Conference Preview: Mindset and the Millennial Learner

Today we have a SWE Conference preview about the “Mindset and the Millennial Learner” session to be held on Friday, August 12th. The presenters are Sarah Malik DWS, CWE, CSS; and Dr. Alistair Williams:


The Millennials–also known as Generation Y–are a new generation of student learners who are so different from previous generations that one has to understand how their minds truly work to allow effective instruction and learning.

This is the generation responsible for major shifts in the beer, wine and spirit industry that should affect the way many companies are approaching sales and marketing. Millennials are responsible for 42% of all wine consumption in the United States. In terms of both the beverage industry and beverage education, this is a generation that should not be taken for granted.

The teaching methods that work for millennial learners include flipped classrooms, social media, blogs, engaging visuals, and interactive learning. Now, we need to move to integrate these techniques into the world of wine, spirits, and beer education.

This session is going to emphasize the importance of millennials within the beverage industry as well as the unique characteristics they bring to the classroom. We intend to demonstrate how to facilitate learning in order to engage the interest of the millennial learner in order to make time in a classroom a more meaningful experience for everyone involved.

The conference session audience will take the role of the millennial and participate in a typical classroom environment with interactive instruction and assessment. It is your turn to be a millennial learner!

Alistair Williams, Ph.D–Alistair Williams holds a Doctorate in Hospitality Marketing from Leeds University and a master’s degree in the analysis of consumer decision process from the University of Huddersfield. Williams has worked in the hospitality sector internationally both in the industry and academia. He is currently a professor at Johnson and Wales University Charlotte where he teaches Marketing, Brewing Arts, and Spirits and Mixology.

Sarah Malik, CSS, CWE, DWS–Sarah Malik is an Associate Professor at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, NC. Her focus is wine education. She joined the faculty at Johnson & Wales University Providence in 1995, after completing a teacher job exchange. In 2003 she was honored as teacher of the year. Prior to that, she worked Bass Charrington Breweries in the UK before joining Hilton International and Queens Moat Houses as a Food and Beverage Manager. She eventually moved to Switzerland where she taught for five years in Hotel Consult, Le Bouveret and DCT in Lucerne, Switzerland. Sarah is also an International Bordeaux Wine Educator and has successfully completed the Napa Valley Wine Educators Academy. Ms. Malik’s education includes BTEC HND Hotel Management and Institutional Catering Manchester Metropolitan University and a UKMasters of Business Administration from Oxford Brookes University UK.

Mindset and the Millennial Learner will be presented on Friday, August 12th as part of SWE’s 40th Annual Conference in Washington, DC.

Conference Preview: Northern Reaches – A Time to Shine for Canadian Wine


Today we have a conference preview from Jordan Cowe, CWE. Jordan, a favorite presenter for SWE’s SWEbinars and conferences alike, tells us about his session titled Northern Reaches: A Time to Shine for Canadian Wine.

The sun is setting over the water and the temperature is dropping bringing a bit of relief to a 100°F day in the vineyard. Sitting here, surrounded by Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is hard to believe that we are in Canada. Where I am, at Canada’s southernmost point, I’m on the same latitude as friends out in northern California, and there region I am in charts heat units that compare to those of Napa Valley.

Canada might be associated with the frigidly-named icewine, and many Americans cross our border expecting snow and polar bears–but our growing regions aren’t nearly as cold as most people think they are!

Growing wine in Canada is complicated; every step of the process is at the will of Mother Nature and what she gives us. Year after year we learn more and more about how to handle nature’s surprises and to produce wines that are now rivaling the best from around the world. The summer of 2015 was unusually cool throughout Ontario, yet patience and knowledge allowed some growers to continue ripening all the way through November–this produced outstanding wines that may serve as a benchmark vintage for quality.


This success followed the winters of 2014 and 2015 where we saw the coldest temperatures in about 30 years. Such low temperatures (negative 30°) would spell disaster for most regions, and while we suffered losses, precise vineyard practices and modern technology have allowed many of our vines to survive and our vineyards to continue.

The wine regions that dot Canada from coast to coast have faced similar problems. Out in British Columbia on Canada’s west coast, the regions closer to the coast can suffer the effects of mild and rainy summers while on the other side of the province the Okanagan valley can be a hot, dry near-desert like growing environment. If you cross the country to the Atlantic Provinces you find relentlessly driven producers in Nova Scotia finding small pockets of land that are just right for grape growing and, against all odds, are producing absolutely outstanding sparkling wines and dry white wines.

For all the things that are said about Canadians, the one that is always forgotten is our resilience and determination in the face of winter.


As a nation, we are very well-known for our outstanding, centuries-old beer and whisky industries; so, in comparison, our wine industry is an infant. Gaining our first international awards and recognition in the early 1990s and only recently showing up on anyone’s radar, Canadian wines are still largely unknown. From Chardonnay and Riesling in the whites to Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and more in the reds, Canada is producing outstanding wines that next to nobody has tried.

Take the opportunity to join Jordan to taste and learn about some of the hidden gems produced in this only sometimes frozen corner of the world at this year’s SWE Conference. Jordan Cowe is a Certified Wine Educator from Canada’s Niagara Region. A lover of the unusual and misunderstood areas of the wine world he is right at home in with Canadian wines which continually give him an opportunity to break expectations and expose students and guests to something new. Jordan’s session will be held on Saturday, August 13th at 10:30 am.


Conference Preview: What is so Great about Oak?


Today we have a Conference Preview  about a session to be presented by Dr. Robert Sechrist. Robert’s session is titled “What is so Great about Oak”? Read on for some very interesting thoughts about oak–it is pretty impressive–and its impact on the flavor of wine and spirits.

I love oak.  It looks great whether it is furniture, paneling, ships, barrels or still in the tree.  I admire the lone oak standing tall amid a field for its symmetry, strength and perseverance.   I am not the only one. Ancient Celtic peoples of northern Europe were apparently the first to revere the oak for these same properties.

The Celts integrated the oak into their daily lives and their pantheon of gods.  Ancient Celts observed the oak’s massive growth and impressive expanse. They viewed oak as a cosmic storehouse of wisdom embodied within its towering strength.  To them the oak was to be honored for its endurance, and noble presence. Oak became broadly symbolic of the good side of human behavior.  The list of traits associated with oak is impressive: Life, Strength, Wisdom, Nobility, Family, Loyalty, Power, Longevity, Heritage, Honor, Humble beginnings, Patience, Faith, Endurance, and Hospitality.  Because of these traits, meetings between warring parties often took place in the shade of an oak tree.  These trees are commemorated.  In 1999, the Connecticut Charter Oak was pictured on the quarter. In 2004, Congress declared the Oak the national tree.


The traits attributed to oak are justified.  Oak is a keystone genus.  Wherever it grows it is the dominant species; depended on by numerous other plants, animals, and fungi for their lives.  Mistletoe grows parasitically on oak trees.  Can one imagine oak trees without squirrels?  Birds build nests in them and from their twigs.  Insects thrive amongst their branches.  Mosses and mushrooms often surround them.  The wild vines climb their branches.

The vine and the oak have much in common.  They are both prized by humans for their properties and practical uses.  Oak symbols are as common as vine and grape symbols in our society.  The vine is the symbolic plant of Mediterranean Europe and the oak the symbolic plant of Northern Europe.  Wine associated with Dionysus intoxicates drawing the god within.  Oak attracts lightening showing the power of the gods to rend and destroy the strongest living thing in the Celtic world.

Both oak and vine are native to the northern hemisphere in the 30 to 50 degrees of latitude band.  They are pollenated without the aid of insects.  The two genera are non-specialized and hybridize easily.  Where they grow, they are keystone species.  Tree and vine have experienced devastating invading insect infestations: Phylloxera attacking vines and the Gypsy Moth attacking oaks.  They both are sources of tannin.


We all know wine and spirits interact with oak to modify the flavors and aromas of the liquid. The modifications are difficult to pin down because each product employs just one of the oak options.  We are generally not privy to products from one vineyard, or batch, exposed to a variety of oak treatments.  In the upcoming presentation participants will taste corn whiskey made at the Disobedient Spirits Distillery in Homer City, Pennsylvania treated with two oak species (French & American) at three toasting levels (Medium, Medium+, and Heavy) each.  In addition, the same corn whiskey is treated with hickory, pecan, and mesquite woods to allow participants to experience the effects of non-oak woods.  There will, of course, be a white whiskey as a control.

Dr. Robert Sechrist, CSW earned his doctorate in Geography from Louisiana State University in 1986. That same year he joined the faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He was originally was hired to develop and implement Geographic Information System courses, and in 1999 created and started teaching a new course—GEOG261: the Geography of Wine. Since then, Dr. Sechrist has taught the course over forty times, while focusing his academic research on the statistical and geo-spatial analysis of wine databases. Robert is the current chair of the Association of American Geographer’s Wine, Beer, and Spirits specialty group, and in 2012, began a “second career” as a craft distiller with the formation of Disobedient Spirits LLC. His session, “What is so great about Oak”? will be held on Saturday,  August 13, 2016 at 3:00 pm, as part of SWE’s 40th Annual Conference.







Announcing Cava de Paraje Calificado!

Pedro Bonet at the announcement of the new category (Photo via

Pedro Bonet at the announcement of the new category (Photo via

On Monday, June 13th, the consejo regulador of the Cava DO held a press conference at a Barcelona landmark– el Palau de la Música Catalana (the Palace of Catalan Music)–to announce to the world their new category of Cava DO wines, Cava de Paraje Calificado (Qualified Single Estate Cava).

This new category of sparkling wines (within the existing Cava DO) is reserved for single-vineyard, estate-produced wines. The intention of the category is to bring prestige to meticulously produced Cava, crafted from grapes from a “smaller area approved especially as extraordinary and unique for its soil and climate conditions.”

Wines bearing the seal of Single Estate Cava will need to abide by all of the basic rules of the Cava DO in regards to grape varieties, production methods, sweetness levels and the like, and will have the following more specific qualifications as well:

  • Vines must be at least 10 years old
  • Grapes must come from a vineyard whose entire production is dedicated to Single Estate Cava
  • Grapes must be hand-harvested and must be transported to the winery intact
  • Maximum production of 8,000 kg per hectare (equivalent to 8.8 tons per hectare [as opposed to 12 tons per hectare for other categories of Cava])
  • Musts may not be chaptalized or acidified
  • Minimum acidity 5.5 grams per liter (per cuvée)
  • Minimum of 36 months of sur lie (in-bottle) aging
  • Brut-level sweetness or drier
  • Complete traceability from vine to shelf
Photo via

Photo via

According to Pedro Bonet, chairman of the Cava Regulatory Board, Single Estate Cava “has been created in order to place cavas at the top of the quality wines pyramid and to do justice to its quality of this sparkling wine.” It not yet clear when we may expect to see Cava de Paraje Calificado on the shelf, but when we do, it will certainly be a reason to celebrate. Salud!

References/For more information:

Post authored Jane Nickles, your blog administrator:


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

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



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.