Eight Good Reasons to Tangle with the Text (before Class)

.

If you are taking a wine or spirits class—or just about any academic-style class for that matter—you most likely have a textbook or other written content to accompany the class. In all likelihood, this material defines the structure of your class, and each individual class session is built upon a specific chunk of that content.

News flash: you will be a far better student, a far better colleague, and a more successful exam candidate if you read the assigned content BEFORE the scheduled class, webinar, or lecture.

Here is why:

You set yourself up to learn during class: If your webinar, class, or lecture is your first exposure to the material, it will be a series of “a-ha” moments, and you’ll have lots of basic, background questions running through your head. On the other hand, if the class is your second (or subsequent) exposure to the material, you will have already worked through the basics and will set yourself for deeper understanding and engagement with the material.

You build your all-important bank of background knowledge: By reading the content before class, you are expanding your background knowledge about the topic, and you have created more and more neurological pathways and connections between the bits of subject matter. In other words, you’ve created more “hooks” on which to hang the “facts” that you want to understand and remember.

You won’t injure your hand by maniacal scribbling: If you do not read the material beforehand, you’ll be tempted to write down almost everything the instructor says. While taking notes during a lecture is a great way to learn, the ideal ratio of note taking-to-listening is somewhere around 20%/80%. That means you are taking notes 20% of the time and listening the other 80% of the time. If you are writing most of the time, you will miss a lot of what is going on in the class or lecture.

.

You are better able to focus during class: If you read the content before class, you will have a road map of sorts for the class; you have at least an idea of what to expect. As such, you will be able to follow along with ease.

You can dig deeper: If you show up for class with an understanding of the basics, you can use the class time to concentrate on the more challenging (or detailed) material. In addition, you can take advantage of the availability of the instructor to get your more complex questions answered.

You can jump-start your spaced repetition: If you read the material the day before class, the class itself can serve as your second exposure to the material. With a bit of pre-planning, your class can be a ready-made part of your program of spaced repetition.

You can un-learn what you need to: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been teaching a class when someone asks a question that begins with the words but I thought (as in but I thought all Super Tuscans were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon).  If you always thought that all Super Tuscans were 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, a quick reading of chapter 10 in the Certified Specialist of Wine Study Guide will set your straight. If the subject is still confusing, you can bring it up during class, but the least you can to is come prepared.

And finally—we know (but we love you anyway): Here is a super-secret-teacher-truth: your teacher can easily tell if you have—or have not—read the material ahead of time based on your interactions during class. Just sayin’.

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

Shades of Schistosity

Shale

As a truly committed student of wine, you probably know that shale is a type of soft, foliated sedimentary rock composed (at least in part) of clay minerals and (sometimes) volcanic ash. Shale has visible stratification and a tendency to break or split along “layers” (known as “planes of weakness” or “rock cleavage” in geo-speak). This tendency to split along planes is known as fissility (which is just such a fun word).

You might also know that shale is well-represented in the vineyards of the world, including the Finger Lakes AVA (in New York State) and the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA (in California). Other wine areas known for shale-influenced soils include the western side of Paso Robles, the Mayacamas Mountains (between Napa and Sonoma), Heiligenstein (Alsace), and Austria’s Wachau region.

Shale is fascinating on its own but there’s more to the story, as shale can be transformed into slate, schist, or gneiss. These three types of rock are produced via varying degrees of metamorphism—changes resulting from heat, pressure, and deformation—and they all have different appearances and characteristics. Some of these differences are discussed below:

Slate

Slate: Slate, formed from shale, is a finely grained rock that may be formed under relatively low temperature and pressure conditions (low-grade metamorphism). Slate tends to be one solid color in addition to being very hard and brittle; when broken, it will form flat, smooth surfaces. Germany has several vineyards areas celebrated for their slate soils; these include the Mosel and the Rheingau—both of which also have significant outcroppings of shale (now we know why). Other wine areas rich in slate include the Clare Valley, the Cebreros VCIG (in Castilla y León), and Chile’s Aconcagua Valley.

Schist: Schist is formed (from slate or mudstone) under moderate levels of heat and pressure (metamorphic forces). Schist is identifiable by its visible “grains” (in layered formation), dull luster, and schistosity—the layer-like foliation that is found in certain coarse-grained metamorphic rocks. Despite the fact that it reminds me of a wine-geeky, made-up word (like matchsticky or porch-pounder), schistosity is a real thing.

Schist

Several vineyard regions are regarded as rich in both slate and schist; these include Priorat (Spain) and the Douro Valley (of Portugal). Parts of Tuscany are known for galestro—a soil rich in both clay and schist. Other areas known to be rich in schist include Corbières, Côte-Rôtie, Kastelberg (Alsace), the Valais (Switzerland), Ribeira Sacra, and Savennières. These areas are often described as having schistous soils—although schistous is definitely a made-up/wine geek word and does not appear in the geological lexicon (Maltman: Vineyards, Rocks, and Soils, p. 103). Schistes, however, is a real word (in French)—there is even a wine association to prove it: L’Association des Terroirs de Schistes.

Gneiss

Gneiss: Given the right combination of intense heat, pressure, and (perhaps) chemical activity, schist can transform into gneiss. Gneiss has visible “bands” of various colors composed of various minerals (gneissose banding). Having been formed under intense metamorphic pressures, gneiss is much heavier and harder than slate and schist and does not typically break along its foliation planes.

Vineyard regions known for gneiss include the Pays Nantais, Margaret River, Wachau, Kamptal, and the Middleburg AVA in Virginia (USA).

  • If you’d like to learn more about dirt, rocks, and soils, join me on May 2 (10:00 am) or May 6 (7:00 pm) for SWE’s Webinar, the Dish on Dirt. It’s free, and open-to-the-public. All of the other info is in the link.

References/for more information:

  • Feiring, Alice (2017). The Dirty Guide to Wine. New York: The Countryman Press.
  • Franzmeier, Donald, William McFee, John Graveel, and Helmut Kohnke (2016). Soil Science Simplified, 5th edition. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press.
  • Maltman, Alex (2018). Vineyards, Rocks, & Soils: The Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology. New York, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Robinson, Jancis and Julia Harding: The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4th Edition. Oxford, 2015: The Oxford University Press.
  • White, Robert (2009). Understanding Vineyard Soils. Oxford University Press.
  • http://www.terroirsdeschistes.com/
  • https://geology.com/rocks

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

 

 

Five Fast Facts about Budbreak

.

Despite the craziness of the world around us, the natural cycle of life continues. One of the most fascinating to witness—for students of wine—is the life cycle of the vineyard. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, we are witnessing the blooming of spring—and along with it—the breaking of buds in the vineyard.

In homage to this annual miracle, here are five fast (fascinating) facts about budbreak in the vineyard.

#1: In a typical year in the Northern Hemisphere, budbreak will begin in mid-March. In years of oddball weather, it may begin to occur as early as mid-February or as late as mid-April. In the Southern Hemisphere, the process typically begins in mid-September, but can be as early as August or as late as October.

.

#2: Within a single vine, those buds that are furthest away from the trunk will break first; in some cases, this may occur several days before those located closer to the trunk. This is particularly apparent when canes are left upright; in such cases the buds furthest from the trunk (the more distal buds) will be observed to burst several days before those closer to the trunk (basal buds). This phenomenon, known as apical dominance, can be avoided by bending or cracking the cane.

#3: The most direct correlation between mother nature and budbreak is the cumulative effect of the warming air temperature once it hits an average of 10°C/50°F. This temperature is sometimes referred to as the “growth threshold” and will signal the nascent buds to shed their fuzzy exterior and break free. Soil temperature may also be a contributing factor, so a wet-and-cold late winter (resulting in wet soils that retain the cold temperatures) can slide bud break back a few days or weeks. (According to the website of Penn State Extension/Wine and Grapes there is conflicting information on whether or not soil temperature affects the timing of bud break. In some studies, Cabernet Sauvignon vines show a correlation between the date of bud break and rising soil temperatures. Alternatively, some studies show no correlation between soil temperatures and the timing of bud break in Syrah.) Other factors that influence the timing of budbreak include photoperiod (day length) and chemical (hormonal) plant growth regulators that help to maintain the plant’s period of dormancy even in the face of mid-winter warm spells.

.

#4: While many factors contribute to the timing of budbreak in a given vineyard in a given year, some varieties are known for their tendency towards early budbreak. Likewise, some grapes tend to be late breakers. Here is a list of some of the better-known varieties, arranged by their tendencies regarding bud-break and ripening:

  • Early bud break/early ripening: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot
  • Early bud break/mid-to-late ripening: Chenin Blanc, Grenache, Viognier
  • Late bud break/early ripening: Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah
  • Late bud break/mid-to-late ripening: Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon

#5: Fun with fruit trivia: Grapevines need a slightly higher base (air) temperature than is required to induce bud break in many other fruits. Fruit trees such as apple, peach, cherry, and apricot tend to break bud when the average air temperature reaches 39° to 41 °F (3.8° to 5°C).

The most important aspect of bud break, at least in my opinion, is that is represents the hope for a successful year, to be followed by flowering, fruit set, veraison, ripening, harvest, and (several months or several years later) more wine for all of us lucky humans. Bring on the buds!

References/for more information:

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

Confusion Corner: Slovenia, Slavonia, Slovakia

.

As a wine student, you’ve heard the terms…Slovenian Sivi Pinot and Slavonian Oak. You may also have heard that a tiny portion of the Tokaj region crosses the border of Hungary, extending into Slovakia.

You may have thought that these three terms—Slovenia, Slavonia, Slovakia—are so similar in spelling and pronunciation that they represent the exact same thing expressed in three similar languages. (I thought that for a very long time.) However, here’s the truth: these are three separate places in three distinct countries, and they each have their own fascinating story when it comes to wine.

So here goes:

Slovenia: Slovenia is one of the countries to emerge from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1918–1941)—later known as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1945–1992). Others include Croatia (more on that later), Montenegro, Bosnia–Herzegovina, and Serbia. Slovenia is a mountainous country located just to the east of Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia region.  Slovenia has been a member of the European Union since 2004.

.

Slovenia’s wine connection: Slovenia—located between Italy, Austria, Croatia, and Hungary—has a long history of viticulture and wine production. Many of Slovenia’s wine regions are located along the border with Italy, and could almost be considered “extensions” of the Italian areas; these include Slovenia’s Goriška Brda region that rests alongside Italy’s Collio Goriziano DOC, as well as Slovenia’s Kras region/Italy’s Carso DOC. Slovenia has close to 22,300 ha/55,100 acres of vineyards. Approximately 75% of the country’s output is white wine; leading white grapes include Riesling, Gewürztraminer (Traminec), Müller-Thurgau (Rizvanec), Pinot Gris (Sivi Pinot), Sauvignon Blanc, and Ribolla Gialla.

Slavonia: Slavonia is—along with Istria, Central Croatia, and Dalmatia—one of the four historical regions of Croatia. Croatia—one of the countries to emerge from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (along with Slovenia)—became a member of the EU in 2013. The Slavonian region is located in the eastern (inland) section of Croatia; it borders Hungary (to the north), Serbia (to the east), and Bosnia–Herzegovina (to the south).

.

Slavonia’s wine connection: Croatia has a long and well-documented history of wine production as well as international fame as the native home of the Crljenak Kaštelanski grape variety and its lineage (including Primitivo and Zinfandel). Croatia’s vineyards are divided roughly into two sections—Kontinentalna Hrvatska (inland, or continental Croatia) and Primorska Hrvatska (coastal Croatia)—and contain several EU-designated geographical indications.

However…the region of Slavonia is particularly famous for its oak. The next time you hear of a wine being aged in Slavonian oak barrels, please direct your thoughts to the lightly forested, inland area of northern Croatia. Slavonian oak—known for its compact fibers, tight grain, and sweet aromas—allows wine to undergo a long, slow oxidation in the barrel. Large barrels made from Slavonian oak are all the rage in Tuscany, Veneto, and Piedmont. The next time you enjoy Amarone, Chianti Classico, or Barolo, check the winemaker’s notes—it might have spent some time in Slavonian oak.

Slovakia: Along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia is one of the two countries to emerge from the sovereign state of Czechoslovakia, which lasted from 1918 (upon the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) to 1993 (when it peacefully dissolved into the two countries). Slovakia is a landlocked country tucked between Poland, Ukraine, Hungary (to the south), Austria, and the Czech Republic. Slovakia has been a member of the EU since 2004.

.

Slovakia’s wine connection: Slovakia has over 20,000 ha/49,000 acres of vineyards. The country has 400 wineries and nine EU-designated protected (PDO) regions. The majority of the vineyards are located along the country’s western border (alongside Austria) and southern border (alongside Hungary).  Leading white grapes include Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, and Pinot Gris; leading red grapes include Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. Outside of Europe, the wines of Slovakia are not (yet) very well-known; however, the area is famous for its production of Tokajská—a small portion of  Hungary’s famous (and historic) Tokaj-producing region that extends northward into Slovak territory. When Hungary and Slovakia joined the European Union in the early 2000s, both countries agreed to abide by the same standards in viticulture, wine production and labeling for the wines labeled as Tokaji or Tokajská.

References/for more information:

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

eBook—The Bubbly Professor’s Guide: How to Study for a Wine or Spirits Theory Exam

.

We’re pleased to announce the publication and release (for FREE) an eBook entitled :The Bubbly Professor’s Guide: How to Study for a Wine or Spirits Theory Exam.

This material, based on extended research as well as my personal experience as a lifelong learner and 25+ years as a professional educator, was originally published—bit by bit—as a series of blog posts on here on the Bubbly Professor.

I began to post learning-and education-based articles on the blog many years ago. I had noticed, over the decades, that my students—whether they be young or old, based in the United States or China, college students or middle-aged career-changers—all shared the same common concerns about how best to tackle the overwhelming task of studying wine and spirits. Eventually, I ended up with a series of articles directed at adult learners that were scattered throughout the blog and as such, not conducive to ease-of-use.

For that reason, I have put together this booklet that brings all the information together in one place. It is currently offered free-of-charge and available to all interested parties.

Keep in mind that it is likely that not everything in this booklet with resonate with you; people certainly learn in different ways and at their own pace. However, for those that take the time to read it over, I hope it helps you with your study plans and goals.

To download the ebook (in pdf form), just click here: The Bubbly Professor on How to Study for a Wine or Spirits Theory Exam

I welcome your comments and questions, and may be reached at: missjane@prodigy.net

Happy Studies!

Jane A. Nickles

How NOT to Take Notes

.

It happens at least once a week. I get a frantic email from a student who is feeling overwhelmed, confused, and hopeless. I ask if they are reading the text and taking notes, using the workbook, making and/or using flashcards, and studying their maps. A typical response is, “I use the workbook and the flashcards—for hours!” Or, “I watched all the videos five times each!” Or, “I’m very visual, so reading just doesn’t work for me.” To which I respond, “Just reading doesn’t work for anybody. What you need to do is read and take notes.”

I get that reading and taking notes from a textbook is not the most hilarious way to spend a Friday night or Sunday morning—but when it comes to learning, it works. Simply put, proper note-taking is essential to learning success, and provides two basic benefits::

  1. The act of note-taking (when done properly) involves processing, summarizing, and writing down information. This is an active learning activity that (by itself) will help you understand and retain what you read.
  2. Your notes are a living document and you will continue to learn when adding to, reciting, and studying your notes.

When it comes to taking notes—efficiently and effectively—my first piece of advice is to use active reading techniques before you even start. This means previewing the material before diving right in; and reading a small segment of the material from start to finish before you take notes. You are ready to begin your notes once you understand the main topic of the section and you recognize what you don’t already know as well as what is important to remember.

If we’re all agreed on this first step, let’s investigate how to take notes efficiently and effectively. This section is built around some of the more common missteps I’ve observed, along with some alternative techniques that work.

Don’t do this: Copy the textbook or speaker word-for-word. Instead, prioritize and paraphrase. Take notes after you’ve read the section through at least once, and note down just the key words, phrases and bit of information IN YOUR OWN WORDS. Copying something verbatim does very little to engage your mind and memory. If you don’t believe me, copy a sentence from a French textbook (assuming you don’t speak French) and see how much you understand. The most important step in effective note taking is deciding what information is important, where that information fits into the “big picture,” and paraphrasing the information (putting it in your own words). It is not exactly quick, but its effective. Remember, reading and taking notes verbatim might be quick…but it is a waste of time.

Some exceptions to this rule include dates, definitions, formulas, and quotations. (Don’t be a creative accountant.)

Don’t do this: Ignore the structure provided by the book. Instead, follow the visual cues from the text. The author(s) of your textbook developed a system of chapters, headings, and sections for a reason—to provide a framework for the information presented and a visual hierarchy of the main concept. This is good news for the note-taking students of the world; there’s no need to make up your own framework of create an amorphous, impossible-to-understand blob of notes. Just follow the author. While doing so, pay close attention to the material written in bold or italics—these are often key concepts or vocabulary words.

Don’t do this: Fill the entire page from top to bottom. Instead, leave some space on the page.  Your learning and understanding is going to evolve over the course of your studies, and you might want to add additional notes or clarify some information. It can also be very helpful to add drawings, diagrams, charts, and summaries to your notes—and you’ll need space to do this.

One other little tip—mark the page number of the text (or more thorough bibliographical information if studying from a variety of sources such as articles and websites) at the top of each page of notes. It will help you if you need to go back and clarify some information.

Don’t do this: Build a fortress of factoids. Instead, include keywords, cues, and ready-made review questions. You are going to want to use your notes for review and revision, and you can ensure an active revision if you include a ready-made cue section in your notes. In the very popular Cornell method of notetaking, this is a dedicated section off to one side of the page where you jot down keywords, review questions, or a few words signaling the main topics or essential points. Use these scribbles to quiz yourself during your review sessions.

P.S. A lot has been written about the different styles of notetaking, such as the Cornell method, the outline method, or visual/web/mind mapping. My best advice is to find the one that works for you and stick with it. You can read a nice, succinct article about the three methods here.

Don’t do this: Highlight everything. Instead, highlight sparingly—if at all. I see it all. the. time. A student emails me a question (good study technique, by the way) and they’ve included a photo of their textbook showing the passage they can’t understand. The picture shows a sea of pretty colors—the student has highlighted the entire page (or close to it). What this tells me is that the student highlighted the textbook on their first read-through, and marked almost every sentence, as they encountered a whole raft of new information.

If you do use a highlighter, be sure and keep it locked away during the preview stage and your first reading of the material. Use it on a subsequent read to highlight key words, cues, or definitions. In most circumstances, its best to aim to use your highlighter on no more than 20% to 30% of the total material.

Note: I prefer to take notes rather than highlight, and I don’t specifically recommend highlighting source if asked for study advice; however, if asked, I do not dissuade folks from highlighting if they feel it works for them. (I do, however, think that highlighting your notes can be an effective part of revision.)

Don’t do this: After you’ve taken your notes, ignore them. Instead, review your notes on a regular basis. An ideal practice is to review your notes the next day by answering your own questions, reading them aloud, or reciting definitions of your key words or cues (using your own words).

One more thing: I think if you are taking notes, whether it be by hand, on a laptop, or into a note-taking app, you are on the right tract. However, there are those that believe handwritten is the way to go. For more information on this subject, click here.

Duly noted!

Click here to check out the rest of our posts on “How to Study Wine and Spirits”

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

A Textbook is Not a Novel—the Art of Active Reading

The first rule of studying from a textbook is this: a textbook is not a novel. There are no sudden twists and turns, no smoldering romances, and very little slow burn of dramatic tension to keep you up well past midnight, turning page after page to find out who did what to whom…

As serious students of wine and spirits, we need to read. However, we cannot expect to pick up a textbook, crack the cover, and be instantly spellbound. As a matter of fact, students are advised NOT to pick up the book, dive right in and read the book from front to back. In most cases, this is a serious waste of time. The alternative is active reading.

.

How can you tell if you are engaging in active reading, as opposed to passive reading?

  • If you dive right in and just start reading…that’s passive reading
  • If you get bored and fidgety after five minutes….that’s passive reading
  • If you are reading while lying on the beach with your toes in the sand, listening to the crash of the waves, gazing at the water in between paragraphs…that’s passive reading
  • If you can’t remember what you’ve read an hour after you are finished…that’s passive reading—and you have just wasted a whole bunch of time and effort

Instead, let’s get active. There are a lot of systems that can be used for active reading—some of which get quite elaborate like S-Q-3R, P-4R, CP-3-0 or what have you—and these are excellent tools  encompassing the entirety of reading, studying, and taking notes.

For this post, I’d like to concentrate on just reading: active reading, that is. And, at the risk of sounding systematic, I’d like to discuss three steps: Preview, Question, Read.

Step one—Preview: Instead of diving right in—without really knowing where the text is going to take you—skim through the material first. Check out the titles and sub-titles, the charts, the graphs, and the pictures. In other words, take a few minutes and get an overview of what you are going to read. It’s like looking at a map before you arrive in a new city—you want to have a feel for the lay of the land before you start to drive around. This quick preview will help you to see the “big picture” (context) of the material and provide a bit of familiarity with the subject before you dive into the deep end.

When I approach a new module or chapter of a textbook, I like to take a few minutes to flip through the entire chapter. However, I think it’s even more important to do a quick preview each time you sit down to study, and to do this in such a way as to ensure that you first define the boundaries of your reading and proceed through the material in manageable “chunks’ or short sections.  This is easy to do, but important. By setting boundaries for your reading—whether it be a paragraph or a chapter, you help to maintain your focus. You know where you are going to begin, and where you are going to stop for a break.

Step two—Question: Take a minute to think about the material. What do you already know about the material? This can help your put the topic into its proper context. What do you think will be the main topic of the section? This can give you a purpose (looking for the answer) and can help maintain your interest. The “questioning” step should not take more than a few minutes, but it can go a long way in helping you stay focused on the reading.

Step three—Read: The next step is a thorough reading of the material. You need to read slowly and systematically, focusing on understanding and processing the information. Toss out any ideas you have of reading on “automatic pilot” with the goal of merely reaching the end.

Keep in mind that this is not quite yet the ideal time to take notes (that’s the next step). Taking notes at this stage will break up the flow of your reading and diminish your understanding. Taking notes too soon is not very productive, seeing as you aren’t likely to know if the first sentence is worth taking notes on until you read the rest of the section. Once you are through the section, you’ll have the perspective to know what’s important enough to put down in your notes, but for this step, focus on reading through the section and understanding the material.

Active reading is nothing like reading a novel…it’s a real mental workout. And—as everyone knows—workouts are not always fun, but the lasting benefits are well worth the struggle!

Click here to check out the rest of our posts on “How to Study Wine and Spirits”

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