Conference Preview: Let’s Talk Turkey: Discovering the Charms of Turkish Wine

Today we have a guest post from Annie Edgerton, CSW. Annie tells us about her recent trip to Turkey, and gives us a preview of her 2015 SWE Conference session on Turkish Wine! 

Photo via

Photo via

Recently I (somewhat randomly) chose the beautiful country of Turkey as a vacation destination. Normally when making international travel plans, I would opt for places with historically significant wine regions, but the travel package to Turkey was too great to pass up—so I said, “Well, they probably make at least some wine in Turkey, right?”

How was I to know… they make some truly amazing wine in Turkey!

Sure, the grapes are unfamiliar: Narince, Öküzgözü, Kalecik Karası, Boğazkere, Syrah… oh wait – that one you know. Yes, international grapes like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc—even Sangiovese and Tempranillo—grow well in Turkey, but it’s the quirky native grapes that shine and are completely deserving of awareness around the rest of the world.

So, why haven’t we all gone nuts over Turkish wine like we have over Greek wine (with its similarly hard-to-pronounce local grapes) or for wine from other niche countries like Lebanon and Bulgaria? Two reasons: Identity and Awareness.

In terms of identity, Turkey is a primarily Muslim country, albeit a relatively liberal one. So many outsiders just assume no one will drink wine, let alone make wine there. NOT TRUE! But most Turks opt for beer, or the local anise-flavored spirit rakı, so it’s even hard to get locals excited about their country’s wine. For awareness’ sake, exports to the US are low, and our market is already flooded with outside-of-the-norm bottlings with powerful champions.

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Photo via

While in Turkey, I was able to arrange a visit to Kavaklidere, the country’s largest winery—large in volume and production. It is the only Turkish winery with three centers for grape processing, which reduces the time picked grapes spend in transport from far reaches of the country. (Most Turkish wine regions are in the western half of the country, although there are a few notable areas in the conflict-ravaged east.) Their portfolio consists of forty-nine different wines (yes, that’s a lot!) ranging from basic entry-level wines up to multiple award-winning prestige offerings, and including semi-sweet, sparkling, and even fortified selections.

I won’t bore you with details about the little old ladies who come in to destem the grapes by hand, or the length of maceration time for each grape, or the storage capacity of their tanks… but I will say that the effort and desire to run a modern facility that produces wine which could be competitive in an international market is quite strong. My contact Mr. Önur Özgül said with almost a fervor, “This is where wine came from in the beginning. Wine is a culture in Turkey; we need to develop this culture.”

Kavaklidere does export twenty percent of their production, mostly to Turkish restaurants in other countries. They would certainly like to raise brand awareness at home, but Mr. Özgül said their “goal is to present our wines in international markets, not only in Turkey.” And recently, their efforts have intensified and paid off—over the past six or seven years, they’ve attended more and more international wine competitions, and the medals have started to pile up.

In addition, Kavaklidere is proud that in a historically male-dominated society, both their prior and current winemakers are women, and also that their company’s team is mostly young with many women members. It is a vibrant, modern group, passionate and ready to bring Turkish wine to the world.

In my seminar, “Let’s Talk Turkey,” we will taste through an array of fascinating indigenous grapes (and some international ones,) giving a first-hand look at the unique terroir and bounty of this storied land.

So many Wineaux have gone gaga over Turkish wines once we’ve had the privilege of tasting them, and are doing what we can to encourage awareness, importing, and distribution. It may seem like a bit of an uphill battle, but once I had the idea to share Turkish wines with my fellow SWE members, I honestly couldn’t wait. I hope to see you all at the seminar, and I look forward to acquainting you with the delectable wines from Turkey.

AnnieAnnie Edgerton, CSW, has been working in the world of wine for over 20 years. She is a wine appraiser and consultant, and a wine educator and writer. You can read her musings on her blog:, find more information at, like her on facebook at “Wine Minx” and follow the tweeting @WineMinxAnnie. Annie’s session, “Let’s Talk Turkey – Discovering the Charms of Turkish Wine” will be presented on Wednesday, August 12th at 1:15 pm during SWE’s New Orleans Conference. Cheers, Wineaux!


Guest Post: A Trip to Mendoza

Photo credit: Justin Gilman

Photo credit: Justin Gilman

Today we have a guest post from Justin Gilman, CSW who went on the wine-travel “bucket list” trip of a lifetime to Mendoza, Argentina. Read on to hear about this high-altitude wine region, from the ground up!

I traveled to Mendoza on April 13th as a guest of the “Familia Zuccardi” family winery.  I had been introduced to this family winery years ago, carried numerous labels and all along the way, discovered more about their quality wines.  I’ve attended the “Mendoza Masters” seminars in Denver led by winemaker Sebastain Zuccardi and importer Winesellers LTD.  I was excited and anxious to meet the family, become familiar with Mendoza, and experience these great wines at the source.

The trip began in Denver, and onto Miami.  An 8-hour long flight down to Santiago, Chile was the grunt of the trip.  All along I had anticipated the notable flight over the Andes Mountains.  Anyone who has made wine their carrier knows about the Andes and the important role they play to Argentina wine.  As simple as it sounds, you don’t realize just how real the mountains are until you experience it for yourself.

Our plane landed in Santiago around 7am.  The sun wasn’t up yet, and it was pitch black outside the window.  The pilot announced he would land with autopilot because of the dense fog prohibiting any sort of vision to the runway.  Shortly after we landed, standing at the gate, the sun came out and exposed a marine layer of which we couldn’t see 50 feet outside the airport window.  This had caused our connecting flight to be slightly delayed to Mendoza.

The flight over the Andes brought a new perspective on time and distance.  Literally climbing, then diving down over the mountains on a 45 min flight.  The Andes below were vast.  Mountain tops sharp and jagged at the highest points.  Winds blow the peaks clean and the wind chill easily froze any existing moisture the weather provided. You can easily see where glaciers melt and the runoff slowly descends down the mountain.  Small lakes form in craters and some parts of the mountain looked smooth from the distance – most likely shaped by extreme winds over time.

Photo credit: Justin Gilman

Photo credit: Justin Gilman

On the Eastern side of the mountains descending, we didn’t see ocean fog, but cumulous nimbus clouds contoured into every nook of the mountain.  This was a picturesque definition of “Rain Shadow”.  The Andes are measured at 310 miles wide at its farthest points and 4,300 miles long. The average height is 4,000 feet.  This mountain range is longer than the U.S. is wide (excluding Hawaii and Alaska).  Cumulus clouds max out at around 3,300 feet.  These clouds never cross over these massive peaks.  This experience has allowed me to completely understand the effect of the Cascade Mountains in Washington and the role they play to that wine region as well.  Living in Denver, I’m used to flying over the Rockies going to and from the West Coast.  Somehow, the jagged peaks of the Andes seemed much more dominant.

The “Santa Julia Winery” in Maipu was our first stop.  This is the family’s large production facility that has sustainable and organically farmed grapes.  The Zuccardi family is one of the largest producers in Argentina, meanwhile keeping a humble, small family mentality.  They are 2nd in sparkling wine production, making both charmat and traditional method styles.  The honesty and transparency to their wines, along with commitment to sustainability and organics were quickly displayed.  Producing entry-level wines with native yeasts and labeling wines honorably with their family name was refreshing.  The location has two “farm to table” restaurants on site, “Casa Visatante” and “Pan & Oliva”, both catering different styles of culinary genius.  They produce olive oil and have a spirit still for brandy. They are well under way with Solera aging for their Port style wines.

The Santa Rosa Vineyard is among the family’s largest acreage.  It has been in the family and helped the Zuccardi’s learn and become who they are today.  The family knows where they’ve been, where they are, and clearly has a vision for the future.  The Santa Rosa Vineyard dedicates 1 hectare to numerous plantings of experimental or as they say “Innovacion” grapes.  Nero D’Avola, Albarino and even Mersalan (a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon/Grenache) are planted, along with many more.  Each year, the two best are bottled and sold in the tasting room.  These grapes are monitored and progress is considered for the Valle de Uco vineyards.

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Photo via

The Maipu winery has clearly been the anchor for the family since the 1960’s with each new generation benefiting from the last.  It’s reaching production capacity and the family is aligning its future behind the addition of the new Valle de Uco winery set for completion in September 2015.

The week progressed like the perfect storyline.  Starting with family history and their bulk facility on the first day, then escalated to the new winery and top tiers over night.  I had seen, tasted and carried these quality wines, but visiting the new winery on this day was mind blowing.  In my 15 years in the industry, I’ve never witnessed such attention to detail and commitment to terroir on such a large scale.

The next day we drove almost an hour to the “Altamira Vineyard” site.  The elevation for this vineyard area is 3,412-3,772 feet. Uco Valley is one of the world’s highest wine growing regions, with over 80,000 hectares planted between 3,000-3,900 feet and plenty of sunlight.

We started the day with the winery geologist “Martin”, and it was clear that his mission first and foremost was to explain in detail, the terroir of the Uco Valley, as well as introducing us to the philosophy going forward.  Martin had aerial terrain maps and technology graphs to explain why the vineyard was planted the way it was.  Blocks and rows were planted after using electric mapping in the soil to determine soil density, help determine erosion and gather more info as to which varietals were best suited on particular blocks.  Blue colors were less dense with red being extremely dense.

The highlight of this visit was his explanation of alluvial rocks scattered throughout the vineyard.  Glaciers melt atop of the Andes and the runoff carries down the soil and nutrients to the valley floor.  The point at the base of the mountain, in which the soil spreads out is known as an “alluvial fan” or “alluvial zone”.  Topographical maps clearly show green, thriving soil and moisture at the end of these zones and much less moisture at the beginning of these patterns.

Photo via:

Photo via:

Martin took us into the vineyard and removed alluvial rocks from holes dug within 50yds of one another.  He mentioned roughly 400 holes had been dug over a few years’ time to completely understand what was taking place along the surface of the vineyard block.  Explaining that there was a film of calcium deposit on the rocks, he rubbed his palm on a medium size rock and clearly the white coating from the rock transferred to his palm, leaving a bare spot on the rock.  He then asked for participants to do the same and lick our palms.  We did.  The taste was clearly salty.  He had explained to us earlier that this was a reaction to elements in the soil and limestone coating the rock.  Calcium deposits in water drift to the bottom of the ocean through pressure.  Over time, the layers of deposits consolidate and create a hard mass.  He explained that the fossilized rocks in his office were proof that rocks traveling down from the top of the Andes to the valley floor were evidence that the top of the Andes Mountains were once underwater.  These are the things you hear, but of course have a stronger realization when you’re there looking at fossils.

After the vineyard tour we were lead to the new winery building.  It has been in use for two years, though still under construction.  In fact its first harvest began without the roof on the building.  The new winery is made from the same rocks scraped from under the foundation.  Binding clay and sediment soils from the nearby Rio Negro River used with alluvial rocks to make the walls of the building.  No two walls are the same.  It was explained that from a distance, the profile of the winery roof blends into the Andes Mountain behind it and that the path from the front door will mimic the “alluvial fan” of the mountain base.  It will not be landscaped, but left to develop with the terroir.  Weeds, erosion, grass and flowers will occur naturally.

We ventured into this amazing structure.  Plans were discussed for an open kitchen with a concrete oven, and a huge 6ft rock they discovered while digging into the plans for a 10,000-bottle wine cellar would remain in place.  Concrete eggs a long time ago were decided to be the fermenters of choice.  More stable fermentation temps and the fact that stainless steel fermenters discharge a slight electric current influencing the wine just were two reasons behind the change.  State of the art made with what nature has given, we were all astounded.

Photo via:

Photo via:

We tasted four different samples of 2014 Malbecs.  Samples were chosen to display extreme differences in terroir.  From soft and grapey in clay soil, to minerally/chalky in alluvial rock.  The Altamira showing a slight ‘forest floor’ and moist dirt on the nose and in the glass, similar to Oregon Pinot Noir, but with Malbec.  One of the samples came from the “Gualtallary Vineyard”.  Very much a point of focus in the future, this region seems to be up and coming and on their radar.  Located Southwest of Tupungato, Gualtallary is even higher elevation of 3,937-4,921 feet and different soil compositions of course, meaning extreme “terroir-ists” can remain excited about possibilities for time to come.   We sampled both 2014 and 2015 wines displaying these extreme differences in terroir.

Sebastian and his family are passionate about terroir, and determined enough to break the mold stylistically of what we see every day with Malbec, Torrontés and Cabernet Sauvignon coming from Argentina.  The mass exodus of Malbec over the years to America seems to have thinned out quality and damaged Argentina’s reputation in some circumstances.  This trip was truly insightful and has given me an extreme appreciation of terroir and diversity of varietals grown in Argentina, not to mention seeing the potential first hand.  The family has tremendous integrity and dedication to organic practice.  I look forward to returning to the new winery after its completion and possibly visiting other wineries both big and small, to help further my knowledge of this region that is much, much more than just Malbec.

Justin Gilman, CSW is the Store Manager/Buyer for Jordan Wine & Spirits, a leading retailer in Parker, Colorado, located in Denver’s South Metro area.  With over 15 years in alcohol beverage retail, in the major markets of Orange Co., and Los Angeles California, he now resides in Denver Colorado, where his skill set as an operator and buyer are utilized for both retail and as a consultant in the industry.

For more information on the Familia Zuccardi and their wines, visit their website here.



A Lime Thunderstorm – #SauvBlanc Day

“It’s like standing naked in a lime thunderstorm.”

38044013_lThat’s the way I described New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – one of my favorite styles of wine – for a long time. The phrase relates a myriad of sensations. First of all – the thrill of being naked outside (just admit it). Second, the crackle of lightning – makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, makes your entire body stand and deliver, and leaves a slight mineral scent in the air. The cold rain lashing your flesh – the whole point of being naked in this scenario is to feel the cold rain on your belly. Finally, the limes – exploding like flavor bombs on impact.

I’ve used that line for decades and it still rings true. However, the wine industry in New Zealand has matured a bit since the mid-1980s “Sauvignon Blanc shot heard ‘round the world,” when Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc was first introduced and immediately set the standard for a “new style” of Sauvignon Blanc. While I still encounter –and love – the “lime thunderstorm” style of NZ SB, nowadays you may also encounter a creamy wine with the influence of malo-lactic fermentation, a white Bordeaux-style blend, an oaked version, a wine with lees aging, or a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc as well.

Sauvignon Blanc has actually been planted in New Zealand since 1973, and was beginning to be produced at commercially-relevant levels by 1979. Sauvignon Blanc is grown in all of New Zealand’s viticultural regions, and accounts for the following super-statistics:

  • 67% of NZ Vineyard Plantings (by hectare)
  • 72% of NZ Wine Production
  • 86% of NZ Wine Exports

New Zealand SB grapes

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s reputation as a tongue curler is well-documented – and much beloved.  This is not a wine for the wine newbie, the wine wimp, or the vinous faint of heart.

Even the New Zealand Winegrower’s Association admits it, and uses the following terms to describe their SB:

  • Pungently aromatic
  • Explosive flavors
  • Bell pepper and gooseberry
  • Passion fruit, tropical fruit
  • Fresh cut grass, tomato stalk, grapefruit, and lime…

By the way, one of the lovely things about standing naked outside in a lime thunderstorm is the way that the lively (to say the least) acidity of NZ SB pairs with food. Tastes and flavors in “trendy” cuisine seem to grow bolder and bolder every year, and I’ve 29900002_xlencountered some extremely acidic ceviches, salads, sauces, and marinades for seafood and other proteins. Acidic foods such as these can overwhelm many wines, but the zing of NZ SB holds its own and may even taste better (to some palates) when paired with crisply acidic food – the more snap, crackle, and pop the better.

For my #SauvBlanc Day, I’ll be indulging in a lovely Russian Jack Sauvignon Blanc (from Martinborough) – paired with some tangerine-paprika marinated tilapia served on a bed of lemon-asparagus risotto. What are your plans?

Post authored by Jane A. Nickles – SWE’s Director of Education and Certification –

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Guest Post: Are the Wine Gods Mad at Burgundy – Or What?

Wine Gods 1Today we have a guest blog post from Wine Educator Don Kinnan, CSS, CWE – who asks an excellent question: Are the wine gods mad at Burgundy, or what?

Four vintages in succession of meager volumes and circumstances which would challenge the intestinal fortitude of even the most courageous among Burgundy vignerons.  That is what we have seen.

Let’s take it year by year.  Leading up to 2010, a killing freeze occurred on the evening of December 21, 2009, inflicting severe damage to the vines.  This, together with a cold, wet flowering period resulted in a very small crop.  The end result was, in vintage 2010, an average of 25% fewer grapes than normal.   But, at least, the quality was excellent.  (Parker Vintage Rating 93-96 Pts)

Vintage 2011  –  The Wine Spectator characterized 2011’s growing season as “chaotic”.  “Summer occurred in April and May, the year challenged growers with heat, drought, rain, and vine maladies.  It ended with an early and quick harvest.”  After sorting, yields for most were down 20-30% from the norm.  (Parker Vintage Rating 90-91 Pts)

Vintage 2012  –  According to the Wine Spectator, “everything that could go wrong, went wrong, with the exception of rot.  The quantity was reduced by 30% in the Cote de Nuits to 50% in the Cote de Beaune.  The silver lining was that, after the losses due to frost, poor flowering, mildew, and removal of sunburned berries, the grapes left on the vines ripened nicely.  (Parker Vintage Rating 91-93 Pts)

Wine Gods 2Vintage 2013  –  The Wine Spectator reported low yields due to a wet spring,  poor flowering , severe hail in the Cote de Beaune, and fungal diseases in August.  At harvest time, for many, it became a race between ripeness and rot.  After sorting the grapes, the result was a very low volume harvest.  Allen Meadows, the Burghound, says most good wines are “plump, forward, with exotic aromas, round flavors and soft acidities that provide early accessibilities”.  (Vintage not yet rated by Parker)

Some recent data from the BIVB shows the impact of 4 years of reduced production volume on  market supply.  Exports in 2014 were down 12.8% by volume from 2013.  Prior to harvest in 2014, winery stocks had reached their lowest levels in 20 years.

What does this all mean to those of us who like to drink Burgundy wines?  Strong demand and short supply translates into higher prices.  But there may be some relief in sight.

Vintage 2014 produced reasonable volumes and excellent quality, “the best since 2009” said one grower.  Jasper Morris MW and noted author is quoted as saying “with regard to the 2014 vintage, we are talking quality and enough of it to stabilize the market and take pressure off pricing.”

—maybe the wine gods have eased their wrath.

Don KinnanDonald P. Kinnan, CSS, CWE has been in the fine wine trade for over 30 years. In 1985, after a successful military career, he joined Kobrand Corporation as a sales manager and, in 1992 was promoted to Director of Education. As such he was responsible for Kobrand’s wine and spirits education programs nationwide for over 20 years.  Don is a long-time member of the  the Society of Wine Educators and former member of the Society’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

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The Georgia of Wine and Walnuts

Traditional carved wooden balconies in the Old Town of Tbilisi, Georgia

Traditional carved wooden balconies in the Old Town of Tbilisi, Georgia

Today we have a guest post from renowned Wine and Spirits Educator Harriet Lembeck. Read on to hear about Harriet’s recent wine trip to the Republic of Georgia! 

If you really care about wine, you should think seriously about making the journey to the country of Georgia. You will experience true hospitality, tradition, wine-making, and still be close enough to the Black Sea’s famed resorts when you are ready to relax. And if you like to ski, there are the slopes of the Caucasus Mountains right there as well.

FYI, I have just returned from a visit, and saw no sign of any of the unrest that’s been in the news lately. There is instead a sense of calm and welcoming.

To the Georgians, a guest is a gift from God. And the best way to greet a guest is to serve one’s own wine, made from one’s own grapes. No patch of land goes vacant, and grapes grow on what elsewhere might be a lawn. Further, every home winemaker has a still, and he will also pour you his clear pomace brandy, or Chacha.

If you go to a Georgian banquet, dishes will be continually placed on the table, and nothing will be cleared until the end — in case the guest might want a little more of anything! Walnuts are the preferred stuffing for confections, fruits, vegetables and even boned fish. Meals are leavened with toasts. The toastmaster shows gratitude for the Creator, for food, for friendships, for all the women, for beauty, for love, for people who have passed away, and for the children looking to the future.



Historical Significance

Georgia is referred to as the “Cradle of Wine,” as wine has been made there continuously for the last 8,000 years (The Georgians say “8,000 Vintages”). There was very early winemaking in Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Crimea, Armenia and Moldava, but all evidence points to at least 6,000 BCE, if not before, for the first propagation of wine grapes — in Georgia — in the Fertile Crescent.

Records show 525 grape varieties, including clones, of which 440 are still in use. Do not despair — even if you go there and taste a lot of wines, you are not likely to come across more than twenty, if that many. The white Rkatsiteli and the red Saperavi are the most prevalent, but you may see some international varieties as well.

Historically, this tradition was interrupted for about seventy years, when Russia took over between 1921 and 1991. The Russians knew that banning the production of wine was hopeless in Georgia. “Georgia is synonymous with wine,” it is said. But with wine permitted, the Russians were more interested in high volume than in quality, and after three generations, much of the fine wine tradition was lost. Many of today’s winemakers are now working to restore it.

The city center of Tbilisi

The city center of Tbilisi

There are 10 main wine regions in Georgia, which contain 18 smaller Protected Denominations of Origin (PDOs). The majority of wineries and growers are in the Kakheti Valley, very close to Tbilisi. Going from east to west, you will pass through Imereti and other central and western wine regions. Summers are hot, but spring or fall are perfect times to visit.

Your first stop should be Tbilisi, and once there, you should go to the Vino Underground Wine Bar, which has the largest selection of organic and/or “bio” Georgian wines. Also go to the Azarpesha Wine Restaurant, named for a long-handled drinking bowl, for a traditional meal. You may meet partner and ex-pat American John Wurdeman in either place. He is an articulate moving force in reclaiming Georgian traditions in wine, food, polyphonic music and dance, and is also the founder of Pheasant’s Tears Winery. 

All About Qvervis

Wine has been traditionally fermented and aged in qvevris (kvevris), or large clay pots that are bur ied in the earth. They are shaped something like Roman amphorae, but the amphorae re- main above ground. When people buy older houses, it is not unusual to lift up the floor- boards and find buried qvevris below. Many winemakers are using qvevris now, though some do use stainless steel or oak barrels, and some use both. To learn about qvevris, you should not miss a visit to Twins Old Cellar in Napareuli Village in the Telavi district. I dubbed it “Qvevri School.” The twin brothers have set up an oversized qvevri display to honor their parents.

Previously, the Soviets had taken over their winery, and their father died in prison. The property was eventually returned.  They have made an outdoor room-sized qvevri, reached by a ladder. Once inside, you feel as if you are standing in an enormous qvevri. The clay walls are marked showing levels of internal activity as a wine ages and solids reach the

Georgian Qvervi - Photo by By Levan Totosashvili, via Wikimedia Commons

Georgian Qvervi – Photo by By Levan Totosashvili, via Wikimedia Commons

bottom of this curve-sided vessel. The twins have 107 qvevris in use, restoring a tradition that was almost lost. [Note: Besides creating a wine museum, they also have a dozen guest rooms, should you decide to visit and stay over.] With renewed interest in ovoid, clay fermenters, some qvevris are being produced in the United States. A Texan, Billy Ray Mangham of Sleeping Dog Pottery and his team, have a “Qvevri Project.” Andrew Beckham, a potter and winemaker in Oregon has his own “Amphorae Project.” Also, a potter on the outskirts of Austria is now making qvevris. Further, there is increased experimentation with ‘the concrete egg’ – concrete egg-shaped tanks made in Burgundy. The Emiliana Vineyards, from Chile, has made a very big investment in them for their winery in Casablanca.

Among other sites, concrete eggs are used in the Glenora Winery, the first Farm Winery in the Finger Lakes, NY. In 2013, UNESCO recognized qvevris and qvevri-winemaking, and placed them on the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” Qvevris last for a very long time. They are not discarded when they are no longer useful, but are respectfully leaned against garden walls.

Inspired to visit? Click here to download some  Tips for a Successful Wine Trip to the Republic of Georgia from Harriet Lembeck

HarrietHARRIET LEMBECK, CWE, CSS, is a prominent wine and spirits educator. She is president of the renowned Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years. She may be contacted at

This article was originally published in the article was originally published in
Beverage Dynamics Magazine – reprinted with permission!

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Flash Détente: Making Red Wine Redder

Brenda flash 2Today we have a guest post from Brenda Audino, CWE. Brenda tells us about her brush with Flash Détente – very interesting!

I recently tasted a modest (read inexpensive) wine that had a bright purple hue and Jolly Rancher fruit aromas.  I enquired whether the wine had undergone Carbonic Maceration as it seemed to fit that profile.  It was explained to me that although the results are similar, this particular wine was produced using Flash Détente technology.  Being ever curious, I wondered what is Flash Détente; when, why and how is it used in the wine production.

To explain Flash Détente, we need to understand that one of the principal goals in producing red wine is the extraction of color and flavor from the skins.  This extraction is usually achieved by a combination of maceration and fermentation. Here is a review of three popular means for extraction including the new (to me) Flash Détente.

Classic maceration is achieved at low temperatures of 24-32°C (75-90°F) requiring extended contact between the juice and grape skins.  The fermentation process, while producing alcohol, also extracts the polyphenols from the skins.  One of the byproducts of fermentation is the release of CO2 which raises the skins to the surface forming a floating cap.  This floating cap is subject to acetic bacteria as well as other contaminates and, if left exposed to the air, can turn the entire batch into vinegar.  A floating cap also does nothing to extract further color and flavors into the juice.  It is therefore necessary to mix the skins back into the juice by one of many processes (punch down, pump over, rack and return, etc.)

Thermo-vinification uses heat to extract color and flavors from the skins.  The crushed grapes are heated to 60-75°C (140-167°F) for 20 to 30 minutes.  The must is then cooled down to fermentation temperature.  This process gives intensely colored must because the heat weakens the cell walls of the grape skins enabling the anthocyanins to be easily extracted.  This process can result in the wine having a rather “cooked” flavor.

Brenda flash 1While I was researching these technologies, I recalled a previous visit to Château de Beaucastel where I learned that make their iconic wine using a modified process of Thermo-vinification.  At Château de Beaucastel, the grapes are de-stemmed and the uncrushed grapes are passed rapidly through a heat exchanger at 90°C (194°F) which only heats the surface of the grapes, not the juice.  The heat is sufficient to weaken the cell wall of the grape skins enabling for easier extraction of anthocyanins, since the juice is kept cool the wine is less likely to have any cooked flavors due to this modified process.

Flash Détente is essentially an evolution of the traditional thermo-vinification method.  The process involves a combination of heating the grapes to about 82°C (180°F) and then sending them into a huge vacuum chamber where they are cooled.  During this cooling process the cells of the grape skins burst from the inside making a distinct popping noise.   Similar to traditional thermo-vinification, this process enables better extraction of anthocyanins and flavor compounds.

The Flash Détente process creates a steam that is diverted to a condenser.  This steam is loaded with aromatic compounds including pyrazines (vegetal, green pepper and asparagus).  Because vapor is removed, the sugar level increases in the remaining must.  The winemaker can choose to work with the higher sugar levels or dilute back down by adding water.  Most winemakers discard the condensation or “Flash Water” as the aromatics are usually highly disagreeable.   The winemaker now has multiple choices.  The flashed grapes can be pressed and fermented similar to white wine, the must can be fermented with the skins in the more traditional red wine production manner, or the flashed grapes can be added to non-flashed must that underwent classic maceration and then co-fermented.

Flash technology differs from traditional thermo-vinification because the traditional method does not involve a vacuum and there is no flash water waste produced.  Winemakers who are familiar with both methods have noted that the tannin extraction with thermo-vinification is less than Flash Détente.  Winemakers also note that Flash technology is better for removing pyrazine aromas.

Brenda flash 3In Europe during the early years of flash technology, it was mainly used for lower quality grapes or difficult vintages that had problems needing fixed.  Now the use of this technology is expanding its application to all quality levels of the wine industry.

According to Linda Bisson, a professor of viticulture and enology at UC Davis and one of the researchers working on the project, enologists are looking at what characteristics are lost or retained per grape variety.  They are also looking at the character and structure of tannins in flashed wines.  Bisson states that turning flashed grapes into a standalone wine is possible, but most winemakers see it as a tool for creating blends.  “It’s something on your spice rack to blend back in.”

The use of Flash Détente can be surmised as “It’s an addition to traditional winemaking, not a replacement.”

What are your thoughts on technology in the wine industry?  Does technology improve the wine or make it more homogenous?  

Photos and post by Brenda Audino, CWE. After a long career as a wine buyer with win Liquors in Austin, Texas, Brenda has recently moved to Napa, California (lucky!) where she runs the Spirited Grape wine consultancy business. Brenda is a long-time member of SWE and has attended many conferences – be sure to say “hi” at this year’s conference in NOLA!

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

The Port Wine Treaty of 1703

PortoThe Methuen Treaty – soon to be known as the Port Wine Treaty – between England and Portugal, signed in 1703, was a military and commercial agreement that arose from the goings-on of the War of Spanish Succession.

The treaty was named in honor of its lead negotiator, John Methuen, a Member of Parliament and England’s Ambassador to Portugal at the time.

At the start of the War of Spanish Succession (1701), Portugal had allied with France. France had guaranteed the Portuguese the protection of its navy. However, in 1702 the English navy sailed very closely past the city of Lisbon to and from their way to Cadiz, proving that the French could not really offer the protection they had promised.

The Portuguese, wisely, decided to change sides and began negotiations with England. The Methuen Treaty was the result of those negotiations. The main purpose of the treaty had concerned the ongoing war; the “Grand Alliance” was formalized and the goal of the current war was agreed upon: the new alliance would try to secure the entire Spanish Empire for the Austrian Archduke Charles, who was to become Charles VI of Austria.

Portrait of "The Right Honorable John Methuen" by Adrien Carpentiers (1769s) work and photograph in the Public Domain

Portrait of “The Right Honorable John Methuen” by Adrien Carpentiers (~1760) work and photograph in the Public Domain

The secondary aim of the treaty will be of more interest to wine lovers, as it established trade relations, especially between England and Portugal.

Under the terms of the treaty, English woolen cloth would be admitted in Portugal free of duty. In return, Portuguese wines imported into England would be subject to a third less duty than wines imported from France.  It also stated that Portuguese wines would never As England was at war with France, French wines were already difficult to obtain in England, and because of this treaty, the wines of Portugal – particularly Port, which the British loved – became the popular replacement.

The Treaty, signed on December 27th, 1703, became known to history as the “Port Wine Treaty.”


Post authored by Jane A. Nickles, your blog administrator

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One More for the Rhône

Vineyards in Cairanne - photo by Samuel Lavoie via Wikimedia Commons

Vineyards in Cairanne – photo by Samuel Lavoie via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this month, the INAO approved a new AOC in the southern Rhône, to be known as AOC Cairanne. Winemakers are expected to be able to use the designation starting with the 2015 vintage.

Carianne was formerly one of the 18 or so villages that were entitled to append the name of their village onto the Côtes du Rhône-Villages designation. The region is known for red, white, and rosé wines produced from the typical blend of southern Rhône varieties (min. 50% Grenache + min. 20% combined Syrah/ Mourvèdre for reds and rosés;  min. 80% any blend of Grenache blanc, Clairette, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, or Viognier for the whites.)

The new AOC regulations will require hand harvesting and sorting either in the vineyard or the winery, and a organics-level maximum level of added sulfites. The new designation is yet to be approved by the EU, however, no obvious obstacles are expected.

Have You Heard About Furmint?

Today we have a guest post from renowned Wine and Spirits Educator Harriet Lembeck. Read on to hear Harriet’s take on Furmint!

If you haven’t already heard about Furmint – Furmint is the grape that makes the famed sweet wine Toakaji.

Aszu (‘dried up’ or ‘dried out’) grapes

Aszu (‘dried up’ or ‘dried out’) grapes

When Samuel Tinon, a sweet-wine maker in Bordeaux, decided to move to the Tokaji region of Hungary, he was ready to make wine from its Aszu (‘dried up’ or ‘dried out’) Furmint grapes — grapes attacked by the desirable botrytis cinerea, or noble rot. These grapes are so concentrated that they have to soak in vats of young wine to dissolve their flavors. But when Tinon moved to Tokaji, botrytis was decreasing in his newly chosen region.

Expecting to make Aszu wines at least three times in a decade, the number of opportunities dropped to a little more than two times in a decade, and sometimes less than that. Due to climate change, a great deal of rain meant either no crop at all (as happened in 2010), or harvesting all of the Furmint grapes earlier — not waiting in the hopes of harvesting Aszu grapes — and therefore making dry white wines from earlier-picked grapes instead.

Asked about an apparent climate change, Tinon says: “We can’t see warming. What we see are erratic vintages with severe or extreme conditions — hot or cold, wet or dry. In the past, Tokaji Aszu was harvested at the end of October and the beginning of November, with botrytis and high sugars. This is still happening, but more often we have to change our production to dry Furmint wines without botrytis with an earlier September harvest, bigger crop, more security, more reliability and with a chance to get your money back.”

Tokaji vineyardWith winters becoming a bit warmer like in 2014, the fruit-fly population is able to ‘over-winter,’ and begin reproducing very early in the season, causing the spread of bad rot. This was told to me by Ronn Wiegand, MW, MS and Publisher of ‘Restaurant Wine,’ who is making wine with his father-in-law in Tokaji.

Ironically, Comte  Alexandre de Lur Saluces, owner of Château de Fargues and former co-owner of the fabled Château d’Yquem, said that although his area is getting warmer and drier, he feels that “global warming could be a help for Sauternes, and enable any of those who chaptalize these wines to avoid the practice.” He continues, “Many people in Sauternes are  producing dry white wines. Their production is increasing, and even Château d’Yquem is producing more dry wine.”

Hungarian winemakers from Tokaji are increasing dry white wine production as well. A new website,, was created by 12 member wineries that presented a Furmint tasting in Sonoma, CA in November 2014. The Blue Danube Wine Company, which imports many wines from all over Hungary, has six producers from Tokaji that are producing dry Furmint wines (many from single vineyards). Martin Scott Wines imports Royal Tokaji’s dry Furmint wine, coming from the company co-founded by Hugh Johnson and Ben Howkins, in London. These wines are all delicious, showcasing the minerality of volcanic soil.

Considering that in 2014, Hungary abolished the categories of Tokaji Aszu 3 and 4 Puttonyos (baskets of Aszu grapes), leaving only the sweeter 5 and 6 Puttonyos examples, the door has been opened for Dry Szamorodni. This rich, dry white (amber colored) wine produced from Furmint grapes has a portion of grapes which have some botrytis co-fermented to dryness, and also uses some flor yeast, giving the wine some fino or amontillado Sherry-like flavors.

This wine is very laborious and time consuming to produce. The 2007 Tinon Dry Szamorodni is the current vintage in the market, released after a minimum of 5 years of aging. This is a unique wine, a keeper, and is important to the history of Tokaji, linking the modern dry wines to the traditional Aszu wines.

If you haven’t tried it – you should!

HarrietHARRIET LEMBECK, CWE, CSS, is a prominent wine and spirits educator. She is president of the renowned Wine & Spirits Program, and revised and updated the textbook Grossman’s Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits. She was the Director of the Wine Department for The New School University for 18 years. She may be contacted at

This article was originally published in the article was originally published in
Beverage Dynamics Magazine – reprinted with permission!

Tour de Blog 2015

Tour de blog 2014 aWelcome to the Tour de Blog 2015! 

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

Wine and Spirits Maps! If you are studying for the CSW, CSS, CWE, CSE, or planning on teaching a class, SWE’s wine and spirits maps are available on-line.  This makes for very convenient studying from your mobile device, or as a printable resource. All of our maps are available as web pages, jpegs and pdfs. Whether you are looking for the wine maps from the 2015 CSW Study Guide, wine maps from the 2014 CSW Study Guide, or the spirits maps and diagrams from the 2015 CSS Study Guide, we have it all here for you! (Please note, we are happy to consider copyright permission for current members of SWE who wish to use our maps and diagrams for teaching purposes, or for publication in newsletters or websites – please email the home office for more information.)

Tour de blog 2015 dWine and Spirits World Updates! Fountaingrove, Pignoletto, Nizza, the Rocks…If you are trying to keep up with the ever-changing world of wine and spirits, we have a great resource for you! Not only do we try to post blog articles about the latest changes in the wine and spirits world, we also keep a running record of all the changes that have gone into effect (or that are rumored to be enacted soon) on our “Study Guides Update” pages.  If you are interested in keeping up with the world of wine, click here for our CSW Update page. If you are interested in the latest changes in the world of distilled spirits, click here for our CSS Update page.

SWE Conference Abstracts: If you missed our 2014 Conference in Seattle, or even if you attended and would like to refresh your memory, you can find recaps of many of the conference presentations at our 2014 Conference recap page. Many of our presenters were gracious enough to provide us with their power point presentations or handouts, and you can access them here.

Wine and Spirits Links! The SWE Blog provides one of the most comprehensive lists of links to quality wine and spirits websites available on the internet.  For instance, did you know that a database called “E-Bacchus” lists every AOP/PGI wine in the European Union? And its daddy database, the European Union’s department of Agricultural and Rural Development lists every AOP and PGI-designated agricultural product, from tour de blog 2015 bWalnuts from Périgord, Lavender Oil from Haute-Provence, and Chickens from Bresse (not to mention all the cheeses).  Whether you are researching Fitou or Fino, Madeira or Modena, you’ll find useful links on our site. Click here for our wine links page. If you are more interested in Plymouth gin or Polish Vodka, click here for our spirits links page.

The complete SWEbinar calendar! Our SWEbinar series is going strong! We have monthly offerings on all types of exam-related wine and spirits offerings and a great group of presenters. We also offer our popular “Insider’s Guide to the CSW Exam” and “Insider’s Guide to the CSS Exam” on a monthly basis. If you are in the process of studying for one of these exams, or even just thinking about it, you’ll want to tune it. Click here for information on the current month’s SWEbinars, and click here for the complete annual calendar.

Online Prep Classes: If you are interested in attending an online prep class for the CSS or the CSW, you’ll find detailed information on the class format, as well as contact information to sign up for a class, on our Online Prep Class Information Page.

Tour de blog 2105Workbook Answer Keys: If you are using a CSW Workbook, you can conveniently download the answer key here. Just be sure to download the correct version!

Guest Bloggers and Guest Presenters: We are always looking for guest bloggers, as well as guest presenters for our SWEbinar series. If you’d like more information, please click here!

Detailed Information on Pearson Vue Testing Centers: If you are confused about how to sign up for a Pearson Vue Exam, just click here for detailed instructions. If you’d like to read a first-hand account of a satisfied (and successful) exam candidate who took their exam at Pearson, just click here!

Contact information for the SWE Home Office! If you need to speak with a customer service representative, need help navigating the catalog, or have a question for our educational and certification team, just click here for contact information.

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