How (wine) Cool are You?

DevoThe world of wine is in constant change….just look how fast DOCGs were added up until a few years ago! One year we had 51, then – suddenly it seemed – we had 73. For a while there, it seemed like we would hold tight at 73 (what with all of those new European Union regulations and all…) and then we heard that a 74th DOCG was in the works!

Whether or not we get that 74th DOCG (which, in case you were wondering is proposed for “Nizza,” currently part of the Barbera del Monferrato Superiore DOCG) is yet to be determined.  However, there is no question whatsoever that there has recently been a slew of changes and updates to the world of wine.

How we have you been keeping up with these changes?  If you like to find out, try my new Bubbly Professor Quiz – “How (wine) Cool are You (March 2014 edition.)

If you’d like to study a bit, or would just like to try and keep up with all of these wine world goings-on, take a look at the “CSW Updates” page I keep over at SWE’s Blog.

Cheers, and good luck!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas  missjane@prodigy.net

Bubbly Professor Webinars

SWEbinar CliffsideMarch 2014 SWEbinars

Each month, as part of my role as Director of Education for the Society of Wine Educators, I lead a series of webinars on “How to Pass the CSW.”  And, due to my over-appreication of bad puns, I call them “SWEbinars.” (yeah, I know.)

Over the course of 2014, I’ll be covering the entire CSW Study Guide, as well as handing out study tips, providing the “tales of the vine” behind the famous wines, and taking your comments and questions.

The second set of installments in my CSW Review Series SWEbinars is scheduled for March, 2014.

These identical sessions will cover grape varieties and viticulture – chapters 3 and 4 in the CSW Study Guide.

These sessions will be first come, first served, and each has a capacity of 100 attendees.  Suggested drink-along beverages:  Gavi di Gavi,  Pink Champagne on Ice, or Espresso.

Logon Instructions:  At the appointed time, just click on the link.  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 each SWEbinar a minimum of three times, but its still a good idea to log on early!

booksIf you have never attended an Adobe Connet event before, it is also a good idea to test your connection ahead of time.

You can keep up with the schedule and access the webinar home site here at this page.

Click here for the 2014 SWEbinar Calendar

If you have any questions, please contact me at:  jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

Hot off the Press: The CSW Workbook is here!

This just in, via the SWE Blog, “Wine, Wit, and Wisdom”

WorkbookWhat has 180 pages, 1,700 activities, 29 wine map exercises, and 250 “practice” multiple choice quiz questions?

Need more hints?

What will help you understand CSW Study Guide and guide you to remember all sorts of “facts and figures” about wine?

Need even  more hints?

What has been professionally designed to help you learn, remember, and understand the CSW Study Guide material and give you the best training possible, in order to help you pass the CSW Exam?

Answer:  Our CSW Workbook – available NOW on the SWE Website!  This 180-page workbook has a variety of exercises, including multiple choice questions, word matching, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, and true/false questions;  all designed to help you to learn  and comprehend the rather large amount of material to be found in the CSW Study Guide.  While it may sound like a lot of work, we’ve also tried to design it to be fun – after all, what’s more fun than learning about wine?

Click here for a preview of the workbook!

Click here to access the SWE Website Catalog and Store.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the CSW Workbook, please contact SWE’s Director of Education, Jane A. Nickles, at jnickles@societyofwineeducators.org

 

Just in case you were wondering…

Nervous at computerHi Everyone!!

Just in case your were wondering…well, about just about anything having to do with wine education, education in general, or maybe even wine in general..

Yours truly, The Bubbly Professor, will be hosting an “Ask Me Anything” panel over at Reddit starting later today and going “live” - Sunday, February 23 – at 12 Noon to 2:00 pm Central Time.

So go ahead…make my day and ask me anything.

Can you tell how nervous I am?

How to Study for the CSW (Or any other Exam)

Wine 2In the past few weeks, I have received dozens of emails from people asking “How do I study for the CSW?”  It’s a good question, and one that I thought I’d address here on the blog as it seems so universal.  By the way, most of the inquiries I get have to do with the CSW, but having been a professor for decades, I know that these study techniques will work for any knowledge-based set of material…even other wine certifications!

I think the problem stems from people confusing “reading” with “studying.”  Reading is a good first step, but it’s only the beginning.  Studying is so much more….so here’s my advice on how to “really study.”  By the way, if you are looking for the easy way out, you are NOT going to like me!

My Advice…How to Study for the Certified Specialist of Wine (or any other) Exam

Learning, unfortunately, takes time. Unless you have a have photographic memory, learning requires repetition, active study techniques, and concentration.  Here are few simple tips to help you get the most from your study time.

Read and Take Notes:  Reading alone does not do much in terms of long-term learning for most people. Do you remember that little jingle about “people only remember 10% of what they read?” It’s actually less than that. If you want your study session to result in long-term memory, you need to take notes while you study. Read your study guide section by section, taking notes all the while. Then, clean up those notes and use them as your study material for the last few months or weeks leading up to your exam.

How to study 1Study Actively:  One of the reasons that taking notes is so effective for most people is that writing involves more energy and more of the senses than just reading or listening. The more energy and senses that are involved in studying (or any activity); the more new material will make it to your brain’s “recording disk.” While it might feel silly, reading out loud or reviewing your notes out loud is one of the best ways involve more of your senses in your studying.  Writing, a kinetic activity, also increases memory.  Instead of staring at maps, draw them. Instead of just reading over your notes, copy them over.

Don’t just Memorize – Strive for Understanding: There are two ways to memorize:  by rote (mechanically) and by understanding. Telephone numbers and computer passwords are better learned by rote.  However, anything that needs to be understood must have some meaning behind it. The more association you can elicit for an idea, the more meaning it will have; the more meaningful the learning, the better one is able to retain it. This is the main reason why travelling is such a good way to learn wine…once you’ve driven from Greve to Montalcino, its easy to remember the distances and directions…you totally understand it (and will never forget it, most likely, if you tried to drive yourself)! While you might not be able to travel to every wine region you are studying, you can try to find the context behind the facts.  You can do this by comparing and contrasting, noting similarities in ideas and concepts, tying new ideas to something you already know, and trying to put new information in its proper place in a larger system of ideas, concepts and theories.

Rephrase and explain:  Anyone who has ever taught a wine class knows that one way to really learn something is to teach it.  Teaching requires us to organize and explain material, which just happen to be two of the most important facets of learning. To use this concept in your study sessions, experiment with stopping every five minutes to try and rephrase and explain the material.  This is also a great way to stop your mind from wandering. Remember, if you can’t explain something quickly and succinctly, you don’t really know it well.

how to learn slideUse Spaced Repetition:  Memories fade away rapidly when not reviewed or used. The curve of forgetting is like a playground slide; we forget most of what we learned within the first 24 hours after studying, from there the curve of forgetting proceeds much more slowly.  To combat the “24-hour brain dump,” try to fit in a study session every day, even if it is just ten minutes (although an hour a day is better). The more times around the learning circuit, the longer lasting the impression will be.

Simulate the Required Behavior: When studying for an examination, the most effective approach is to closely simulate the behavior you’ll ultimately be required to perform. What this means is that one way to effectively study for a multiple choice test is to take multiple choice practice tests.  Luckily, there are lots of these available.  However…what’s even more effective is writing your own test questions. Writing test questions after studying a section of material is also a great way to keep from getting bored or losing your concentration.

I hope these these study techniques – even if you only use one or two, will help you in your studies.  If you have any questions or comments, let me know!!  Good luck with your studies!!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas  missjane@prodigy.net

The Pisco Wars

I’ve spent the better part of the last month researching the iconic South American brandy known as Pisco. Unfortunately, most of my work has revolved around books and the internet instead of a shot glass.  Suffice it to say, there is a lot of conflicting information and historical turf wars going on surrounding Pisco. But, I’ve discovered the official government websites and culled information from dozens of producers, so here is my article on Pisco!!

Pisco SourPisco has been produced in South America since at least as early as the 1700s, and is thought to have originated with Spanish settlers who brought their technology and traditions of wine production to the New World.

Brandy is widely produced in South America, although Chile and Peru are the only two countries permitted to use the term “Pisco.”  As of May 16, 2013, the TTB (Trade and Tax Bureau) of the United States recognized “Pisco Perú” as a distinctive product of Peru, and “Pisco Chileno” as a distinctive product of Chile.

The birthplace of Pisco, the origin of the name “Pisco,” and even the right to use the term as the name of a beverage is a subject that has long been, and continues to be, hotly debated between Peru and Chile.

While the debate rages on, one thing both countries seem to agree on is that an excellent way to drink Pisco is in the popular cocktail known as the Pisco Sour. The Pisco Sour is considered the “national drink” of both Chile and Peru, and each country even has a national holiday with which to celebrate it. However, both countries claim to be the birthplace of the cocktail, and, like Pisco itself, both have their own version. The Peruvian Pisco Sour is made by mixing Peruvian Pisco with lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white, shaken and served over ice, and garnished with a dash of Angostura bitters.  The Chilean version is made with Chilean Pisco, the juice of Pica Limes (similar to a Key Lime or Mexican Lime), and sugar, shaken and served over with ice.

Pisco MasChilean Pisco:  Chilean Pisco is produced in the Atacama and Coquimbo regions, two official D.O. (Denomination of Origin) wine-producing regions established in 1931.  The Elqui Valley subregion of Coquimbo has emerged as the premier Pisco zone.  The government-based Pisco Chile trade group was formed in 2009 and has set new standards for Chilean Pisco.

The main grapes used for making Chilean Pisco include Pink Muscat, Muscat of Alexandria, Pedro Jiménez, and Torontél.  While Chilean Pisco is traditionally a pomace brandy, some versions are produced using wine. Chilean Pisco is generally double-distilled via pot stills to a maximum strength of 73% alcohol by volume. All Chilean Pisco must rest for a minimum of 60 days before bottling, however, unlike Peruvian Pisco, Chilean Pisco is sometimes aged in wood.

Chilean Pisco is sometimes diluted with water, or cut with neutral spirits to alter the final alcohol content by volume. The products are categorized, based on its minimum alcohol strength by volume, as Pisco Corriente or Tradicional (30%), Pisco Especial (35%), Pisco Reservado (40%), or Gran Pisco (43%).  The minimum alcohol by volume is 40% for those products exported to the United States.

Chilean Pisco, including some of those exported to the United States, is often labeled with the term “Transparent Pisco.” These products are aged for required sixty days, generally in glass, stainless steel, ceramic, or inactive wood. The following styles of wood-aged Pisco are also produced in Chile:

  • Pisco de Guarda: Aged in active French or American oak for a minimum of 180 days.
  • Pisco Envejecido (Aged Pisco):  Aged in active French or American oak for one year, though most producers age for two or more.

Pisco PeruPeruvian Pisco:  According to the Denominación de Origen, Pisco may be produced in the Peruvian departments of Lima, Ica, Arequipa, and Moquegua, as well as the valleys of Locumba, Sama, and Caplina in the Department of Tacna. There are eight grape varieties authorized for use, categorized as “aromatic” and “non-aromatic.” The aromatic varieties are  Italia, Moscatel, Albilla and Torontél; and the non-aromatic varieties include Quebranta, Negra Criolla, and Mollar.

Peruvian Pisco is produced via pot still distillation. Peruvian Pisco is unique in that it must be bottled at the same level of alcohol as when it was produced: additives of any kind – including water and neutral spirits – are prohibited, so the distillation must be precise. Per the regulations of the governing body, the Comisión Nacional del Pisco of Perú, the alcohol percentage must be between 38 and 48 percent.

Peruvian Pisco is not aged in wood, but is required to be aged for a minimum of three months in vessels made of copper, glass, stainless steel, clay, or other inert material. There are three official styles of Peruvian Piscos:

  • Pisco Puro (“Pure” Pisco): A Pisco made from a single grape variety.
  • Pisco Acholado (“Blended Pisco): A Pisco produced with more than one grape variety, generally referring to a blend of aromatic and non-aromatic varieties, or product made with several different types of Pisco blended together.
  • Pisco Mosto Verde (“Green Must Pisco”): Produced via the distillation of partially fermented grape musts before the fermentation is complete.

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

RIP Charlie Trotter

charlie-trotter_cookingRest in peace, Chef Trotter.

Having a dinner (complete with wine pairings) at Charlie Trotter’s place in Chicago was one of my earliest adventures in fine dining.  It must have been 15 years ago…I lucked into a short business trip to Chicago and by some miracle was able to get a late-night reservation for 2 at Trotter’s.

I didn’t know anyone in Chicago (or on the trip with me) so one of my best friends drove over 300 miles just to have that dinner with me (he drove home that same night, while I headed to the airport).  You know who you are…and thanks! True to Chef Trotter’s form, it was an amazing dinner (well worth the money) and was followed up by a tour of the kitchen, a chance to meet the Chef and his staff, and a walk through the wine cellar! I am not sure, but it seemed to me at the time that all customers were given the same end-of-meal treatment.  True hospitality.

By the way, for years, I played the full half-hour-long video version of Charlie Trotter’s Keynote address to the 2008 Conference of the American Culinary Federation for my LCB Supervision Class.  Just try to listen to that speech without being inspired (and ending up crying.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20e4RYNwKR4&feature=player_embedded

He also taught me the right way to pronounce “brigade.”

Thanks for the inspiration, Charlie Trotter…

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