your opinion of the world’s most popular sparkling wine.

Alan Tardi in the vineyards at Pasquale Catanzariti

Alan Tardi in the vineyards at Pasquale Catanzariti

Alan Tardi, former NYC chef and restaurateur, has long worked as a freelance journalist authoring articles about wine and food for numerous publications including The New York Times, Wine & Spirits Magazine, The Wine Spectator, Decanter, Sommelier Journal and Food Arts. In 2003, Alan moved to the village of Castiglione Falletto in the heart of the Barolo region in Piedmont, Italy, where he spent years working in the surrounding vineyards and wineries through all phases of the growing and production process. In 2009, Alan began frequenting the Conegliano Valdobbiadene region. After developing a rapport with many local farmers and producers, as well as principals of the governing Consortium, Alan was named the first-ever US Ambassador of Conegliano Valdobbiadene in 2015. His book, Romancing the Vine: Life, Love and Transformation in the Vineyards of Barolo (St Martins Press, 2006) won a James Beard Award for Best Wine and Spirits Book of 2006. His new book on the other sparkling wine “Champagne, Uncorked” was published in late spring 2016.

Alan’s session “Diamonds in the Rough: The Many Facets of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG” will be presented on Friday, August 12, at 8:45 am as part of SWE’s 40th  Annual Conference.

Conference Preview: Not all Cavas are Created Equal


Today we have a Conference Preview on a session to be presented by Tracey Ellen Kamens. Tracey’s  session is entitled Not all Cavas are Created Equal. 

The last time the Society of Wine Educators held its annual conference in Washington, D.C., I took my cue from the conference theme of “Red, White & Bubbles” and championed the sparkling wines of the “good ole USA.” I’m still a big fan of sparklers, but this time, I will turn my attention to Cava!

While Cava and Champagne are both Traditional Method sparklers that begin with the letter “C,” that’s generally where the comparison ends. We tend to think of Champagne as a high quality wine, while Cava might be cheap and cheerful, but that’s about it.

For a long time, I, too, never thought particularly highly of Cava. But, more recently, I had the opportunity to visit Catalonia, and, once there, was pleasantly surprised by the care and concern that went into the production of these sparkling wines at several of the producers we visited.


Moreover, Champagne and Cava have a lot more in common than meets the eye, at least when looking at production by the numbers—as shown in the accompanying graphic.

The more I tasted the wines at places like Augusti Torello Mata, Juve Y Camps and Recaredo, I began to realize that high quality Cava is not an oxymoron. In fact, in some cases, dare I say it– the terms “Cava” and “luxury” might actually exist side by side.

After further exploration, I learned that these producers are breaking the rules, or rather, they are exceeding them by leaps and bounds, with lowered yields, longer aging and many other commitments to quality grape growing and winemaking.

Admittedly, not all Cavas are well made–with the oceans of Cava washing up on U.S. shores each year, there is still a lot of so-so Cava out there. But, if we are honest–just as there are better-made Champagnes and better-made Proseccos (particularly Prosecco Superiore)–it’s hard to paint all Cavas with a single bad brush.

Still not convinced? Of course, the proof is in the tasting. Come join me for my presentation at this year’s SWE conference (Friday, August 12 at 10:30 AM) to taste for yourself, where the line-up will include wines from:

  • Alta Alella
  • Augusti Torello Mata
  • Can Recaredo
  • Casa Sala
  • Gramona
  • Juve Y Camps
  • Pares Balta
  • Perelada
  • Vins El Cep

Tracy Ellen Kamens is a wine educator, writer and consultant who combines her passion for teaching with her love of wine. In addition to serving as president of Wine TEKnologies, Tracy currently serves as a Wine Expert for Wine Ring, Inc, a consumer-oriented app. She is an Ambassador for both the Napa Valley Vintners and the Crus Bourgeois du Médoc and is a frequent presenter at international wine conferences. Tracy has written for various publications including Palate Press magazine and The SOMM Journal and was a Fellowship Recipient for the Professional Wine Writers’ Symposium. She holds a doctorate of education from the University of Pennsylvania, the Certified Wine Educator credential from the Society of Wine Educators and the Wine & Spirits Education Trust’s Diploma of Wine & Spirits.

Tracey’s session—Not all Cavas are Created Equal—will be held on Friday, August 12, 2016 at 10:30 am pm as part of SWE’s 40th Annual Conference, to be held in Washington, DC.


Conference Preview: Betting on Malbec – The Different Terroirs of Cahors

Today we have a Conference Preview on a session to be presented by Bertrand Vigouroux, owner of the Georges Vigouroux Company in Cahors. Bertrand’s session is entitled Betting on Malbec: The Different Terroirs of Cahors.

2012 Harvest in Cahors - Photo Credit: Bertrand Gabriel Vigouroux

2012 Harvest in Cahors – Photo Credit: Bertrand Gabriel Vigouroux

It is astounding that there is so little information to be found on Cahors, the birthplace of Malbec—it’s difficult to find, even on trade websites and in wine literature. This is one of the main reasons why wine professionals flock to the SWE Annual Conference—there is information presented that can only be learned in person and from the winemakers who are actually creating history!

One of those winemakers, Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux, is the current generation of a family who has been making wine in Cahors since 1887—first as négociants and, since 1971, as growers.  Today, Bertrand and his family own four different properties—each with a distinct terroir—and are finally understanding the innovations that are necessary allow the Malbec to fully express itself.

Cahors is the undisputed birthplace of Malbec with records of Malbec existing in the area since around 50 BC.  The wines of this area in the Southwest of France were known worldwide as early as the 13th century—partially due to England’s King Henry II marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine and partially because the wines of the time were thought superior to that of Bordeaux.

The Malbec-based wines from Cahors had to pass through the port of Bordeaux to be shipped to the major markets of the time, and was often added to the Bordelaise Claret to make it richer.  This led to Malbec being planted in Bordeaux, and eventually, to the imposition of heavy taxes on the wines coming from Southwest France—while Bordeaux wines were given preference in shipping. This continued until the end of the French Revolution in 1799.

During the 19th century in France, Château de Haut-Serre, currently owned by the Vigouroux family, was often found alongside First Growth Bordeaux on restaurant menus around France.  However, after Phylloxera the growers of Cahors were slower to replant, delayed by an inability to match a favorable rootstock with the Malbec vine.  Furthermore, the vineyards of Southwest France were ravaged by the frost of 1956, making producers believe that Cahors might not be the place to make high quality wine.

Autumn view above the Pont Valentré, Cahors

Autumn view above the Pont Valentré, Cahors

However, Georges Vigouroux, Bertrand’s father, believed that Malbec still had a future and purchased the original Haut-Serre vineyard, which had gone fallow.  The replanting was not an easy task, taking 3 years, and requiring specialized machines to break up and pulverize meter-wide rock, which is typical on what is known as the “slopes” of Cahors.

The next property Georges purchased, in 1983, was the famous and picturesque Château de Mercuès, with its vineyard and castle which sit on an entirely unique terroir.  At this property, Bertrand and his father are experimenting with high density plantings and other innovations.

The family continued with the purchase of Château Leret-Monpezat on what is known as the “plateau” of Cahors, characterized by limestone-clay soil.  Finally, Bertrand-Gabriel bought their latest vineyard, exploring slightly outside Cahors, on the slopes of Calignac overlooking the Garonne valley.

As we progress as wine professionals, it is our never–ending quest to keep up with the appellations, regions, and regulations as they continuously evolve. In this session, Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux will help us understand these divisions of Cahors while tasting his various properties.  Cahors is in the middle of a renaissance, and our presenter is one of the pioneers!

Bertrand Gabriel Vigouroux

Bertrand Gabriel Vigouroux

Bertrand-Gabriel Vigouroux trained in accounting and management, then enology in Toulouse. At age 23, he joined the family business in control of four separate estates and wineries: Château de Haute-Serre, Château de Mercies, Château Leret-Monpezat, and Château Tournelles.

Bertrand has introduced innovative and quality-centered work methods to the operations, such as high density re-planting, grassing between the vines, leaf thinning, yield control, and in-depth experimentation with oak regimens and fermentations.

Bertrand’s session—Betting on Malbec: The Different Terroirs of Cahors—will be held on Friday, August 12, 2016 at 3:00 pm as part of SWE’s 40th Annual Conference, to be held in Washington, DC.

Conference Preview: Climate, Grapes, and Wine

Today we have a 2016 SWE Conference Preview on Gregory Jones’ session entitled “Climate, Grapes, and Wine: Understanding Terroir Influences in a Variable and Changing Climate”


If there were ever an opportunity to grasp the complexities of climate change’s effect on viticulture, it is during this session with world-renowned climatologist Gregory Jones. Gregory conducts applied research for the Oregon wine industry as well as many other viticultural areas around the world, as well as working as professor and research climatologist at Southern Oregon University.

In the realm of wine education, we are constantly asked how climate change will alter what we know to be the pillars of what we teach.  Will Cabernet continue to grow in Bordeaux?  Will we continue to see our vineyards migrating to the north, and to higher elevations?

Gregory believes that climate change is not just about the warming of the world’s vineyards, but a variability that is truly starting to affect the concept of terroir. Completing his PhD at the University of Virginia, Gregory wrote his dissertation on the climatology of viticulture in Bordeaux and has contributed to or has been cited in almost every substantial climate study conducted in the last 15 years.  He even contributed to the 2008 Nobel Prize Winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report!

In a recent publication, Gregory states that the ideal climate—in terms of heat degree days, precipitation, heat spikes, and the like—is only ideal when considered in the context of a particular grape variety.  Furthermore, this optimum climate allows the vine a more equitable growth cycle which synchronizes with what he terms the four ripeness clocks—sugar accumulation, acid respiration, phenolic ripeness, and fruit character.

He goes on to say that the grower and the wine professional can no longer rely on tried-and-true ideas of “ideal climates: due to the variability derived from large scale atmospheric and oceanic interactions, El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) being one of the most prominent examples.

Finally, Gregory always ties all the info back to what is important to the wine professional as well as where we are headed as an industry.  This is a session not to miss.

Gregory V. Jones

Gregory V. Jones

Gregory V. Jones is a professor and research climatologist in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at Southern Oregon University who specializes in the study of climate structure and suitability for viticulture, and how climate variability and change influence grapevine growth, wine production and quality. He conducts applied research for the grape and wine industry in Oregon and many regions worldwide and has given hundreds of international, national, and regional presentations on climate and wine-related research. He is the author of numerous book chapters and other reports and articles on wine economics, grapevine phenology, site assessment methods for viticulture, climatological assessments of viticultural potential, and climate variability and change impacts on wine production. Gregory’s session, “Climate, Grapes, and Wine: Understanding Terroir Influences in a Variable and Changing Climate” will be held on Thursday, August 11, 2016 as part of SWE’s 40th Annual Conference, to be held in Washington, DC.  

Conference Preview: Advanced Tasting Strategies


Today, Tim Gaiser, MS gives us a preview of his upcoming SWE Conference session: “Advanced Tasting Strategies: Cause and Effect and Objective Factors.”

The path to becoming a professional taster is a complex one that requires a great deal of practice, repetition, and focus. In the beginning stages, a student has to memorize a tasting grid, acquire knowledge of common wine faults, and learn the major markers for classic grapes and wines.

Beyond the basics there are two things every student must learn to take their tasting to the next level. The first is the concept of cause and effect; why a given wine looks, smells, tastes, and feels the way it does. Cause and Effect is based on two factors, environment and winemaking technique.  Practically any wine will offer aromas and/or flavors that are directly related to one or both.

The second criteria every student must learn to become a proficient taster can be called “signatures.” These signatures are some two dozen or so elements including pyrazines, rotundone, stem inclusion, botrytis, and terpenes. They come from various sources but must absolutely be learned and memorized by the student in order to consistently identify major grapes and wine styles. In my seminar we’ll use a set of wines to illustrate and focus on both concepts—and help improve olfactory and palate memory in the process.

Tim Gaiser, MS

Tim Gaiser, MS

Tim Gaiser is an internationally renowned wine expert and lecturer, and is one of230 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 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 Session, “Advanced Tasting Strategies: Cause and Effect and Objective Factors,” will be presented as part of SWE’s 40th Annual Conference (to be held in Washington, DC) on Friday, August 12th at 4:45 pm.

Conference Preview: Calling All Colheitas

Today we have a guest post from Paul Wagner, who tells us what to expect at the session entitled “A Short History of Time in a Glass: Colheita Ports over 50 Years” at this year’s SWE Conference in Washington DC. It sounds fantastic!


The vast ancient cellar in Oporto was full of barrels marching off into the shadows, each covered with the light dust that had gently accumulated over decades of aging.  As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I began to make out chalk marks on the barrel heads:  1997, 1983, 1957, 1966, 1934, the list went on and on, as did the cellar.  I wandered around for a few minutes.  There seemed to be thousands of barrels here.  And at least one of those barrels had the date 1952:  the year I was born.

What wine lover’s heart wouldn’t quicken with that experience?

And yet these wines are rarely mentioned by wine experts.  Very few people—even wine experts—have tasted through these wines in any kind of depth; and a comprehensive tasting of these wines is simply not available via a single winery.

But at this year’s SWE national conference, the wineries of Sogevinus:  Kopke, Barros, Burmester and Calem, will provide a stunning tasting of Colheita Ports going back more than fifty years.   They have the largest inventory of Colheita Ports in the world.

It is an experience not to be missed.


Let’s put these wines into context and perspective: there are basically two kinds of Port: Ruby and Tawny.  (We won’t mention white Port here, because it’s similar but made with white grapes.)

Both Ruby and Tawny Ports share the same classic grape varietals: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Frances, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cao, Tinta Barroca, and a few others. It’s once the grapes are picked that the difference between Ruby and Tawny begins to become clear.

Ruby Ports are focused on fruit.  As young wines they spend little time in barrel, and are bottled quickly and released in time to capture their lively, fruity character. Basic Ruby Ports are a blend of vintages, but the very best Ruby Ports are deeply concentrated wines that can age for decades.  They are identified early in their lives, kept as separate lots by vintage, and released as Vintage Port.  Only a few years in each decade are good enough to make Vintage Port.

Tawny Ports, on the other hand, are focused on complexity.  These are wines that spend their lives not in the bottle, but in barrel.  The simpler Tawny Ports are blended and released at three years of age. Then come the more interesting wines: Tawny Ports “with an indication of age” that can be ten, twenty, thirty, and even forty years old.


And the greatest of all Tawny Ports are the Colheita Ports:  Tawny Ports that are not blended, but come from a single harvest (which is what Colheita means in Portuguese) and have been aged in barrel at the winery ever since.  And they can live longer than you or I.  There is something inexplicably seductive about walking through a cellar full of barrels of Colheita Ports.

And while Ruby Ports provide rich fruit flavors, Tawny Ports give us an incredible depth of complexity, where the fruit fades back to blend in with notes of caramel, vanilla, dried apricots, toffee, cinnamon, tea, almonds, dates, hazelnuts,…the list is endless and enchanting.

While Ruby and Vintage Ports should be consumed within a few days of opening, to capture the fruit in the wine, Tawny Ports can live a few weeks after the bottle has been opened.  This makes them much more successful as wines in a restaurant setting, and even at home.  It’s a rare couple that can finish off a bottle of Vintage Port over two or three days.  But a bottle of Colheita from the year of their wedding can be enjoyed over the course of a few weeks of memorable dinners.


And while other Ports are bottled in a modern bottling line, Colheita Ports are usually hand bottled in the Port houses of Vila Nova da Gaia—each bottle hand-filled, hand-corked, hand-labelled, and carefully hand-dipped in wax for the capsule.  And each is then hand-stenciled with a white painted label as well.

At this year’s conference, Tania Oliveira will lead a tasting of Colheita Ports from the wineries in the Sogevinus Portfolio.  She is a gifted speaker with great charm and a collection of older Colheita Ports that will take your breath away.  And one of her wines just might be from the year of your birth. Tania’s session will be held on Thursday, August 11 at 3:pm, as part of SWE’s 40th Annual Conference.