Announcing the 2015 CSW Study Guide and Workbook!

CSW 2015Welcome to 2015! Our 2015 edition of the CSW Study Guide and Workbook is currently at the printer and should start shipping by the end of January.

As you may know, 2014 saw many changes in the world of wine, and we have captured this new information in 2015 edition of the Study Guide. Some of these updates include: Austria’s ninth DAC, the new sub-appellations of Paso Robles, new AVAs in Lake County, the Moon Mountain AVA in Sonoma, changes in South Africa’s Wine of Origin designations, and new terminology used by the VDP (to name but a few)! In addition, we have re-designed our wine maps to be more user-friendly, updated, and colorful.

CSW Exams: CSW Exams based on the 2015 edition of the CSW Study Guide are already available at Pearson Vue Testing Centers as of January 5, 2015. If you are studying from the previous (2014) edition of the Study Guide, have no fear – you have been assigned a Pearson Vue Test Authorization Code based on the edition of the Study Guide you were issued; and may take a Pearson Vue test based on the “old” version through the end of Rhone Valley2015. Paper-and-pencil versions of the CSW from now through April 1 of 2015 will be “transitional” exam based on material that is covered in both the 2014 2015 editions. As of May 2, 2015 all paper-and-pencil CSW Exams will be based solely on the 2015 Study Guide.

eBook:  The 2015 edition of the CSW Study Guide will be available as an eBook on Amazon.com and iTunes by March 1, 2015.

Online Prep Course: The CSW Online Prep Course scheduled to begin in May of 2015 will feature the 2015 edition of the CSW Study Guide and Workbook. The aim of the prep course is to get attendees “as prepared as humanly possible” for a successful sitting of the CSW Exam. Online prep courses are available, free-of-charge, to Professional members of SWE who have a valid CSW Exam attendance credit.

Study Guides, Exams, and workbooks may be ordered via SWE’s website.

If you have any qustions, please contact Jane Nickles, our Director of Education and Certification at: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

 

A Few of my Favorite Scarps

Devil's Tower

Devil’s Tower

To look at it, a scarp seems like the edge of the world – and, in a manner of speaking, it is. The term “scarp” technically refers to the wall of bare rock that makes up the cliff-face of an area of land that stands much higher than the land that surrounds it. For an extreme example, think of the Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. Quebec City’s Cap Diamant – those gorgeous sheer cliffs just in front of the Château Frontenac dividing the upper section of the town from the Saint Lawrence lowlands below – is a more typical example.
The uplifted area of land sitting above a scarp is known as an escarpment, although the two terms tend to be used interchangeably, except perhaps by geologists. A good way to describe an escarpment is basically as an area of the earth where the elevation changes suddenly. Escarpments are often found along the ocean shore, such as the Devil’s Slide area of California’s Highway One.

Escarpments are also found on dry land. Inland escarpments, where the ground is separated into two level land surfaces divided by a sheer cliff wall, may be formed by erosion, the action of rivers or streams, via seismic activity, or a combination of these forces. And – which makes it interesting for us – many of the world’s wine regions are built around escarpments.

Escarpments created by erosion are generally composed of different types of rock or rocks from different geologic eras.  Erosion creates the two levels of land as one of the types of rock erodes much faster than the other. One well-known example of an escarpment formed by erosion is the Niagara Escarpment.

The Niagara Escarpment

The Niagara Escarpment

The capstone of the Niagara Escarpment is a type of limestone (dolomite rock, or dolostone), while the underlying rock is a more easily erodible shale.  The Niagara escarpment is famous for the Niagara Falls, which is the part of the escarpment where the Niagara River plunges over the side. We wine lovers also appreciate the region as the home of the Niagara Escarpment AVA – located along the edge of the ridge, and home to 17  wineries.

Escarpments formed by seismic action are created when a fault displaces the ground surface so that one side is higher than the other. Examples include Africa’s Great Rift Valley and Australia’s Darling Scarp. The Darling Scarp cuts through the wine-growing regions of Western Australia and forms a distinct dividing line between the Perth Hills region, which sits atop the escarpment, and the Swan District, which resides below. The difference in climate between the two next-door neighbor regions due to the resulting change in elevation is striking. The Swan District, resting on the plains below, has a warm-to-hot Mediterranean climate.  The Perth Hills, perched above, is characterized by cooler nights, lower temperatures overall, and a harvest that typically begins 10 days to 2 weeks later than its warmer neighbor.

Other escarpments can be found along ancient river valleys, where a river, over the centuries, carved the landscape into a terrace. The Huangarua Scarp, found in New Zealand’s Martinborough wine region, is one example. The Huangarua Scarp is home to several wineries, including Craggy Range and the appropriately named Escarpment Vineyard. The highest uprise of the Huangarua Scarp, at about 150 feet higher than the surrounding area, is believed to have been formed over 250,000 years ago.

"Caprock Escarpment Garza County Texas 2010" by Leaflet - via Wikimedia Commons

“Caprock Escarpment Garza County Texas 2010″ by Leaflet – via Wikimedia Commons

The Caprock Escarpment, found in west Texas and eastern New Mexico, was formed via a combination of erosion and water. The top layer of the area is composed of caliche, a type of calcium carbonate that resists erosion. The erosion of the softer underlying stone was aided over the millennium by the action of rivers and streams. The Caprock Escarpment is an abrupt, 200-mile long ridge that divides the high plains area known as the Llano Estacado from the surrounding rolling terrain of the Great Plains below. In some places, the Caprock Escarpment rises more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding plains. The Texas High Plains AVA, covering almost 8 million acres of land, sits atop this huge plateau. The outline of the AVA follows the contour of the ridge at an elevation of 2,800 feet, and extends north and west. At its highest point, the elevation of the Texas High Plains AVA reaches 4,100 feet. The AVA currently has about 4,000 acres of vines and is home to over 75 mostly family-owned vineyards and at least 8 wineries.

Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, Sancerre in the Loire Valley, and Australia’s Murray Darling region are a few of the many other wine regions affected by scarps and escarpments. To learn more about scarps (and rías, and slopes, and benches) join us on Friday, January 23rd and Wednesday, January 28th for our SWEbinar entitled “Rías, Benches, Slopes, and Scarps – Physical Geography in the Vineyard.”

For more information please contact Jane Nickles, our Director of Education and Certification at: jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

 

 

Friday Lunchtime SWEbinar – The Insider’s Guide to the CSW!

Tomorrow at lunch time (at least for those of us in the central time zone) we once again offer our “The Insider’s Guide to the CSW Exam.”  If you are currently pursuing the CSW Certification, or considering the CSW as your next stage of professional development, this session is for Insiders guide for blogyou! This online workshop will cover all aspects of the CSW, including what the test covers, how difficult the test is, what type of questions to expect, the resources available to students, and how long SWE recommends for study before sitting the exam. This session is led by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE (SWE’s Director of Education). You will have a chance to ask any and all questions about the CSW – she’ll answer just about any questions save for “what are the answers?” The Insider’s Guide to the CSW Exam will be offered on Friday, January 9th at Noon central time.

SWE’s SWEbinar series is unique in that it is offered free-of-charge, and open to the public! We also try to accomodate all schedules by offering sessions on weekdays and weekends, as well as daytime and evening hours. If you have a topic you would like to see addressed, or a time-of-day that would work for you, please let our Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles know via email at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

computer outsideLogin Instructions: At the appointed time, just click on the link. There is no need to register in advance. Links will be attached to the date and time announcement of each session in the list below and will go “live” a few hours before the scheduled date.

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

  • If you have never attended an Adobe Connect event before, it is also a good idea to test your connection ahead of time (just click on the link).
  • If you are having any trouble with your Adobe Connect connection, please see our SWEbinar Trouble-shooting page.

 Link: Friday, January 9th – Noon central timeThe Insider’s Guide to the CSW – presented by Jane A. Nickles, CSS, CWE (Link will go “live” a few hours before the scheduled date/time.) 

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

Click here for the 2014 – 2015 SWEbinar Calendar

Mount Aconcagua and Her Namesakes

Aconcagua 1It’s higher than Mount Kilamangaro and Mount McKinley. It could easily lose Europe’s highest mountain – Mont Blanc – in its shadow. It provides irrigation and (of course) elevation for some of the finest wine regions in Chile and Argentina.

If that isn’t enough to impress you, consider this: it is the highest mountain in all of the Americas, the Western Hemisphere, and the Southern Hemisphere. It touches the sky at 22,837 feet above sea level, and one has to travel over 10,270 miles – to Asia – to find a higher mountain.

We’re talking about the highest mountain in the Andes – Mount Aconcagua. It is a dream destination for mountain climbers, especially if you consider that the mountain’s northern approach is considered by mountaineering standards to be an “easy route.” It’s considered a “non-technical” mountain climb, meaning that one can make it to the summit without ropes, axes, or pins. Be careful, though – with an atmospheric pressure of only 40% that of sea level, strong winds, electrical storms, and a potential low temperature of -13°F (-25°C), you are advised to be careful.

Mount Aconcagua is located in Argentina’s Mendoza province, very close to the border between Mendoza and San Juan. The mountain and its surroundings on the Argentine side are part Aconcagua 2of the Aconcagua Provincial Park. The summit is about 70 miles west and a bit north of the city – and vineyards – of Mendoza.

To the west, the summit of Mount Aconcagua is located about 5 miles from the international border with Chile. The Aconcagua wine region on the Chilean side of the border is actually named for the river that flows from the summit of the mountain to the Pacific Ocean. The Aconcagua viticultural region has three sub-regions: The Aconcagua Valley, the Casablanca Valley, and San Antonio Valley.

The Aconcagua Valley is located about 40 miles north of the city of Santiago and forms a narrow east-west valley along the path of the river. The area is classified as an “Entre Cordilleras” (between the mountains) climate area. The area receives only about 8 inches of rain a year, so irrigation from the river is essential. Mount Aconcagua towers over the region, which has a long history of red wine production. Cabernet Sauvignon is the widely planted grape, followed by Merlot and Carmenère.

The Casablanca Valley is located about 7 miles north and to the west of the Aconcagua Valley. The Casablanca Valley is well-known as a “costa” (coastal) climate region, and enjoys the cool, foggy mornings and maritime influence of the Pacific Ocean. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are by far the most widely planted grape varieties here, accompanied by plantings of white aromatics such as Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. Small amounts of red grapes, particularly Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Pinot Noir, are planted as Aconcagua 3well.

Located south of the Casablanca Valley and, at points, as close as 2.5 miles from the ocean, the San Antonio Valley is also a “costa” climate region. The San Antonio Valley is a relatively new wine region known for crisp, mineral-driven Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as cool-climate expressions of Pinot Noir and Syrah.

Click here to view  SWE’s 2015 Wine Map of Chile

The 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide is Here!

CelebrateToday is a great day at the DC offices of SWE! After more than a year’s worth of work, we have received the 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide and have already started sending them out.

If you have recently purchased a CSS Study Guide or exam and have been waiting for your book to arrive – keep a close eye out in the next few days because it is on its way!

The 2015 edition of the Certified Specialist of Spirits Study Guide has 205 pages and over 100 full-color photographs, maps, charts, and diagrams. New chapters include “Vermouth, Amari, and Bitters,” “The Sensory Evaluation of Spirits,” and “The Impact of Alcohol on Health.”

CSS Exams: CSS Exams based on the 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide will be available at Pearson Vue Testing Centers as of January 5, 2015. If you are studying from the previous (2012) edition of the Study Guide, have no fear – you have been assigned a Pearson Vue Test Authorization Code based on the edition of the Study Guide you were issued; and may take a Pearson Vue test based on the “old” version through the end of 2015. Paper-and-pencil versions of the CSS Exam will be based on the 2012 Study Guide CSS Study Guideuntil May 1 of 2015. As of May 2, 2015 all paper-and-pencil CSS Exams will be based solely on the 2015 Study Guide.

eBook:  The 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide is now available as an ebook on Amazon.com – and will be available on iTunes soon.

Workbook:  A workbook to accompany the 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide will be available later this year.

Online Prep Course: SWE will offer its first online CSS Prep Course, led by our Director of Education, beginning in February of 2015. The course will feature the 2015 edition of the CSS Study Guide and 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.

For more information, or to sign up for the CSS Online Prep Class, please contact Jane Nickles at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org .

 

 

The Goddess and the Roasted Grape

ErbaluceThe goddess Albaluce – the love child of the Sun and the Dawn – was not happy. It seemed many of her followers in the enchanted land of Caluso were desserting her in favor of a new religion known as Christianity. As she sat down and shed her tears, a grapevine grew and brought forth sweet grapes with a bright copper hue. Eventually, these grapes became known as Erbaluce in her honor.

Great story, isn’t it?  Or perhaps we should simply refer to it as what it is – a legend, that, while surely fiction, does at least let us know that Erbaluce is an ancient grape. We also know – somewhat for sure – that the grape is native to Piedmont, which has written records of the grape dating back to 1606. These days, it rarely ventures far from home, and is an allowed variety in just a handful of DOC/DOCGs – all of them in Piedmont.

Erbaluce’s unique copper color – sometimes accompanied by pink highlights as the grape ripens – has given rise to the nickname Uva Arrostita, or “roasted grape.”  Modern science, through DNA profiling, has revealed that Erbaluce is closely related to another Piedmont native, Cascarolo Bianco, although who exactly begat whom is not clear.

Erbaluce is cultivated in a variety of provinces in and around Turin, but is most associated with the town of Caluso. Even here, however, it is a rarity – at last count, there were less than 800 acres – and its wines are seldom seen out of the region.

erbaluce 2Erbaluce di Caluso was granted DOC status in 1967, and was promoted to DOCG in 2011. The disciplinare allows for dry white wines, sparkling wines, and sweet wines – all produced with 100% Erbaluce grapes. The dry white wines go by the name Erbaluce di Caluso, while the sparkling wines, appreciated for the fresh fruit character and mineral aromas – are known as Caluso Spumante.

But the real star is Caluso Passito – a sweet, dried grape wine with a minimum of 7% residual sugar, 12.5% alcohol, and 36 months of aging (48 for the Riserva).  Caluso Passito is known for its aromas of apple, vanilla, citrus, honey, and almonds –and while I’ve only had it once  – I’m betting it would make an excellent match with a simple dessert of gorgonzola, dried fruit, and hazelnuts.

Note: Erbaluce is an allowed (majority) grape variety in the following wines, all produced in Piedmont:  Canavese DOC, Colline Novaresi DOC, Coste della Sesia DOC, Erbaluce di Caluso DOCG, Piedmont DOC

The website of Azienda Vitivinicola Giacometto Bruno has a lovely description of their Caluso Passito.

The Central Otago Gold Rush

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Wine students are well aware of the effect that California’s Gold Rush (1848-1855) had on wine production in northern California – namely, that between 1856 and 1857, gold fever turned into vine fever, and winegrape plantings in the area more than doubled!

However, did you know that Central Otago had a gold rush of its own?

It all began in May of 1861, when gold was discovered in an Otago Valley now known as Gabriel’s Gully. The site is located about three kilometers from the town of Lawrence, close to the Tuapeka River.  The discovery at Gabriel’s Gully was the largest gold strike ever for New Zealand, and quickly led to a rapid influx of foreign prospectors to the area – many of them veterans of the recent gold rush in California, as well as similar finds in the gold fields of Victoria, Australia.

One such miner, named Jean Desire Féraud, was of French descent – from a wine-making family in Burgundy, no less. Upon his arrival in Otago, Mr. Féraud quickly made a fortune from gold – so much so that the location of his lucky strike, located on the west bank of the Clutha River, is now known as Frenchman’s Point.

Jean Desire Féraud, via centralotagowine.com

Jean Desire Féraud, via centralotagowine.com

With his newly-found riches, Mr. Féraud bought 100 acres of land and planted orchards, herbs, and vineyards. He also built a winery, known as Monte Christo. Most of the wine was sold locally, but one batch – believed to be Pinot Noir from the 1879 vintage – won a third-place medal in the “Best Burgundy” category at an 1881 competition in Sydney.

Despite this success, Féraud’s efforts were not enough to win over the locals – most of them miners and farmers who preferred whisky and beer – to the love of wine, and Féraud soon sold the winery.  It was purchased by James Bodkin in 1889, and the property remains in the Bodkin family to this day.

Thus, the first wave of wine production in Central Otago was short-lived, and, as we all know, the modern wine industry took until the 1990s to really get going. It does, however, seem like Mr. Féraud knew what he was doing, as Pinot Noir is now the leading red grape of New Zealand. And Central Otago, famous for being the southernmost wine region in the world, is equally well-known for its fragrant, intense, silky Pinot Noir. To wine lovers, and hopefully to the legacy of Jean Desire Féraud, that’s as good as gold.

Click here to return to the SWE Website

 

 

A Tale of Tibouren

Clos Cibonne Tibouren

Clos Cibonne Tibouren

Tibouren…it is a grape that is highly regarded, and with a historical precedence for use in the rosés of Provence. And yet, many of you have – perhaps – never heard of it!

The Tibouren grape is appreciated for making earthy, expressive wines redolent of that “wild, herbal, somewhat floral” aroma known as garrigue – named after the wild underbrush that grows in the limestone-rich soils of Provence and other regions around the Mediterranean basin. It is approved as a principal variety (allowed up to 90% of the blend) in the red and rosé wines of the Côtes de Provence AOC; it is approved as an accessory variety (allowed up to 20% of the blend) in the reds and rosés of the Coteaux Variois en Provence AOC.

The Clos Cibonne estate, located on the coast between Marseille and Nice, has one of the largest and oldest plantings of Tibouren in the world, and on occasion produces varietal wines from Tibouren in both red and rosé versions. The Tibouren vineyard at Clos Cibonne is almost 40 acres, much of it planted in 1930 or earlier.

Garrigue

Garrigue

Tibouren has avoided becoming too well known for several reasons – the first being that, despite its excellent reputation for making interesting wines, it is not widely grown.  France has a total of just 1,100 acres, with more than half of those planted in Provence. The main reason for the small showing of the grape is – despite its being quite hardy in regards to pests and most vine diseases – that the grape has a tendency to early budding and susceptibility that pesky condition known as millerandage. CSW Students will recognize millerandage as a condition known as “abnormal fruit set” that results in grape bunches that have a high proportion of small seedless berries mixed in with normal, larger, seed-bearing grapes.

Like most vinifera grapes, Tibouren has an interesting and not-quite-verified history. It is said to have been introduced to the area around St. Tropez by an Italian ship’s captain named Antiboul. The grape first went by the name Antibloulen, which later led to the name “Tibouren.” Recent DNA testing, as reported by Jancis et al in their amazing book “Wine Grapes,” has shown it to be identical to the Rossese di Dolceacqua grape of Liguria. This would make sense, according to the story of the Italian sea captain!

Rossese di Dolceacqua (aka Tibouren)– 662 acres of it – is still grown, very close to the French border, in Liguria.

 

Bitters and Bittered

bittersCocktail bitters reside in a class by themselves. Essentially, cocktail bitters are aromatics and flavoring extracts that have been macerated in neutral spirits. Cocktail bitters are so intensely concentrated as not to be considered potable on their own—or, as the official phrasing has it, “Not for singular consumption.”

 

Most cocktail bitters are botanicals in a neutral spirit base, although, while uncommon, it is possible to produce bitters with a glycerin base. In the United States, cocktail bitters are considered “food extracts” and are therefore regulated by the Food and Drug Administration rather than by the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau (TTB) or other alcohol-regulating agencies. Thus, they have wider distribution than wines and spirits, including in most food and grocery stores.

 

Cocktail bitters began, much like many other spirit groups, as medicinal and restorative tonics created by infusing botanicals in alcohol in order to extract their (presumed or actual) health benefits. One of the most prevalent forms of bittering agents used was Peruvian cinchona bark, also called quinine, which became popular as part of the potions used to treat malaria and tropical fevers. Other common bittering botanicals were used as well, and many are still in use today, such as caffeine, hops, gentian, and burdock root, as well as many other forms of herbs, roots, leaves, barks, and spices.

 

Flowering Gentian

Flowering Gentian

Some of these medicinal elixirs were favored as refreshing beverages, while others remained in highly concentrated form as tonics. In many cases, the tonics came to be used to flavor other beverages, as in the gin and tonic, pink gins, and other such drinks, where a dash of bittering agents was called for to liven the drink. Bitters were so much a part of beverage culture that the earliest definition of a cocktail included a bittering agent. To be exact, the definition, formulated in 1806, listed “spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitter.”

 

Outside of FDA regulations regarding use of certain approved foodstuffs, there is no limit or regulation on what may constitute a recipe for cocktail bitters; thus, much is left up to the discretion and whim of the creator. Cocktail bitters have found a new popularity, and there are many unique, creative products on the market today. Two of the most “classic” brands are Angostura Bitters and Peychaud’s Bitters: 

 

Angostura Bitters: The most well-known of the cocktail bitters began with the House of Angostura. Angostura Bitters were created as a medical concoction in 1824 by Dr. Johann Siegert, a doctor in Simón Bolivar’s Venezuelan army. It was named after the town of Angostura (later, Ciudad Bolivar), although, oddly enough, the recipe did not contain the local angostura bark as an ingredient, even though other bitters did. The House of Angostura later relocated to Port of Spain

Photo of “Angostura bitters 003" by Gryffindor

Photo of “Angostura bitters 003″ by Gryffindor

in Trinidad, where it resides today. The company also owns and operates rum distilleries on the island, both for the Angostura brand and by general contract for several others. Readily recognizable with its bright yellow cap and oversize paper label, Angostura is easily the world’s dominant brand of bitters.

 

Peychaud’s Bitters: Peychaud’s Bitters were invented by the Haitian Creole Antoine Amédée

Peychaud in his apothecary shop in New Orleans, circa 1830. The concoction was originally designed to go in his powerful spirit libations said to be served in dainty eggcups known by the French term coquetiers (a possible explanation for the origin of our term “cocktail”). This is a savory, exotic style of bitters with highly lifted aromatics. Peychaud’s Bitters are an integral part of the original recipe for the Sazerac cocktail.

 

As a pleasant side effect of the current cocktail renaissance, the bitters market is exploding with

artisan and local versions of cocktail bitters, with more entering the market each day. Fee Brothers, Regan’s #6 Orange Bitters, Bittermen’s, the Bitter Truth, Bittercube, Basement Bitters, and Bar Keep Bitters are among the many artisan-produced bitters available today. A plethora of flavors are also being produced; one can find bitters based on fennel, lavender, grapefruit, rhubarb, dandelion, molé, pineapple, apple, curry, and Jamaican jerk seasoning.

 

The creativity for bitters, it seems, knows no bounds.

Cocktail bitters, bittered spirits, vermouth, quinquinas, and Americanos are all topics that receive new and expanded coverage in our 2015 edition of the Certified Specialist of Spirits Study Guide…due out by January!

Click here to return to the SWE Homepage.

Emerald Lizards, Feathery Grass, and Falconry

Map of AustriaThe wine-growing regions of Austria can be a little confusing. Thankfully, the wines are delicious and well-worth the effort to understand.

Part of the confusion may stem from the fact that four areas that are technically Federal States – Niederösterreich, Burgenland, Steiermark, and Vienna (which, as the capital, plays a double role as both a city as well as a federal state, quite like Washington DC in the US) – all also designated wine quality regions.

All of Austria’s other quality wine regions are located within these four federal states; the presence of the cold and rugged Austrian Central Alps mountain range makes viticultural nearly impossible in much of the rest of the country.

As any good wine student should know, 9 of these designated quality wine regions have been promoted to the highest classification in the land – known as Districtus Austriae Controllatus, or DAC. (The others are referred to as “Weinbaugebiete” or “Quality Wine Regions.) DACs have strict regulations concerning grape varieties, vinification, and wine style, and it is hoped/expected that the other designated regions within the Austrian federal states will, in time, also becomes DACs.

Hinterhaus Castle in the Wachau

Hinterhaus Castle in the Wachau

The first Austrian DAC (Weinviertel) was awarded – quite recently – in 2003. And yet, Austria has one of the oldest wine cultures in Europe. In spite of this, what brought fame to Austria’s wines in recent history – most unfortunately – was a few notorious scandals in the 1980s.

While – I am sure – many people in Austria and beyond would just like to forget about what are sometimes referred to as the “Antifreeze Scandals,” the truth is that the scandals led to a tightening of wine standards in Austria and the creation of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board in 1986. As a result of these moves, as well as Austria’s entry into the EU in 1995, Austrian wine has some of the strictest standards in Europe.

Even before the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and the DACs came to be, the wine growers of the Wachau set their own set of standards. Formed in 1983, the Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus is a trade association determined to protect the quality and reputation of the wines of the region.  Members of the Vinea Wachau, which include almost 90% of the wine producers in the region, must abide by the standards of the organization as well as Austria’s strict wine laws.

The Vinea Wachau has standards for three designated styles of wine, used only for the dry white wines of the region. You’ve probably heard of them:

  • Steinfelder: This is the lightest style of the three, as defined by must weight, with a maximum alcohol of 11.5%. Sometimes these wines are lightly sparkling or “spritzig.” Most of these wines are consumed in Austria as a simple, easy drinking wine; they are unlikely to be exported.
  • Weissenkirchen (The White Church) in the Wachau

    Weissenkirchen (The White Church) in the Wachau

    Federspiel: These “classic” wines are made from riper grapes, with an alcohol of 11–12.5%. These wines are generally rich in aroma and character, while dry and medium-bodied.

  • Smaragd: Sometimes defined as “full” or “powerful,” these are the supreme wines of the Wachau. Bottled at a minimum of 12.5% alcohol, these concentrated, full-bodied wines are likely to be suitable for aging.

Here’s where it gets interesting: the Vinea Wachau named these categories after some of the natural delights of the Wachau:

  • Steinfelder is a decorative, feathery grass that grows on rocky hillsides. Steinfelder is found only in the Wachau.
  • Federspiel is a term related to falconry, historically a favorite sport of Austrian aristocrats. A “federspiel” was a call used to lure the falcon back with its prey.  Austria continues to be a world leader in falconry.
  • Smaragd means “emerald” and refers to the little green lizards that are often found in the basking in the sunlight in the vineyards of the Wachau.

Doesn’t it make you want to book a trip to the Wachau?