My Advice – How to Prepare for the CWE Exam

essay questions 2I first posted an advice column on  “How to Study for the CWE Exam” just about a year ago, and as it has been one of my all-time most visited blog posts, I thought I would post an update.

So…if you are a CWE aspriant and have any questions, this post’s for you!!

As always, I am always happy to answer any questions you have, so send me an email if you do!

Good luck with your studies!

The Bubbly Professor’s Advice on How to Prepare for the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) Exam:

1.  Know the CSW Study Guide.  The CWE material obviously goes “above and beyond” the CSW, but it’s a great place to start. (True fact, when I was studying for my CWE it’s the only thing I used for my dedicated CWE study time.)

2. Study at least one other comprehensive wine reference from the CWE Reading List, such as “Exploring Wine”, “The Oxford Companion to Wine”, or “The World Atlas of Wine.” Click here for a copy of the  CWE Recommended Reading List 2014 . If you will be taking the exam in 2015, you can find the CWE Recommended Reading List 2015 here. Sure, I understand that these books are not easy reading, and while I sympathize, I have to say…they are not supposed to be.

3. When I suggest that you “study” a book what I really mean is read it through, cover to cover, and take notes on everything that you find applicable to your study.  Then, clean up those notes and use them as your study material for the last few weeks leading up to your exam.

4. Keep up with as least one website or periodical from the CWE Recommended Reading List. Current topics, particularly changes in wines laws or regulations, are sure to be covered on the mulitiple choice exam, and might show up in essay topics as well. May I suggest “Wine, Wit, and Wisdom,” the official blog of the Society of Wine Educators. (Full disclosure: I’m the blog administrator…hopefully this advice does not seem self-serving. But…I do try to take the topics from the CSW (and CSS) study guides and go “above and beyond” in my posts on the blog – see point #1.)

Day One Week One Wine Class5.  Get a Wine Faults Kit from SWE and practice with the faults.  By “practice” I mean mix them up, label your glasses and analyze the faults.  Really look at them, smell them, and (if you need to) taste them and write down your impressions.  Then go back and try to “test yourself.”  You probably will need to do this more than once!  It might also be fun, and more educational to do this in a group.  (Just be sure and have some good wine for your friends after all those faulty wines…)

6.  Make your own “wine grape cheat sheets” for the major vinifera varietals and know the following information about each one of them: the major regions where they are grown, and the typical viticulture, vinificaiton, and wine styles made from those grapes in each of their major regions.  This is to prepare you for a compare/contrast essay question as well as many possible multiple choice questions.

7.  Study and be prepared to compare/contrast some of the basic wine making techniques and viticultural topics: stainless vs. oak, the various methods of cap management, single varietal vs. blended, warm weather vs. cool climate viticulture, etc.  This is also to prepare for a possible essay question.

writers block8. Be prepared to discuss some of the more recent trends in wine via an essay question, such as enclosures, high-alcohol wines, orange wines (old but new), emerging wine regions in Asia, fraudulent and “fake” wines, global warming, new rules and regulations via the EU, former Soviet Bloc wine regions re-invigorating their wine industries, the 100-point scale debate, etc.

9.  Speaking of essays, if you are not 100% confident in your writing abilities, spend some time researching the basic format of a “five paragraph essay.” (Obviously, disregard those written for fifth graders and find one from the website of a college or university.)  The “Five Paragraph Essay” is the basic format for just about any type of persuasive or informative writing, and if you are unsure of your writing skills it will help you organize your thoughts and statements, especially when you are faced with attempting to answer an essay question in an hour.  For a great overview of what the essay graders are looking for, click here for a copy of the CWE Essay Rubric – 2014 .

 10 To prepare for the wine identification portion of the exam, taste, study and take notes on the basic, well-known wines of the world.  In my opinion, these would include:  German Riesling, Vouvray, Alsatian Gewurztraminer, New World Chard, White Burgundy, White Bordeaux, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Lodi Viognier, Fumé Blanc, Sancerre, Muscadet, Rías Baixas, and Torrontés.  For the reds, I’d study Beaujolais, Red Burgundy, Oregon Pinot, Red Bordeaux, Napa Cab, Napa Meritage, Paso Robles Zinfandel, Rioja, Chianti, G-S-M, Argentine Malbec, Australian Shiraz, Cahors,  one of the Nebbiolo-based wines, and a varietal Grenache.

wine class11.  Get a copy of the SWE Tasting Rationale 2014 Wine sheet and practice using it.

12.  As you make your way to the presentation skills demonstration, take a look at the Tips on Writing a CWE Presentation Skills Outline that will be Approved and the CWE Presentation – Rubric 2014

More information may be found on SWE’s website. 

Bubbly Disclaimer:  This is my own personal advice, based on my own experience and that of my friends.  This is not to be considered “official” advice from any school or organization.  I hope that you enjoy your wine studies and that you are successful in your certification endeavors.  Cheers!

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

13 Responses to My Advice – How to Prepare for the CWE Exam

  1. winegal23 says:

    Once again you have provided great advice and resources! Can not thank you enough!

  2. Excellent advice. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

  3. foxress says:

    What a wealth of information you are! Thank you, Miss Jane for sharing your knowledge and experience.

  4. Brian Windham says:

    What a fantastic email! Thank you for taking the time to lay the information out like this and give aspiring CWE students some helpful hints and study direction.

    Sent from my iPhone Brian Windham Cell 210.325.4942

  5. Bart Zandbergen says:

    Hi! I am actually studying for my CSW exam on 10/1. Do you have advice for that …and practice exams, flash cards??

    Also…I can’t seem to figure out how to sign up for your Wit wisdom and wind blog??


    Bart A. Zandbergen, CFP Financial Management Network, Inc

    Office 949.455.0300×218 Mobile 714.313.5306

    • bubblyprof says:

      Hi Bart!! I have tons of materials for the CSW. Check out the navigation buttons on the top of the blog…where you see “wine quizzes” there are numerous quizzes for CSW students (wine minis, regional wine quizzes, topical wine quizzes) as well as CSW practice exams. Also check out the “wine flashcards” – they are all written for CSW-level study. As for Wine, Wit, and Wisdom, all you have to do is click…we don’t yet have a mechanism for subscribing (working on it!). Good luck with your studies!! Jane N.

  6. Once again, Miss Jane, you have offered encouragement, a re-focus, and great information for all aspiring CWE’s. Thank you!

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