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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Conference Preview: Thinking Like a Grapevine

Today we have a guest post from Jonah Beer, the Vice President of Winery Operations at Frog’s Leap. Jonah tells us about his “Thinking Like a Grapevine” session at SWE’s upcoming Annual Conference.

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Grapevines are living, sentient beings with their days and nights consumed by concern for vital life choices. Critical choices like: when to color and sweeten their fruit to attract birds in order to spread their seed, or when to break bud in the spring, or when to start storing energy for the next season. These are critical decisions a vine makes each and every day.

So how does a grapevine make these decisions? They do so by taking information from their environment. They measure the angle of the sun, the phase of the moon, the tug of the planets, the temperature and moisture content of the soil and the kind of chemical signals soil organisms are giving off. It knows when the birds visit, it’s on familiar terms with surrounding insects and their life stages, and it takes a cue from the acorns falling off the nearby oaks. In short, everything in its environment is a clue.

But what happens so often in most modern-day vineyards? The vines are lined up, their branches forced into restrictive trellising and their growing tips are cut off. They are exposed to toxic pesticides and fed strong, synthetic fertilizers. They are forced to drink water when they are not thirsty. Birds are discouraged, insects are killed, and the oak tree is cut down. So much of modern farming is dedicated to removing the very information that these plants need to succeed.

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How do we at Frog’s Leap seek to think like a grapevine, and support the natural cycle of the plant, instead of restricting it? Through thoughtful implementation of watchful practices that aim to complement what’s happening in nature. We know that healthy, vibrant, microbial-dense soil will better absorb the winter rains and provide for the nutritional and water needs of the plant all year long. We’ve learned that if we maintain biodiversity through cover crops and insectary borders that the vine will be able to communicate with other plants and bugs in a meaningful way. We see that when we tend our vineyards respectfully, humbly and with care that our vines are better able to use their canes and leaves to measure the angle of the sun, the length of the day and warmth of the evening air.

All of the data that is accentuated for the vine through our farming yields some very important differences and qualities in our vineyards and wines. Namely, we have longer lived vines with deeper roots, healthier wood and a transparent connection to place. Our wines develop rich flavor at lower alcohol, preserve their natural acid and showcase a delicate balance between fruit and earth characters. Through farming we’ve forged a real, meaningful and deep connection between biology and geology and our hands-off winemaking allows for the complete picture of terroir to shine through.

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With this backdrop, the seminar Thinking Like a Grapevine—given as part of SWE’s upcoming 40th Annual Conference—will explore the reasons that our farming choices are not radical concepts but rather the very basics of what can be done to reunite a vine with its environment. We’ll discuss research into the effects of irrigation on the grapevine’s ability to clearly and distinctly measure seasonal change and to make critical life choices. We’ll delve into the three major hormones that dictate bud-break, fruiting and ripening and the predominant environmental factors that influence them. We’ll seek to understand the evolutionary impetus of pyrazine, malic acid and veraison. We’ll examine the way all of these things can and should influence wine style, character and longevity. In short, we’ll spend an hour or so thinking like a grapevine.

Oh. And we’ll sample a vertical of Frog’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon spanning 25 years….

  • 1988 Frog’s Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1993 Frog’s Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1998 Frog’s Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2003 Frog’s Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2008 Frog’s Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2013 Frog’s Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Jonah Beer

Jonah Beer

About the author: In 1998, a fortunate tour and tasting at a Napa Valley winery– Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars – landed Jonah Beer his first opportunity in the wine industry: glass washer. He took the job and over the course of two and one-half years had worked his way through the company up to Director of Sales and Marketing. It was at this point that Jonah met John Williams, Owner and Winemaker at Frog’s Leap, while the two represented the Napa Valley as a part of a delegation traveling through Canada. The two kindred spirits hit it off right away and a friendship and business relationship was formed.

In 2003 Jonah made his way from the “other Leap” to formally join the Frog’s Leap team as General Manager. Jonah spent his first two years learning everything he could from Mr. Williams about the unique way Frog’s Leap grows its grapes and makes its wines, a learning process that continues today. From organics and dry-farming to running a profitable yet “green” business Jonah has become a devotee of the “Frog’s Leap way.” Today he is running the winery alongside John as Vice President of Winery Operations which offers him the opportunity to work in all aspects of the process: from vineyard to bottle and beyond.

Jonah’s session, “Thinking Like a Grapevine” will be held on Thursday, August 11, 2016 at 11:00 am as part of the 40th Annual Conference of the Society of Wine Educators.

SWE Conference Registration is Open!

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Wouldn’t it be great to be able to hear Bill Deutsch, founder of Deutsch Family Wine and Spirits, talk about his insights into the wine business? How would you like to spend a Thursday afternoon comparing and contrasting the wines of Napa Valley and Bordeaux along with Mary Gorman-McAdams, MW? How does a debate on minerality in wine – led by Master of Wine Roger Bohmrich sound? Would you like to sit in on a session on “Advanced Tasting Strategies” led by Tim Gaiser, MS?

If this sounds intriguing, you can experience all of this and more at SWE’s 40th Annual Conference, to be held August 11–13 in Washington DC. Click on this link for more information!

 

Welcome to the World, Lewis-Clark Valley AVA!

The Snake River in Idaho

The Snake River in Idaho

Welcome to the World, Lewis-Clark Valley AVA!

This week the TTB approved a new AVA—the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA. The new American Viticultural Area will become official on May 20, 2016.

The Lewis-Clark AVA surrounds the area where the Clearwater River runs into the Snake River—before the Snake River meets the Columbia on its way to the Pacific Ocean. The new AVA, which overlaps Idaho and Washington State, covers portions of Nez Perce, Lewis, Clearwater, and Latah Counties in northern Idaho and Asotin, Garfield, and Whitman Counties in southeastern Washington.  This is the third AVA for Idaho, and number 14 for Washington State.

The new AVA covers a total of 479 square miles (306,650 acres)—with about 72% located in Idaho and 28% in Washington State. At the present time, the area is home to three bonded wineries as well as 16 commercial vineyards with a total of 81 acres currently planted to vine, with 50 more acres planned in the next few years.

As part of the approval of this new AVA, the boundary of the 11,370,320-acre Columbia Valley AVA was amended and made smaller by approximately 57,020 acres. This move avoids any overlap of the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA with any other existing AVAs.

Clarkson, Washington (to the left) and Lewiston, Idaho (to the right)

Clarkson, Washington (to the left) and Lewiston, Idaho (to the right)

The name of the AVA is derived from Lewiston, Idaho, and Clarkston, Washington—two towns that face each other across the Snake River within the boundaries of the region. These towns were named in honor of the famous explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who traveled through this area in the early 1800s.

The topography of the new AVA consists mostly of canyon walls, low plateaus, and bench lands formed by the Snake and Clearwater Rivers. The boundaries of the AVA follow the 1,970 foot (600 meter) contour, with all of the area inside the AVA at an elevation of 1,970 feet or lower. The areas outside of the AVA are significantly cooler and include the Palouse High Prairie to the north, the heavily forested Bitterroot Mountains to the east, the Blue Mountains to the west, and the Craig Mountains (which include the protected area of the Hells Gate State Park) to the south.

There are over 80 different soil types in the area of the new AVA, however, the majority (over 95%) are Mollisols soils—defined as being comprised mainly of decomposed organic matter from the varieties of perennial grasses that grow along the banks of the rivers. The Mollisols soils are mixed with fine-grained, wind-blown particles known as loess soil. The area generally has a thin layer of topsoil due to year of river erosion; this thin layer of topsoil over the bedrock subsurface limits the possible depth of the vine’s roots, thus limiting fertility of the soil—which makes it ideal for wine grapes.

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For more information, see the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA docket on the TTB website.

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!

 

 

 

“A Glass of Grand Eminent, s’il vous plait”

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Last week the trade board of Burgundy growers and producers (Bourgogne Wine Board—BIVB) announced two new brands—Eminent and Grand Eminent—intended to further define and promote Crémant de Bourgogne.  Crémant de Bourgogne, produced under the standards of the Crémant de Bourgogne AOC, accounts for almost 10% of all the wine produced in Burgundy. In 2015, more than 17 million bottles of Crémant de Bourgogne were sold worldwide—with 32% exported.

The Crémant de Bourgogne AOC will not change, and the standards for this high-quality sparkling wine remain as follows:

  • Allowed grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Aligoté, Melon de Bourgogne, Sacy, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gamay
  • Requirements for assemblage: A minimum of 30% of the final blend must be made up of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir (combined); Gamay is limited to a maximum of 20%
  • The Traditional Method of sparkling wine production must be used (second fermentation in the bottle)
  • Minimum lees aging: 9 months
  • Total aging time before release: Minimum 12 months
  • Minimum 4 atms of pressure
  • Hand harvesting required

In addition to the standards of the AOC, the two new brands—Eminent and Grand Eminent—will have more stringent requirements, including the following:

image via www.bourgogne-wines.com

image via www.bourgogne-wines.com

Crémant de Bourgogne Eminent:

  • Minimum of 24 months aging on the lees

Crémant de Bourgogne Grand Eminent:

  • Only Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties are allowed, except for rosé versions which may include up to 20% Gamay
  • Minimum of 36 months aging on the lees
  • Brut level sweetness or drier

For more information, see the website of the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB)

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!

SWE’s Bourbon Mini-Conference Re-cap: Day Two!

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Day 2 of the Society of Wine Educators’ Bourbon Mini-Conference in Louisville, Kentucky was filled with another group of inspiring speakers, tours, and delicious food and cocktail pairings.  The seminars kicked off with Albert Schmid, CSS, CSW. Albert is Director of the Hotel Management and Hospitality departments at Sullivan University in Louisville.  Additionally, he’s written several books on the history of cocktails and other beverages as well as the much acclaimed “The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook,” a copy of which all attendees were able to take home compliments of SWE.

Albert woke us all up by explaining that we were being historically accurate by drinking cocktails in the morning—a line some of us might want to use in the future—as cocktails were originally enjoyed for their ability to “stimulate” the mind and body.  He then went on to focus on teaching classic cocktails by returning to one of the oldest definitions: a base, a modifying agent, a flavoring agent, and water (historically, ice was “too valuable” to be used in drinks).  We learned to analyze the “build” of a cocktail and how to judge the balance of the various components of a drink.

Eric Gregory of the KDA

Eric Gregory of the KDA

We topped off the seminars with an essential topic—the business of Bourbon.  Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillery Association (KDA), and Adam Johnson, Director of the Bourbon Trail, put the scope of the industry in perspective for us.  Eric laid out the complex layers of the taxing scheme, how the KDA has been fighting to keep the industry sustainable, and how they strive to attract and include small distillers in Kentucky.  Adam described the development of the tourism industry, which is of increasing importance in many segments of the adult beverage industry.

After a wonderful Southwestern lunch, we took off for two more distillery tours—Wild Turkey and Four Roses.  At Wild Turkey, Bubba guided us through all the facilities, entertained us with stories of the 101 White Label, and lead us to the tasting room where Jimmy Russell himself was signing bottles!  Jimmy, who as been making Bourbon for over 60 years, is the most tenured distiller in the world!  At Four Roses, we saw an operation on a smaller scale and how a distillery can make a wide variety of products using different mash bills.  Four Roses is also utilizing unique wooden fermentation tanks and some one-story rickhouses (while 7-9 stories is the norm).

Jimmy Russels signs his handiwork

Jimmy Russels signs his handiwork

The evening’s dinner was held at the Bristol Bar and Grill, where Master Sommelier and CWE Scott Harper led us through an incredibly innovative pairing dinner.  We checked off a handful of other Bourbons that we didn’t get to cover in the seminars or tours, Buffalo Trace and Willet to name a few.  Scott also talked about the terroir of the rickhouse and what it is like to maintain one of the top wine programs in Bourbon country.

Shields Hood, General Manager of SWE, delivered the thank you and farewell and alluded to next year’s Spirits Mini-Conference possibly taking place in Denver.  All attendees were eager to start planning for next year as well as the wine-focused Finger Lakes conference in Rochester, June 9th and 10th, and the SWE main conference in Washington DC, August 11th-13th.  We hope to see you at one of these upcoming events!

Click here to read the re-cap of Day 1 of SWE’s Bourbon Mini-Conference.

Bourbon Four Roses

SWE’s Bourbon Mini-Conference Recap—Day 1!

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Click here for a recap of SWE’s Bourbon Mini-Conference, Day 2

Last week, April 7th and 8th, the Society of Wine Educators hosted their first spirits-focused mini-conference in Louisville, KY with Bourbon as the centerpiece.  It was a full house at the Brown Hotel, and the Bourbon conversations started to buzz at the welcoming happy hour.  Attendees had traveled from all over the US as well as a few folks coming from Hong Kong and Shanghai to learn about America’s favorite spirit.  It might have been the location—after all, 95% of Bourbon is produced in Kentucky—and every speaker and tour guide boasted that there are more Bourbon barrels ageing in the state than residents.

We kicked off the seminars early in the morning with Chris Morris, master distiller from Woodford Reserve.  He gave us the foundation for the next couple days with an in-depth analysis of the distillation process and how Woodford Reserve does things slightly different.  Longer than usual fermentations (5 days as opposed to the normal 3 days), a developed “double barrel” program, sour and sweet mashes, and a particular attention to the “five sources of flavor” (fruit and floral, spice, grain, sweet aromatics, and wood) are some of the tools that Chris uses in crafting delicious Bourbons.

Chris Morris of Woodford Reserve

Chris Morris of Woodford Reserve

Beth Burrows, general manager at Down One Bourbon Bar, brought a different twist to the subject with her innovative variations of some classic cocktails.  The wine geek attendees were seduced by Beth’s use of Barolo Chinato and Cocchi di Torino to craft two variations on the Manhattan.  She used a jalapeño infused simple syrup and herbs to make one of the best Bombini cocktails I’ve ever had.  Then, the room was lit up (literally), when Beth demonstrated setting fire to some hay in order to smoke a glass in which to serve a cocktail. All this flare aside, the lesson was to match the base spirit to all the other flavors present in the drink.

Beth Burrows of the Down One Bourbon Bar

Beth Burrows of the Down One Bourbon Bar

After a lovely lunch at the hotel, we all boarded a pair of buses and took off for distillery tours at Jim Beam and Bulleit.  Beam makes 50% of all the Bourbon produced in KY, but the tour was incredibly personal and hands on.  The buses weaved through the myriad of rickhouses, where all the barrels are stored—four years for Beam White Label.  We were able to taste the fermenting mash, dip our fingers in the distillate right off the still, and smell the aged whiskeys are they headed to the bottling line.  Some attendees were able to take away a bottle with their fingerprint in the wax closure!

At the Jim Beam Distillery

At the Jim Beam Distillery

Next, the folks at Bulleit treated us to an entirely different experience. Bulleit is housed in the historic Stitzel-Weller Distillery. It is quite a bit different in that the base spirit is not distilled on site; however, they revealed plans to build a large new facility within a few years in order to consolidate operations.  Highlights of the tour included visiting the historic cooperage and hanging out for a short time in Tom Bulleit’s office.

At the Bulleit Campus

At the Bulleit Campus

The day was topped off with an incredible dinner with cocktail pairings at Proof Restaurant and Bar, located in Louisville’s 21C Museum Hotel.  The 21C is a modern art museum as well as a hotel, so we dined surrounded by art (and even hanging above us).  In between courses, Hoke Harden, CSE took us on a journey through the history of Bourbon, the various foundational families, and the events that led Bourbon to find a home in Kentucky.  Heading back to the Brown, everybody was in a state of bliss, with full bellies and inspired minds.

Bourbon Dinner at the 21C Museum and Hotel in Louisville

Bourbon Dinner at the 21C Museum and Hotel in Louisville

Guest Post: Wine Yields Knowledge (and Wonderful Things)

Our guest author - Darla Hoffmann, CSW

Our guest author – Darla Hoffmann, CSW

Today we have a guest post from Darla Hoffmann, CSW. Darla tells us about how wine has opened up the world to her in knowledge and experiences. I am sure we can all relate!
The only thing I don’t like about wine is the snobby stereotype that comes with it. The nose is far too significant in wine tasting to keep it in the air.   Yes, there are people who swagger around spewing out the names of obscure winemakers, but in my opinion there are very few experts.  I like to call myself a student because wine opens up a pathway to so many other exciting subjects.   When I read about wine, I find myself learning about art, history, food, geography, topography, and legends.  Wine has truly taken me on a journey of family and culture.

As one of the many culprits in the development of a wine’s style and character, let us sink into the soil.  Alluvial soils are materials that have been transported by river and deposited. Most alluvial soils contain silt, sand and gravel and are highly fertile.  Limestone chalk, a soft, cool, porous, brilliant white, sedimentary, alkaline rock encourages grapes with a relatively high acid level. It also allows the vine’s roots to penetrate and provides excellent drainage while at the same time retaining sufficient moisture for nourishment.  Volcanic soils are often very rich in nutrients and hold water well because of their volcanic ash content. These soils are called andisols, and they are often very young, and acidic depending on which type of volcano they come from.

The Laurence Dunham tasting room in Scottsdale

The Lawrence Dunham Winery tasting room in Scottsdale

I had the pleasure of doing a tasting at award winning Lawrence Dunham Winery in Arizona.  I learned that their vineyard sits upon land created via the volcanic explosion from the Turkey Creek Caldera over 16 million years ago.   One thousand times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, the Turkey Caldera eruption laid down two thousand feet of highly silicious ash and pumice. I find it fascinating that this calamity made it possible to grow some of the world’s most elegant grapes.  Take another sip and let’s mosey over to the baking section.

My guess is that an expert baker living at 5,000 feet must be a person who enjoys a good challenge.  The Lawrence Dunham Vineyard lies at these high elevations which is perfect for grape growing but not so much for rising dough. Apparently Peggy Fiandaca, owner of LDV, makes a mean chocolate chip cookie yet struggles to master the right time and temperature. Air pressure is lower up in the hills which requires longer baking time.  Legend has it this is the reason mountain dwellers make flat bread.  A little factoid I might have never stumbled upon if it weren’t for my love of the grape!

This love of the grape is even helping me get through this election season.  I know—never talk politics while drinking!  However, I have to imagine one of the most prestigious honors a winemaker can receive is to have their wine served at the White House.  Another local winemaker in Arizona, Sam Pillsbury of Pillsbury Wines, previous owner of Dos Cabezas Wineworks, had his wines poured twice at State Dinners.  That subject guided me through the halls of the White House, drink in hand.  Well, via the book “Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt” by Mark Will Weber.

The gardens at Monticello

The gardens at Monticello

There is actually a long history of wine drinking amongst our nation’s presidents.  George Washington, a lover of Maderia wine, made his own liquor and by 1799 his Whiskey distillery was the single most profitable part of the plantation at Mount Vernon.  Thomas Jefferson, probably the largest lover of wine amongst our leaders, spent half of his life trying to make wine without success at Monticello, his estate in Virginia.  A wine involved scandal took place during the James Monroe administration, when 1,200 bottles of Burgundy and Champagne were charged to an account earmarked for furniture.  I would love to know who kept a bottle!  Herbert Hoover had a large elaborate wine cellar, but rumor has it his wife gave it all away before the end of Hoover’s single term.  Ouch.  You may or may not be surprised to learn that Richard Nixon was known to drink the expensive stuff while serving the mediocre wines to his guests.  And, the man that gave our Grand Canyon its national monument status, Theodore Roosevelt, was a light drinker but preferred a Mint Julep or Martini.  Obama?  He likes beer.

I think it is fair to say that art and winemaking are interchangeable— a creation ending in a masterpiece.  Sprinkle a little history into the mix and you have an educational treat. Art history, my favorite elective in college, always seems to shows its face when I am reading about wine.  While devouring an article on climate change and English sparkling wine, I learned about a joint venture between French Champagne house Taittinger, and a UK distributor.  Due to global warming and similar climate they will be planting grapes in Kent by 2017.  What does this have to do with art history?  Well, this same article taught me about Marianne.  When a French Influence is mentioned in an article they always seem to give credit to their dignitaries.  Did you know, that starting in 1969, Brigitte Bardot, actress, singer, and fashion model became the official face of Marianne (who had previously been anonymous) to represent the liberty of France?  Marianne is a national symbol of the French Republic, an allegory of liberty and reason, and a portrayal of the Goddess of Liberty. Marianne is displayed in many places in France and holds a place of honor in town halls and law courts. She symbolizes the “Triumph of the Republic”, a bronze sculpture overlooking the Place de la Nation in Paris.  Dionysus would be proud!

Mount Aconcagua, Argentina

Mount Aconcagua, Argentina

Let’s fly south for a moment and talk about a place with the driest desert in the world and the highest peak in the Americas.  Chile anyone?   Wine takes me to Chile and Argentina quite often as they are up and coming regions where the wines are becoming quite notable.  The hot dry valley of Aconcaqua, one of Chile’s northern wine regions, produces impressive Cabernet Sauvignon that won’t break the bank.  Aconcagua, often referred to as the “Stone Sentinel,” is the highest peak in South America, the highest peak in the world outside of Asia, and one of the Seven Summits.  My love of the outdoors has this destination on my bucket list.  Can’t you just feel the sunshine?  Yes, I’m gone to South America in my mind.

Well, this is just a small tasting of knowledge. Wine can take you East, West, North and South from the highest of elevations to the valley floors of the world, all in one article.   I hope you learned something you didn’t already know.  If not, uncork a bottle and see where it leads you.

Our guest author, Darla S. Hoffmann, CSW is the Sole Proprietor of About Wine in Phoenix, AZ.  The focus of her business is wine education and marketing, i.e. tastings, classes and promotions. Darla is a Certified Specialist of Wine, Hospitality Beverage Specialist, and Professional Member of the Society of Wine Educators. She is a member of The Wine Century Club where membership requires having tasted 100 grapes. She is Basic Title 4 Certified under the Liquor Law Training of ABC.

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

The New CSS is Here! The New CSS is Here!

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The 2016 version of the CSS Study Guide has been received in the SWE home office and as of  April 11, 2016 is now being shipped! Any new purchase of the CSS Exam will be accompanied by the 2016 Study Guide, and candidates will receive an exam authorization code for the 2016 exam – which is now available at Pearson Vue testing centers.

A CSS Workbook to accompany the 2016 version of the CSS Study Guide is in the final phases of publication and should be available by June 1st.

If you have already purchased the CSS Exam and received the 2015 Study Guide, your authorization code is for the 2015 exam. In other words, when you purchase the exam, you receive an authorization code based on the version of the Study Guide you received. CSS exams based on the 2015 version of the Study Guide will be available at Pearson Vue Centers until June 1 of 2017.

Paper and Pencil (Scantron) versions of the CSS exam are offered in some cases for large groups, at the discretion of the SWE General Manager. From April 1 to August 1, 2016 paper-and-pencil CSS exams will be transitional, that is, based on material that is covered equally in both the 2015 and 2016 books – either version of the Study Guide may be used for preparation. After August 2, 2016, paper-and-pencil versions of the exam will be based on the 2016 book only.

CSS Exams: CSS Exams are available, by appointment, at Pearson Vue Testing Centers. For more information on scheduling and taking your exam at a Pearson Vue Center, please click here.

eBook:  The 2016 edition of the CSS Study Guide will be available soon – a release date is forthcoming. The 2015 version is now available as an ebook on Amazon.com, and iTunes – however, before you purchase the ebook, please make sure you intended to buy the 2015 version.

Online Prep Course: SWE now offers an online CSS Prep Course, led by our Director of Education. Our next CSS Prep Course will begin in July of 2016. This course will use the 2016 version of the CSS Study Guide as well as the 2016 CSS Workbook. This course aims to get attendees “as prepared as humanly possible” for a successful sitting of the CSS Exam. Online prep courses are available, free-of-charge, to Professional members of SWE who have a valid CSS Exam attendance credit. Click on the above link for start dates and further information.

Addendum: Click here for an Addendum for the 2016 CSS Study Guide. This document details the updates and differences between the 2015 and the 2016 CSS Study Guide.

For more information on the CSS, please contact Jane Nickles at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org .

 

Don Pedro Verdad on Authentic Sherry

Original cover of "A Book about Sherry" via Google Books

Original cover of “A Book about Sherry” via Google Books

We hear a lot about natural wine these days—just turn to the internet and you can easily find numerous discussions both pro and con the subject, as well as long lists of disgusting-sounding “approved wine additives” meant to turn the stomach and enrage the mind.

As for the “natural wine movement” – however satisfying it might be to claim generational credit for reviving the cry for traditionalism, apologists for all things natural are nothing new. As a matter of fact, one of the loudest cries for authentic, non-spoofulated wine was first heard in 1876, as written by the pen of a London-based wine merchant.

The merchant in question was writing under the name “Don Pedro Verdad.” Translated loosely to “Sir Peter Truth,” the nom de plume belonged to a London wine merchant named Sir William McGee. Beginning in 1876, McGee published four editions of a short (115-page) book entitled “From Vineyard to Decanter: A Book about Sherry with a Map of the Jerez District.” The book is dedicated to the President of the London Co-operative Wine Association

In his book, McGee starts by attacking the “crass ignorance” of British public by declaring that “the remarks one overhears show how little is known about Sherry.” He then goes on to blame the British wine merchants, stating that all that is known about Sherry is that which can be seen in England, and the merchants (and therefore, their customers) known nothing about how Sherry is produced in Spain—they are instead content to think of the wine as a “mysterious compound.”

McGee’s book then begins a surprisingly detailed discussion of the different styles of Sherry and their production methods—from the harvest to foot trodding to aging in soleras. McGee is obviously a big fan of authentic Spanish Sherry.

Frontispiece from "A Book about Sherry" via Google Books

Frontispiece from “A Book about Sherry” via Google Books

However, the truth—as in Verdad—is not far behind, and starting on page 50 the author describes how cheap, imposter wines can show up in England labeled as “Sherry” and—much to their discredit—the wine merchants get duped. In regards to outrageously inauthentic “Hamburgh Sherry” (which would make modern wine aficionados reel at the very mention) McGee uses some very colorful and memorable language to describe how at night “boats glide over the Rhine freighted with a soapy substance manufactured from potatoes, and called by its owners sugar.” This potato-based substance, it seems, was fermented and made into something deemed “Hamburgh Sherry.”

After this stomach-turning discussion of inauthentic wine, McGee goes on to discuss—in rather technical terms—how wine can be analyzed for authenticity. At the beginning of the section he pointedly asks, “What guarantee is given to the public that the wine consequently sold is similar to the sample analyzed?”

It seems that at the time, much of what was being sold as “Sherry” was actually a (hopefully) wine-based concoction blended in the merchant’s office—in London. It could quite possibly have contained small amounts of actual wine, large amounts of sugar, large amounts of Aguardiente and, at least according to the book, a long list of other additives—some which might have been fermented or distilled from German potatoes.

Near the end of his book, after quite a bit of ranting about the shenanigans of certain British wine merchants and naming quite a few names, McGee states that wrote the book solely because, in his words, “I love truth and for her own sake I will fight for her.” If you’d like to read the book yourself—which I indeed recommend—it may be found in the public domain on Google Books.

I for one, wish that William McGee had still been alive in 1933 to witness the declaration of the official DO for Jerez-Xérès-Sherry. However, I am sure that in the hearts of many, Don Pedro Verdad lives on.

post authored by Jane A. Nickles…your blog administrator

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