It’s nice to be in the Hall of Fame!

Sharro ItalyOur heartfelt congratulations go out to Sharron McCarthy – SWE Past President and current Director Emeritus!

Sharron was – just yesterday – inducted into the Italian Trade Commission’s Hall of Fame for “outstanding leadership, contribution, and lifelong dedication to the appreciation, education and marketing of Italian wines in the US.” The Hall of Fame induction took place at a luncheon at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, as part of VINO 2015 – Italian Wine Week.

Sharron, who is Vice President of Wine Education for Banfi Vintners, is a gifted wine educator and is consistently among the most popular and highest-rated speakers at SWE’s Annual Conference. (Be sure to congratulate her and say “hi” next August in NOLA)! Harry Mariani, the President Emeritus of Banfi Vintners, was also among the 17 honorees at the event.

It’s nice to be in the Hall of Fame!

 

This Tuesday – “The Insider’s Guide to the CSW Exam!”

This Tuesday – February 3rd – at 7:00 pm, central time – 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 Tuesday, February 3rd at 7:00 pm 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 outside 5Login 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: Tuesday, February 3rd – 7:00 pm central time – The Insider’s Guide to the CSW Exam – 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 2015 SWEbinar Calendar

Shrubs and Switchels!

Shrub CherryShrubs and Switchels! It sounds more like a project for an arborist than a “new discovery” for mixologists. However, mixologists have “discovered” the two, and are quickly realizing that what was ancient can be new and exciting in the modern era of mixology.

Shrubs and switchels have a rich history with accounts of “drinking vinegars” dating back to 15th century England’s use as medicinal cordials.  Shrubs are an intriguing blend of fruit, sugar, and vinegar created to preserve fruit long after harvest.  Recipes and methods for making shrubs may vary, but the result is a delightful liquid that captures the essence of fresh fruit.  A proper shrub has a flavor that’s both tart and sweet, so it stimulates the appetite while quenching thirst.

Switchels are a blend of molasses (honey or maple syrup), water, vinegar, and usually ginger.  In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book The Long Winter, there is reference to a switchel-like drink claiming how it quenched the thirst without upsetting the stomach after hot work making hay.

Using shrubs and switchels to create refreshing beverages is truly an American story that came about in the 18th century.  A 19th century magazine noted, “When the thermometer ranges among the nineties, it is not so much a question of what we shall eat as what we shall drink.”  (Surely, SWE members would agree!)

Physicians cautioned that ice water, which was difficult to obtain and maintain, was a “very grim and deleterious beverage, every glass of which should be labeled with skull and crossbones.” Too much ice water, they believed, could cause indigestion, bloating and other more serious problems.  Shrubs and switchels provided an acceptable alternative, especially as these drinks would “cheer, but not inebriate.”  It was not long after, with shrubs 3further American ingenuity, they were served with whiskey and brandy.  In 1862 when Jerry Thomas’ groundbreaking book The Bar-Tender’s Guide was published, shrubs had become so ingrained in our cocktail culture that several were featured.

Fast forward to today and you will find a collection of mixologists across the country reaching back through history to reclaim vinegar’s more palatable past.  According to Tony Abou-Ganim, superstar bartender and author of The Modern Mixologist, “Skilled mixologists construct cocktails not from set recipes, but from building blocks of base spirit, modifiers and accents. The key is to balance between the flavors of alcohol, sweet, acid and bitter” Shrubs and switchels offer an alternative to lemons and limes for adding that acidity.

A number of shrubs are now available commercially, but they are also easy to make.  Just mix fresh fruit, sugar and vinegar together and let them steep until the flavors blend and balance to your taste.  Essentially any fruit from berries to melons and apples to rhubarb can be made into a shrub.  A good rule of thumb is one part fruit, one part sugar, and one part vinegar.  You can then adjust to taste.

There are two basic methods to create shrubs; hot or cold.

The hot method: This method is faster, but creates a jammy result.  This method works best in preserving harder fruits like apples and rhubarb.  Add equal parts sugar and water to saucepan, heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Add fruit and cook on low heat until the fruit juice blends into the syrup. Let the mixture cool, strain and then add vinegar to the syrup.  Bottle and let rest in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks to further integrate.

The cold method: This method takes longer, but gives a fresher fruitier result.  This method works best in preserving delicate fruits and berries.  Steep the fruit in sugar for 24 hours (or longer) in a covered container in the refrigerator.  After a day or two, your fruit should be swimming in juice and syrup.  The longer it sits, the more flavorful the shrub will be.  Add vinegar and let the mixture sit again for 24 hours.  Strain the syrup from the solids and bottle the shrub.   Shake the bottle well before using as some sugar may settle to the bottom.

shrubs 2Regardless of the method all shrubs mellow with time.  The tartness and sweetness remain, but they start to harmonize after a few weeks in the fridge.

In addition to the choice of fruits, experimentation can be made with the type of sugar and vinegar used.  White sugar is most versatile, but brown, raw, honey and molasses can have some interesting results.  Apple cider vinegar is most commonly used, but others have had success with white wine, red wine, and even balsamic vinegar.

Shrubs can add depth and complexity to a cocktail, but be careful.  Since they are already acidic, they don’t always play well with citrus juice.  Use a light hand and taste as you’re building your ingredients.

I have experimented with substituting shrubs in place of the acid component in my cocktails.  I use a base spirit, a shrub, a complementary liqueur or cordial, and bitters to create my concoctions.  While not all have been successful, the creative process has been fun!  Two cocktails that stood out as triumphs were one made with rum, blackberry shrub, ginger liqueur and lime bitters and another made with brandy, lemon shrub, orange liqueur and orange bitters.  I look forward to my continued research in this “new discovery” of ancient “drinking vinegars”.

What are some of your uses for shrubs and switchels?  Please share your experiments and recipes as we dabble with history.

Post authored by Brenda Audino, CWE. After a long career as a wine buyer with Twin 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!

 

New Year’s Eve in Rome and a Battle of the Bubblies!

Rome colloseum nyeSpending New Year’s Eve in Rome, I was able to observe and enjoy Italy’s dual personality in sparkling wine.  Prosecco was sold by street vendors and enjoyed alfresco; sitting on the Spanish Steps, watching fireworks in Piazza del Popolo or enjoying the concert at Circus Maximus.  Franciacorta was pouring inside Rome’s many Enotecas and Ristorantes.

While both Prosecco and Franciacorta are sparkling wines, there are more differences than just where they are enjoyed.

In the Piazza – Prosecco!

Prosecco is often considered fun, easy to drink, perfect during happy hour and inexpensive – generally a wine for every occasion. Prosecco has been produced in northeastern Italy going back as far as Roman times using the Glera grape variety, which grew near the village of Prosecco.  Cultivation spread to the hills of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia in the 18th century and there is early documentation that due to Prosecco’s aromatic quality it is suitable for producing wine with a fine sensory profile.

Production continued to spread to the lower lying areas of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia and this is where the Prosecco we know today was first produced in the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the introduction of a new secondary fermentation technique. Scientific knowledge has come leaps and bounds later in the 20th century, which perfected the Prosecco production method.

Map of Prosecco via http://www.discoverproseccowine.it/en/

Map of Prosecco via http://www.discoverproseccowine.it/en/

Prosecco first received Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) status in 1969 for sparkling wines produced in the hills near the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. In 2009 major changes to the Prosecco disciplinare were implemented:

  • Prosecco is now strictly defined as a wine-producing region.  Therefore, the grape used should no longer be referred to as “Prosecco” and is now correctly identified as Glera.
  • The Prosecco DOC was expanded to replace the previous Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) region in northeastern Italy.  The Prosecco DOC now encompasses nine provinces in the regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia.  This introduced stricter controls and greater guarantees for the consumer.
  • Prosecco Superiore was elevated to Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status.  DOCG wines include Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG and Colli Asolani (Asolo) Prosecco DOCG.
  • The “crus” Rive and Cartizze are new introductions. Il Rive is reserved for sparkling wines which highlight individual communes or hamlets in the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene area enabling individual expression.  “Rive” in local dialect translates as “vineyards planted on steep land.” Superiore di Cartizze is the peak of DOCG quality and is considered the “grand cru” of Prosecco.  Cartizze is comprised of 107 hectares of remarkably steep vineyards of San Petro di Barbozza, Santo Stefano, and Saccol in the commune of Valdobbiadene.  This micro area is a perfect combination of mild climate, aspect and soils.  The vineyards here produce a sparkling wine of particular elegance which represents the maximum expression of the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene area.

Prosecco must be made with a minimum of 85% Glera while the remaining 15% can be of any combination of Verdiso, Perera, Bianchetta, Glera Lugna, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, or Pinot Nero (only if produced as a white wine).

Who can resist a Bellini?

Who can resist a Bellini?

Prosecco is generally made in the Charmat or “Italian Method,” defined as the second fermentation taking place in large pressurized stainless steel tanks with the addition of sugar and yeast.  This second fermentation lasts a minimum of 30 days.  Once finished, the sparkling wine is bottled and ready to be released into the market.  This method allows the preservation of the grapes’ varietal aromas, giving a fruity and floral wine.

Prosecco can either be produced as full sparkling (Spumante) or lightly sparkling (Frizzante or gentile).  Then the specific style is designated by the residual sugar content.

  • Brut – maximum of 12 grams per liter of residual sugar
  • Extra Dry – between 12-17 grams per liter
  • Dry – between 17-32 grams per liter

Prosecco is low in alcohol with only 11 to 12% alcohol by volume and low in pressure with 3 atmospheres of pressure for the Spumante and 1 to 2 ½ atmospheres of pressure for the Frizzante.

Prosecco is usually enjoyed “straight,” but also appears in some popular cocktails, such as the Bellini (Peach and Prosecco), the Spritz (Aperol, Compari, Cynar), or the Sgroppino (Lemon sorbet, Prosecco and vodka).

In the Enoteca – Franciacorta!

If the French will forgive me for saying this, Franciacorta is the Italians’ response to Champagne. The wines of Franciacorta have been around a long time – mention of the area’s wines appeared in one of the first published works about the technique of production of natural fermentation wines in the bottle and their beneficial and therapeutic action on the human body – printed in 1570.

Franciacorta vineyard in Paderno

Franciacorta vineyard in Paderno

The Franciacorta DOCG is located in Lombardy’s province of Bescia, within the territory of Franciacorta.  Lake Iseo moderates the climate while the hills to the east and west protect the region from winds.  Soils are mostly morainic, laid down by the glaciers that formed the lakes and valleys.

Franciacorta was the first Italian sparkling wine produced by the Classic Method (second fermentation in the bottle) awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) in 1995.  Today, the wine reads simply “Franciacorta”: this defines the growing area, the production method, and the wine.  There are only ten such wines in all of Europe and only three of them are sparkling: Champagne, Cava and Franciacorta.

Franciacorta today is still a relatively small region with 2,700 hectares under vine and around 100 producers. The Franciacorta DOCG limits the varieties to Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Blanco.  It also regulates yields, harvesting times, conditions and many other aspects of winemaking.  Fanciacorta enjoys a long secondary fermentation in the bottle and is aged for many years before release.  While universally known as sparkling wine made in the traditional method, locally this process is referred to as the “Franciacorta method”.

The categories of Franciacorta are:

  • Non-vintage – Aged on its lees for 18 months and not released until at least 25 months after harvest.   Chardonnay and/or Pinot Noir, with up to 50% Pinot Bianco.  Produced in a range of styles:  Pas dosé, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, or Demi-Sec.
  • Satèn – Aged on its lees for 24 months.   Satèn is always blanc de blancs made predominantly of Chardonnay with up to 50% Pinot Bianco allowed.  Satèn is bottled at a slightly lower pressure (less than 5 atmospheres of pressure instead of the standard 6 atmospheres) giving it a softer mouthfeel.  Produced in only the Brut style.
  • "Bottiglia e calice di franciacorta" by Nautinut - Own work, via Wikimedia Commons

    “Bottiglia e calice di franciacorta” by Nautinut – Own work, via Wikimedia Commons

    Rosé – Aged on its lees for 24 months.  Rosé is often made from just Pinot Noir grapes, but may also be made by blending a minimum of 25% Pinot Noir with base wines of Chardonnay and/or Pinot Bianco.  Produced in a range of styles:  Pas dosé, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra-Dry, Sec, or Demi-Sec.

  • Millesimato (Vintage) – Aged on its lees for 30 months and not released until at least 37 months after harvest.  At least 85% of the base wine must come from one single growing year.  Both Satèn and Rose can include Millesimato.  Produced in a range of styles: Pas dosé, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry (Satèn only Brut)
  • Riserva – Is a Millesimato (can include Satèn and Rose) which is aged on its lees at least 60 months and not released until at least 67 months (5 ½ years) after harvest.  Since many Franciacorta Millesimatos rest sur lie far longer than the required minimum of 30 months, this designation was created to highlight this unique type of wine.  Produced in a range of styles: Pas dosé, Extra Brut, Brut (Satèn only Brut)

The dosato of Franciacorta are defined in the same way as Champagne’s dosage levels.

  • Pas dosé (No dosage, dosage zero, pas opéré or nature) – maximum 3 grams per liter residual sugar
  • Extra Brut – maximum 6 grams per liter
  • Brut – maximum 12 grams per liter
  • Extra Dry – between 12-17 grams per liter
  • Sec (Dry) – between 17-32 grams per liter
  • Demi Sec – between 32-50 grams per liter

So…now that you know the details – how would you rather spend New Year’s Eve in Roma? Would you like to welcome the stroke of midnight with Prosecco on the piazza, or Franciacorta in the enoteca?

Post authored by Brenda Audino, CWE. After a long career as a wine buyer with Twin 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!

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.