All of Vienna in One Glass

viennaVienna has a unique history of wine production.  The bustling capital city is home to 612 hectares (1,500 acres) of vineyards, planted in both the outer districts and outskirts of the city.  These vineyards provide a substantial amount of lovely scenery as well as a significant economic input to the city of Vienna.

The wines have historically been classified under the “landwein” region of Wien (Vienna), and considered PGI-level wines.  As is to be expected for a modern urban region, Wien is by far the smallest, in terms of both square mileage and production, of Austria’s four landwein regions. Wien produces a mere 1% of the total output of Austria.

Traditionally, wines from Wien have been known as “Heuriger,”or wine tavern wines.  A unique Austrian tradition, a Heuriger is basically a tavern operated by a wine maker and may only serve its own wines.  Some are open year-round and serve a wide variety of food, while others, known as “Buschenschank” are hidden among the vineyards and may only be open a few weeks a year, serving the new wine of the vintage and simple “snacks” to accompany the wine.

Vineyards ViennaNowadays, the wines of Wien are enjoying a newly-found reputation as fine wines; many are to be found on the wine lists of the most forward-thinking and renowned restaurants, and some have even reached “cult wine” status. As of the 2013 vintage, the region’s traditional wine has earned the highest classification status available to Austrian wines – the Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC).

The new DAC – only the ninth one to be granted in Austria – is known as “Weiner Gemischte Satz.” Gemischter Satz means (loosely translated) “mixed set” and the qualifications for the DAC are both highly unique and very strict. This style of wine has been called “all of Vienna in one glass.”

To qualify, the wine must be made from white wine grapes grown in Vienna area vineyards planted with at least three quality grape varieties. The grapes must be harvested, pressed, and fermented together, with the largest portion of a single grape variety no more than 50% and three varieties must make up at least 10% each. The wines are meant to be fruit-forward and are not allowed to show “significant influence of oak.”

St. Charles' Church (Karlskirche) in Vienna

St. Charles’ Church (Karlskirche) in Vienna

An unusual factor of this DAC is that the grapes must not just be processed together; they must also be grown together in what is now known as a “field blend” – side by side in the vineyard. While the regulations require a minimum of three different varieties, up to 15 varieties are listed as “approved” for use and may be present in a single wine.  Approved varieties include traditional Austrian varieties such as Grüner Veltliner, Sylvaner, Traminer, Rotgipfler, Neuburger, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), as well as international varieties such as Chardonnay (sometimes known in Austria as “Morillon”).

Viennese wine not made according to the strict standards for the Weiner Gemischte Satz DAC will continue to be bottled under the “Wien” landwein classification.

Click here for more information on the new DAC from the AustrianWine.com website.

Click here for a discussion on the new DAC from Weininger.

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Glass and Bottle of Suze

SuzeSuze, a lightly sweet type of bittered liqueur, was created in Paris in 1889 by a distiller named Fernand Moureaux.  While Suze has long been popular in Europe as an aperitif and mixer, it has just become available on the American Market.

The original recipe for Suze called for wild gentian root harvested from the mountains of the Jura and Auvergne regions of France.  Other ingredients in this highly aromatic, bright yellow liqueur include vanilla, dried wildflowers, fennel, bitter oranges, and honey.

Now produced by Pernod Ricard, Suze is among the top selling aperitifs in France.  The fame and reputation of Suze received quite a boost in 1912 when it was featured in the painting “Verre et bouteille de Suze” (Glass and Bottle of Suze) by Pablo Picasso.

The painting, actually a collage, incorporates bits of newspaper, wallpaper, and construction paper to portray (some art critics say “suggest”) a liquor bottle with a label, a glass, an ashtray, and a lit cigarette. These all rest on a blue table in front of a wall covered with diamond-patterned wallpaper and pieces of newspaper.

glass and bottle of suzeThese elements all represent the popular daily Parisian routine of reading the paper while smoking and drinking in a café; however, at the same time, the newspaper articles themselves tell of the terrifying events of the First Balkan War. Many art critics believe these elements represent the juxtaposition of the simple pleasures, as well as the horrors, of modern life.

If you would rather concentrate on life’s pleasures, try a White Negroni – 2 parts gin, 1 part Suze, and 1 part White Vermouth shaken and strained over ice, garnished with a lemon twist.

“Verre et bouteille de Suze” (Glass and Bottle of Suze) by Pablo Picasso is currently on display at the Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. Click here to read about the painting in the museum’s archives.

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

SWEbinars Get Spirited!

whiskeyBy popular demand!

Here’s one for the cocktail crowd! Starting in April we will be offering Spirits SWEbinars designed for CSS (Certified Specialist of Spirits) Exam prep.  These sessions, covering  the material in the CSS Study guide and beyond, will be of interest to any spirits professional, mixologist,  wine lover, wine professional, or spirits enthusiast!

Our first “Spirited SWEbinar” will be offered on April 11, 2014 at 12 noon (central time). The topic will be Whisky (Chapter 4 in the CSS Study Guide).

We are pleased and honored to have Barry Wiss, CSS, CWE as our presenter for this session.  Barry is the Vice President of Trade Relations for Trinchero Family Estates and serves as the Second Vice President on SWE’s Board of Directors.

We’ll also be continuing with our CSW review sessions, and offering other Spirited SWEbinars in the future – click here for more information on our SWEbinars!

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Spain Takes the Lead?

spain Heredia WineryAs of the 2013 harvest, Spain might catapult to the top of the wine-producing heap and earn the number one place among wine producing countries.

This news, as reported by the online newspaper “The Local – Spain’s News in English,” is based on statistics provided by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture concerning the 2013 crop.  According to the Ministry, Spain produced over 50 million hectoliters, or 6.7 billion (with a “b”) bottles of wine in 2013.  This is an increase of 41% over 2012.  This is somewhat of a good news/bad news proposition; its good to be number one, but it also may make the competition to sell Spanish wines on the world market more intense.

The statistics provided by Spain were compared with the self-reported estimates from the French and Italian wine industries. Italy reported producing 47 million hectoliters, and France reported 42 million.

Whether or not this 1-2-3 position remains in place will be seen once the final statistics – provided by the International Organization of Wine and Vine (OIV) – are released in May.

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

 

The W.O. Shuffle: 2014

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, with Table Mountain in the Background

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, with Table Mountain in the Background

As every good wine student knows, the world of wine is constantly changing – and that includes a never-ending shuffle of AOCs, DOCGs, AVAs and W.O.s.

W.O. – as you advanced students know, stands for “Wine of Origin” and is the system of geographically defined wine regions used in South Africa.

The system was first used in 1973 and mirrors the “New World” style of geographical indications in that it defines the boundaries of the geographic origins and requires truth in labeling; however, grape varieties, wine making techniques, or wine styles are not mandated per geographic area.

The basic standards are:

  • Geographic Area:  If a wine uses a geographic area, estate, or vineyard as its place of origin, 100% of the wine must come from that area.
  • Vintage:  If a wine states a particular vintage, 85% of the wine must be front the stated vintage.
  • Variety:  Varietal wines must contain 85% the stated variety.

About those WO changes.  They seemed pretty complicated upon my first reading, so I’ve tried to simplify them. To keep things in context, remember that the defined wine areas of South Africa are known as Geographical Units (largest), Regions, Districts, and Wards (the smallest).  Here goes:

  • A glass of Simonsig Sparkling Wine perched atop Table Mountain

    A glass of Simonsig Sparkling Wine perched atop Table Mountain

    Cape Point Out:  Cape Point is not longer considered a district of the Coastal Region geographical unit.

  • Cape Peninsula In:  Cape Peninsula is a newly created district located within the Coastal Region.  Constantia and Hout Bay, the former wards of the former Cape Point District, are now considered wards of the Cape Peninsula District.
  • Aan de Dorns Out:  Aan de Dorns is no longer considered a ward of the Worcester District. Thus, the remaining three wards of Worcester are Hex River Valley, Nuy, and Scherpenheuvel.
  • Standford Hills In:  Stanford Hills is a new ward, located within the Walker Bay District.
  • Ceres In:  Ceres, located in the Western Cape Geographical Unit, is now a ward of the recently defined Ceres Plateau District (which is not located within a designated region.)

For all of the latest updates in the world of wine, visit our “CSW Update Page.”

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

 

Online CSW Review Course – Starts May 5!

wine online 8Major Announcement!!

Starting May 5, 2014…our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles, will be leading a guided, 12-week, online review course for CSW Candidates.  The course is free, but you must be a Individual Professional Member of SWE and be pre-registered in order to participate.

The course will include weekly “live online” course sessions (tentatively scheduled for Monday evenings at 7:00 central), reading assignments, workbook assignments, and “check-out quizzes.”  Required textbooks include the 2014 CSW Study Guide and Workbook.

Participants will be limited to the first 100 qualified applicants, so if you are interested in this opportunity please send an email to Miss Jane at:  jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Another course will begin in August.

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“Dr. Zwack, das ist ein Unicum!”

zwackProduced in Budapest, Hungary; Unicum is a bold, bitter liqueur created using over 40 different botanicals. Unicum was invented in 1790 by Dr. József Zwack, Royal Physician to the Hungarian Court, in order to settle the stomach of Emperor Joseph II, then the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary.

The beverage is said to have received its name when Emperor Joseph proclaimed, “Dr. Zwack, das ist ein Unicum!” meaning the drink was “rather unique!”

In 1840, the Doctor’s son, József Junior, founded J. Zwack & Partners, the first Hungarian liqueur manufacturer. Soon, J. Zwack & Partners was one of the leading distilleries in Eastern Europe, producing over 200 varieties of spirits and liqueurs and exporting them all over the world.  The distillery was handed down through the generations of the family and successfully operated until the facility was completely destroyed during World War II.

After the war, in 1948, the distillery was seized from the Zwack family and nationalized by the Communist regime.  János and Péter Zwack, the grandson and great-grandson of the founder, escaped the country with the original Zwack recipe.  Another grandson, Béla, remained behind to give the regime a “fake” Zwack recipe and became a regular factory worker.

Zwack PosterMeanwhile, János and Péter migrated to the United States and settled in the Bronx.  Péter worked diligently in the liquor trade and entered into an agreement with the Jim Beam Company to produce and distribute products under the Zwack name.

In 1988, one year before the fall of the communist regime, Péter returned to Hungary in 1988 and repurchased the Zwack production facility from the state.  By 1990, the production of the original Zwack formula and many other products resumed in Budapest.

The Zwack Company has since recovered its position as the leading distillery of Eastern Europe and is now run by the sixth generation of the Zwack family.

Click here to visit the Zwack Website

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

Next SWEbinar: Monday, March 17!

SWEbinar CliffsideMarch 2014 SWEbinars

Each month, our own Director of Education, “Miss Jane” Nickles, will be leading a webinar on “How to Pass the CSW.”  Over the course of 2014, she’ll be covering the entire Study Guide, as well as handing out study tips, providing the “tales of the vine” behind the famous wines, and taking your comments and questions.

The second set of installments in our CSW Review Series SWEbinars is scheduled for March, 2014.

These identical sessions will cover grape varieties and viticulture – chapters 3 and 4 in the CSW Study Guide.

These sessions will be first come, first served, and each has a capacity of 100 attendees.  Suggested drink-along beverages:  Gavi di Gavi,  Pink Champagne on Ice, or Espresso.

Logon Instructions:  At the appointed time, just click on the link.  When the SWE Adobe Connect homepage appears, click on “enter as a guest,” type in your name, and click “enter room.”  Remember that each session is limited to 100 attendees, and that several of our past sessions have reached capacity.  We are hoping to avoid this issue in the future by offering each SWEbinar a minimum of three times, but its still a good idea to log on early!

If you have never attended an Adobe Connect event before, it is also a good idea to test your connection ahead of time.

Invitations will go out via email to the SWE Membership at the beginning of each month, but you can keep up with the schedule and access the webinar home site here at this page.

Click here for the 2014 SWEbinar Calendar

If you have any questions, please contact Jane Nickles:  jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

 

Hot Off the Press: The CSW Workbook is here!

CSW WorkbookWhat has 180 pages, 1,700 activities, 29 wine map exercises, and 250 “practice” multiple choice quiz questions?

Need more hints?

What will help you understand CSW Study Guide and guide you to remember all sorts of “facts and figures” about wine?

Need even  more hints? 

What has been professionally designed to help you learn, remember, and understand the CSW Study Guide material and give you the best training possible, in order to help you pass the CSW Exam?

Answer:  Our CSW Workbook – available NOW on the SWE Website!  This 180-page workbook has a variety of exercises, including multiple choice questions, word matching, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, and true/false questions;  all designed to help you to learn  and comprehend the rather large amount of material to be found in the CSW Study Guide.  While it may sound like a lot of work, we’ve also tried to design it to be fun – after all, what’s more fun than learning about wine?

Click here for a preview of the workbook!

Click here to access the SWE Website Catalog and Store.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the CSW Workbook, please contact our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles, at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

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

 

Guest Post: Modern Wines from Ancient Santorini

santorini island james bToday we have a guest post from Houston-based Wine Educator James Barlow, CS, CWE - all about some modern wines from a most ancient place…the Greek Island of Santorini.

When one thinks of Greece, one might envision the great Greek Gods – Dionysus, Zeus, and Apollo – sipping wine from golden goblets, perched on high watching the humans battle in epic duels.

When one thinks of Greek wine, one might envision pine resin and retsina  - and this has often kept people from delving much farther into the world of Greek wines.

However, Greek wine is so much more!  Greece is home to some of the more interesting indigenous grape varietals on earth.  Smoky, bone dry whites such as Assyrtiko or full bodied reds such as Mavrotragano and the deliciously sweet Vinsanto are truly the “nectars of the Gods.”

Vines have been grown in Greece for centuries, but in the modern world, Greek wines have been widely overlooked by the wine community.  However, the small island of Santorini, located in the southern Cyclades Islands, is looking to change the way the world looks at the wines of Greece.

santorinin cliffsides firaThe History and Geography of Santorini

First, a bit of history about Santorini, which will give a better understanding why this small island has excellent terrior and climate to cultivate vines.  Santorini was the core of an ancient volcano that erupted in about 1640-1620 BC.  This submerged a large part of the island and created a caldera where the center of the island had been.  The result was a unique mix of chalk and shale beneath ash, lava and pumice, which contributes to the vines having to struggle deep into the soil to find nutrients.

This, in turn, gives the resulting wines intense minerality and singularity in the wine world.  It also is the core reason why the root louse, phylloxera, has never become an issue on this small island.  This fact allows Santorini to have many old vine vineyards.  Grapes are grown on the eastern edge of the caldera at nearly 1,000 feet in altitude.  To add even more stress to the vine, Santorini sees almost no rain during the growing season and the vines only source of water comes from the early morning fog condensation that covers the island.  This is enough to keep the vines alive and thriving.

Steady westerly winds keep the grapes from seeing much of the condensation thus eliminating any chance of rot.  In fact, the winds are so fierce that the vines are typically trained to grow in a Stefani shape, a round basket, where the middle is left open for the clusters of grapes to grow unimpeded.

santorini vineyardAssyrtiko:  Rich, Mineral-driven Whites

It is in this environment on Santorini that Greece’s most intriguing white grape is grown.  Assyrtiko (A seer’tee ko) might just become the next “darling” white wine for sommeliers and wine critics alike.  The varietal is often referred to as ‘the white grape in red’s clothing’.  It is a high acid, full-bodied white with moderately high alcohol that gives the consumer a chance to taste the essence of Santorini.

The minerality that the grape inherits from the soils is sky high.  Flavors of crushed rocks and smoky minerals meld into the bone dry acidity while maintaining ripe citrus fruits such as melon, apple and key lime.  Assyrtiko will be sometimes be blended with small amounts of Athiri and Aidani to add aromatics to the bracing acids.  The wine may sometimes see oak, but is typically aged in stainless steel vats.  Wild yeasts are usually used in fermentation which gives the ensuing wine unique character and flavor profile.  Santorini has 70% of its vines dedicated to this variety.  Some of the best examples are done by Gaia, who produces an unbelievably good wild ferment, and Paris Sigalas.

Vinsanto from Santorini

Assyrtiko(minimum 51%) and Aidani are also the main grape varieties used for the passito-style Vinsanto dessert wines. The late harvested grapes are left out on straw mats for 1-2 weeks which causes them to concentrate and raisinate.  The grapes then go through a santorini sunsetlengthy fermentation process then are aged in oak casks for a minimum of 24 months, but usually for much longer.  The ending results are deliciously sweet wines with flavors of matured honey, dried apricots, and molasses.

The wines are typically low in alcohol and high in sugar, yet are not cloying due to the vibrant acidity of Assyrtiko.  Vinsanto of Greece, not to be confused with Vin Santo of Tuscany, now has the exclusive rights to the name ‘Vinsanto’ although Tuscany can still use the name on the label to describe the ‘style’ of wine making. Vin meaning wine, Santo short for Santorini…Vinsanto. Makes sense.

Mavrotragano:  Big, Bold Red

Santorini may be best known for its indigenous white varietals, but the reds are beginning to make head way in the market.  Mavrotragano is the red grape that is making the biggest waves.  This rare, indigenous variety produces small, thick skinned grapes of very low yield.  Due to the lack of phylloxera issues, this varietal remains largely on its original rootstock.  Mavrotragano was nearly extinct before being resurrected by Haridimos Hatzidakis and Paris Sigalas to critical acclaim.  The wine is aged for a minimum of 1 year in oak, usually French.  The flavor profile is reminiscent of Nebbiolo with red fruits, large notes of minerality and full, yet supple tannins.

The complex, indigenous varietals of this small, yet uniquely gifted island is leading the resurgence of Greek wine in the world.  Greece is leaving the tarnish of Retsina in the past and forging forward with its indigenous quality varietals and the island of Santorini leading the way.

Santorini Greek TavernOur guest author, James Barlow, CS, CWE, is a wine director of over 6,000 wines labels for a  store owned by Spec’s Fine Wines and Liquors in Houston, Texas.   He is also the  author of the widely recongized wine blog thewineepicure.com.  James is also a recent recipient of the CWE Certification (Congratulations, James!) and as such has taken on the duty of teaching the Certified Specialist of Wine course to fellow employees in hopes  of having the best educated staff in the state of Texas. Way to go, James!
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