Un-study Techniques: Wine (or Liquor) Store Archaeology

This is the ninth post in our series about “un-study techniques” for use in wine and spirits studies.  Un-study techniques are all about what to do when you need to study…but you just can’t stand the thought of it. Click here to view our other posts on un-study techniques.

The next time you find yourself wandering the aisles of your favorite wine or liquor store, use that time to do a bit of digging. With the right tools, a bit of liquor store archaeology can lead to a valuable educational find!

Here’s a plan:

  • Decide upon a type of wine or spirit that you want to uncover.
  • Visit a (preferably local) wine or liquor store with a good reputation for knowledgeable staff and selection. Talk to the staff members and see what they can tell you about the store selection and how the product makes its way to the shelves. Ask them for their advice on the products and see what you can learn from them. Caveats: be sure and demonstrate humility and gratitude; and please quit before you are tagged as a stalker or a nuisance.
  • Take note of the price range exhibited for the product you are interested in; and purchase a representative (or otherwise interesting) bottle.
  • Taste the wine/spirit and record your tasting notes.
  • Thoroughly read the information found on the label(s) and packaging. It’s particularly interesting to note the information regarding the producer (winery/distillery), place of origin, and importer.
  • Go online and find the producer and/or importer’s website. See what you can learn from the marketing materials that pop up (which will be hard to miss). However, what you really want to find is information on how the wine or spirit was produced. Wineries often post winemaker’s notes and/or technical sheets. Distilleries often provide a link to “how it’s made” and/or pictures of their tanks and stills. Often, the best place to look for this type of information is on a navigation button that reads “trade materials” or “for the trade.”
  • Your goal is to learn as much as you can about the specific product, and well as the product category, particularly regarding the rules and regulations concerning production.
  • Considering the available price range and the price point of the bottle you bought, what factors do you think contributed to the price of your bottle? Why were the others more or less expensive? What is a specific production technique, age (or lack of it), supply and demand, what the market will bear, creative marketing, quality, reputation—or none of the above?

Happy hunting!

Click here to view our other posts on how to study wine and spirits.

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

Flashcards: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Flashcards: most wine and spirits students use them; many despise them. As for myself, like most educators, I have a love/hate relationship with flashcards. Here’s why:

The Bad: Flashcards can be used solely for “rote memorization” and are often blamed for the trivialization of knowledge and an ensuing army of factoid-focused nerds.    

The Ugly: I know students who skip their reading assignments or their lectures—and dive straight into memorizing the cards.  These folks are robbing themselves of the opportunity to gain a true understanding of the subject matter.

And yet, flashcards can be an efficient and effective study method, which leads us to:

The Good: Flashcards utilize active recall and are a natural way to use spaced and targeted repetition. They are best used for fact-heavy (as opposed to concept-heavy) topics and as such, work well for vocabulary words, dates, regulations (aging requirements, grape[s] allowed in a certain product), numbers (yields, abv) and any manner of facts and figures. Flashcards also trigger your meta-cognitive faculties (did I get it right? yeah me!) which can help with attention and engagement. They’re bite-sized and portable, and a great way to use small bursts of time to study.

And…believe it or not—flashcards can, with a few tweaks, be useful for a deeper level of learning well beyond rote memorization, which leads us to:

The Excellent: Here are a few ideas for the most excellent use of flashcards:

Say the answers aloud: Whether reading, quizzing, summarizing, or flashcarding, studying out loud is always a good idea. As a more active form of study, it uses more senses (sight, hearing), and motor activity than just reading. This leads to better memory retention!


Add in a bit of elaboration: Don’t just state—elaborate! Using hot pink or bright yellow cards, create a deck of “instructional” flashcards with questions. These questions, used alongside your fact-based cards, should encourage you to think a bit deeper on the topic at hand. To use, shuffle the decks together, placing an instructional card at intervals of 3 or 4 cards—or keep the decks separate and use an instructional card along with every few fact-based cards. Some wine-related examples of instructional questions might include:

  • Have you ever had this wine? If so, describe it. If not, describe a wine have you had that is similar.
  • What is unique about this wine/region/grape/place/regulation?
  • Is this regulation stricter or more lenient than most?
  • What region, city, or landmark is close to this area?
  • What is the quality/reputation/price point of the wine/region/place (whatever fits)?

You can keep this technique super-simple and in your head by asking yourself one of these cheeky questions after every other card:

  • Who cares?
  • So what?
  • And this matters why…?

In my opinion, this study technique destroys the flashcards-equal-factoids conceit. Boom.

Use Confidence-based Repetition: Confidence-based repetition allows you to focus on what you need to learn without spending valuable study time on things that you already know. Here’s how it works: as you go through a stack of cards, divide it into three piles depending on how confident you are in your knowledge, and as your revision progresses, concentrate on the material you don’t know well (or at all). You can label these three piles as follows: “I know it (heck yeah),” “I kind of know it (I’ve heard of it, but can’t remember it),” or “I don’t know it (I have no clue/WTF).” As you progress, your “don’t know” stacks will get smaller and smaller, and when your “I have no clue” pile is tiny, add those cards into your next stack and move on.


Best practices for a pre-made/digital deck: If your subject matter is super-fact-heavy, a pre-made flashcard deck can save you time. But please-please-please make sure your deck comes from a reliable source (not a random stranger off the internet). Once you’ve determined your flashcards are legit, here’s an idea of how best to use them: run through a stack/section of flashcards one time to see how you do. If you miss nearly all of them, go back to some other forms of study and revision, and then try again. When you reach the point where you get at least half of them correct, copy down (make physical copies of) just the cards you missed and work from there.

Make your own cards: Creating your own cards is a form of active learning. It involves summarizing complex topics into concise statements, and at the very least requires you to write something down. Using new information (whether it be writing something, saying something, or creating something) triggers the production effect. This means that you are more apt to remember something that you personally made, did, or said. Heck, it’s now part of your life experience and more memorable than something that you just read or heard.

Stay excellent: Avoid the following flashcard foibles:

  • Wrong time: Do NOT be tempted to dive straight into the flashcards or (gasp!) attempt to use flashcards as a means of instruction. The proper use of flashcards is in the revision/review stage of learning—after the student has the “big picture” and a good understanding of the surrounding concepts.
  • Wrong subject: Flashcards are not the most effective study technique for complicated subject matter, concepts involving hierarchies, anything that requires a two-page flowchart, or subjects that are mired in debate and/or opinion. They are also not ideal for the study of geography…unless you paste (or draw) an actual picture or map on the flashcard.
  • Over-reliance: Flashcards are not a silver bullet to wine or spirits wisdom and should always be used in conjunction with other forms of study and revision.

In conclusion: if someone tells you that flashcards are a bad way to study, react in shock and surprise— pretend they just told you that they don’t like a good old-fashioned make-out session with someone they love. Just roll your eyes and tell them (in your best Marlene Dietrich voice), “well, dahling, you must be doing it wrong.”

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

Spaced Repetition: Conquer the Curve of Forgetting


If you are studying for a wine or spirits certification you already know that studying takes time. A lot of time. Just yesterday it took me two hours to read through and take notes on two pages covering the history of wine making in Bordeaux. (And this morning, I can’t remember a thing.)

One thing to keep in mind in the midst of all this book-and-flashcard work is that more does not always equal better in terms of study time. As a matter of fact, science tells us that you will retain more knowledge if you space out your study sessions rather than if you try to do it all at once—even if the total amount of study time is the equal. This sounds like good news to me: five hours of study, spread over a period of time (whether it be 5 days or five weeks) is more effective than five hours of cram time (and it’s easier to take as well).

In other words—just like with physical exercise—you are likely to see the best results if you use multiple, well-spaced study sessions, as opposed to a few long (probably miserable) nights of cramming-for-the-test.


Hermann Ebbinghaus—a German psychologist who pioneered the study of memory in 1885—was one of the first to examine this phenomenon. Simply put, he observed that after learning new material, his subjects forgot 50% of the information within 30 minutes. After 24 hours, they had forgotten between 70% and 80%. Ebbinghaus dubbed this phenomenon of declining memory retention “the curve of forgetting.”

Ebbinghaus also noticed that with each repeated exposure to the new material, the speed of forgetting slowed significantly. As such, he asserted that the best way to combat the curve was through spaced intervals of active recall—what we call “spaced repetition” or “spaced practice.”

The goal of spaced repetition is to re-visit that new material when it is foggy but not completely forgotten. For most people, this means that the ideal time to revisit newly learned material is one or two days after that first exposure.  This should be followed by another short revision session after another two or three days, followed by a series of reviews spaced so that each succeeding interval is progressively longer than the one before. Remember—just like with physical muscles—every time you flex your mental muscles with a review of the material, the memory will be stronger and take a bit longer to fade.

Artist’s rendition of the curve of forgetting. Actual results may vary.

Since this is a wine and spirits blog, let’s hold an imaginary class. For the wine students, we’re having a class on the white wines of Tuscany. The spirits students are having a class on the iconic spirits of Galicia. You attend your class (and take some notes), and—like a good student should—you read you textbook and take some hand-written notes on the material in the book. Now…what do you do with your new-found knowledge and your valuable notes?

Here’s a sample sequence of how you might use spaced repetition to enhance your learning: after your first exposure (the class), review the material the next day. Skip two days and revise the material again;  then skip 3 or 4 days before revising the material; then skip 5 or 6 days (and revise again). After those five repetitions, the knowledge is going to start to stick, and you can slide the material into a longer rotation so that you review it a few more times (maybe once a week or once a month) before your deadline—whether it be an exam, job interview, competition, meet-the-parents, or some other such event. For best results, be sure and combine spaced repetition with active recall study methods (its more fun than just re-reading your notes and much more effective).

All it takes is bit of organization and some (intervals of) time. With the help of spaced repetition, you too can conquer the curve of forgetting!

References/for more information:

P.S. Here’s a little secret—cramming works. Pulling an all-nighter will help your performance on a test. However, if you cram, you will soon forget almost everything you learned. If you never want nor need to use the information again, cramming is your answer. If, on the other hand, you want to be able to use the information in the future…space it out!

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


Aspect: East, West, (and Romeo’s)

What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Many people will recognize these famous lines  from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 2) . However, it would take a true-and-total wine geek to understand how hearing that line—one of the most romantic ever written—inspired me to write a blog post about east-west aspect and its effect on a vineyard (and yet it did). Something about Romeo invoking the sun rising in the east reminded me of the concept of eastern aspect—as it was used in a recent discussion of the vineyards of the Côte d’Or—and here we are.


Wine students are well-aware that in the Northern Hemisphere, south-facing slopes (hillsides with southern aspect) receive the benefit of more direct sunlight (solar radiation/insolation) than other areas (those that are flat or facing north). These directions are flip-flopped in the Southern Hemisphere, where hillsides with a northern aspect have the sunshine advantage. The CliffsNotes version of north-south aspect is that if a hill faces the equator, it receives the bonus insolation.

Lesser known to wine students (but very important to realtors, as I learned) are the effects of eastern and western aspects, as discussed below:

Eastern aspect: These vineyards receive sunshine in the morning, when the sun’s rays are at their gentlest, and the ambient temperature is comparatively cool. This morning glow helps to dry out the vineyards from dew and overnight rain, helping to prevent fungi, mildew, and some disease. Eastern aspect can “kick-start” photosynthesis in the morning and can also help prevent vines from over-heating in the hot afternoons. Vineyards with eastern aspect tend to have lower maximum daytime temperatures, cooler overall ambient temperatures, and may experience delayed budbreak as compared to other spots.

Western aspect: Vineyards on west-facing slopes receive a good deal of sunlight during the afternoon—typically the warmest time of the day. Vineyards with western aspect may warm earlier in the spring and be among the first vines to undergo budbreak. Western aspect can be especially beneficial in areas near the coast and other places that are susceptible to wind and marginal weather. Western aspect can be a boon to late-ripening and heat-seeking grapes that require a lot of warmth and energy in order to fully ripen. However, It can be a challenge in areas prone to humidity, as the drying-out of dew-, fog-, or rain-related moisture will occur later in the day (as compared to east-facing vines).

Does that make sense to you, Romeo?

References/for more information:

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


Confusion Corner: Loir (not Loire)


First things first: there is an actual Loir River and Loir Valley, and they are geographically close to—but not the same things as—the Loire River and the Loire Valley.

And yet, if you tell your friends you are going to the Loir Valley to taste Chenin Blanc, visit the gardens of the Prieuré de Vauboin, and tour the stunning Château du Lude—they would probably guess that you are going to the Loire Valley.

The Château du Lude in France’s Loir Valley. Photo credit: Manfred Heyde via Wikimedia Commons

Your destination, however, would be the valley of the Loir—a river that flows somewhat parallel to and about 20 miles/32 km north of the Loire River as it passes the city of Tours (and the wine regions of Touraine).

The Loir River flows—from its source just north of the town of Illiers-Combray—for a total of about 200 miles/322 km. Its waters eventually make their way into the Loire, and it is considered a third-order tributary of the larger river. Before joining the Loire, the Loir flows west/southwest for nearly 180 miles/290 km and eventually joins the Sarthe River just north of the city of Angers. From there, the Sarthe River joins the Mayenne River to form the Maine River, which flows south for a mere 7 miles/11.5 km before joining the Loire-with-an-e.   (Note: the Maine River of which we speak is a different Maine River than the more-famous Maine River [aka the Petite Maine] that flows northward through the region of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine.)

Three AOCs—considered part of the Loire Valley “family” of wine regions and often grouped together with the other regions of Touraine—are located along the Loir River. The easternmost—Coteaux du Vendômois AOC—surrounds the city of Vendôme; all three are located along a 40-mile/67-kilometer stretch of the Loir as it flows north of (and fairly parallel to) the Loire.

Graph of the Maine, Mayenne, Sarthe and Loir rivers in France by Mbursar via Wikimedia Commons

As befits the location, Chenin Blanc and Pineau d’Aunis (Chenin Noir) are the leading grape varieties planted along the Loir River. Here’s a bit more information about the AOCs and wines of the Loir (not Loire) Valley:

Coteaux du Vendômois AOC: The Coteaux du Vendômois AOC is approved for three styles of wine: red, white, and vin gris (a light-in-hue rosé made via direct press, thus avoiding skin contact). White wines are typically based on Chenin Blanc; Chardonnay is allowed as a secondary variety. Vin gris—considered the speciality of the region and also the most widely produced by volume—must be 100% Pineau d’Aunis (Chenin Noir). The reds are always a blend, requiring a minimum of 50% Pineau d’Aunis along with 10% to 40% Pinot Noir and 10% to 40% Cabernet Franc (Gamay is allowed [up to 20%] but not required).

Jasnières AOC: The Jasnières AOC (technically a sub-appellation of the Coteaux du Vendômois) is a small, white wine-only appellation. The first vineyards were planted here by Cistercian monks in the Middle Ages; centuries later the wines were beloved by Henry IV. Jasnières benefits from soil rich in tuffeau (a type of limestone) and clay, as well as south- and southwest-facing hillsides. All the wines produced under the Jasnières AOC are 100% Chenin Blanc, but the wines may be made in dry or sweet styles. Well-made Jasnières can be quite age-worthy; most producers suggest allowing the wines to age for at least five years; sweet versions may last for 12 years or even longer.

Château de Bazouges in the commune of Bazouges-sur-le-Loir (Photo credit: Manfred Heyde via Wikimedia Commons)

Coteaux du Loir AOC: The Coteaux du Loir AOC—located downriver from (and to the west of) the Coteaux du Vendômois and Jasnières—produces red, white, and rosé. The white wines are 100% Chenin Blanc and may be produced in a range of sweetness levels from dry to sweet (including some affected by botrytis). Many of the reds and rosés are 100% Pineau d’Aunis; however, they may also be produced as blends. Red wines must contain a minimum of 50% Pineau d’Aunis; the remainder is Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and/or Gamay.  Rosé blends must also include a majority of Pineau d’Aunis; the remainder may be comprised of Malbec, Gamay, and Grolleau Noir (a common component in many of the rosés produced in that other Loire Valley). The vineyards of the Coteaux du Loir AOC are protected, in part, by the magnificent Forest of Bercé (Foret de Bercé), located to the north and west of the region.

The vineyard area of the three Loir Valley AOCs combined totals just 700 acres/280 ha. Compare this to the 185,000 acres/75,000 ha of vineyards found throughout the Loire Valley region and it becomes crystal-clear that the Loir comprises just a tiny part of the Loire Valley wine story.

And yet, it seems worthwhile to know your Loir (without an e) from your Loire (with an e)—and to plan a trip to visit both!

References/for more information:

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

Go Around Again!

This post should really have a subtitle: Go Around Again—the Art of Revision. The reason I didn’t use the subtitle is because most Americans don’t understand what is meant (in the context of education) by the word “revision.” We tend to define revision as those things we do when crafting an essay, such as making edits, modifications, or changes.

However, in many parts of the English-speaking world (including England, Australia, and New Zealand), “revision” means to prepare for an exam. In my experience, Americans are more apt to say that we’re going to hit the books, review, study, pull an all-nighter, or (cover your ears) cram for the test.

Even though I live in Texas, I’ve begun to use the word revision when referring to the specific part of the learning process that one endures performs in the run-up to an exam. Which leads me to the subject of this post: it’s a great idea to approach your learning program in a two-step fashion: first you study, then you revise. Or, better yet, study-study-revise-study-study-revise (repeat, repeat, repeat). Finally, when you have made it through all the material you need to cover, you take a step back…take a deep breath, and revise-revise-revise.

Here’s a simplified set of definitions and some quick advice on the topic:

First, you study: Studying means you are learning something new or widening your knowledge of a subject. This is where you read your textbook, attend your lectures, watch your videos, take notes, and complete the exercises in your workbook. Ideally—if you are taking a class—by the time the class concludes, you have made it through the required materials and been able to keep up with the reading and other activities as indicated on class syllabus. (Or, if you are studying on your own, you’ve made it through the first round of your study plan.)

  • Theme: Concentrate on learning new information and understanding the big picture. Strive to grasp the context of this new material. Does it fit nicely in with what you already know? Do you need to build some background knowledge in order to truly understand this new information? Or—perhaps—is there something you need to un-learn? This is all–too–common in the world of wine and spirits, where some ill-informed myths are oft-repeated, such as old wine is always better, vodka tastes like water, or all rosé is plonk.
  • Techniques: Read and take notes on the text (study guide), attend webinars/lectures, watch videos, ask an expert, do extra reading/internet research, have discussions.  For wine and spirits study, taste the wines or spirits; make and record your tasting notes.

Next, you revise. Revision means you are consolidating and re-learning what you studied. Revision focuses on the details, repetition, and memorization.  You can’t run and you can’t hide at this point—please don’t stare at the textbook or binge-watch videos and call it revision. It’s time to make a commitment to your long-term memory and conquer the details. This step will require some quality time spent on your own or in a small group.

  • Theme: Drill down to the details, revisit the material; re-learn and consolidate what you already learned, strive for comprehension and understanding, be able to use (not just recite) the information, improve your speed of recall.
  • Techniques: Be active! Create teaching materials and teach others (even if you have to fake it). Make your own charts, diagrams, or cheat sheets—chunk information to help consolidate and contextualize your new knowledge. Make/use flashcards, make/use practice quizzes, recite your notes from memory (out loud).  Flex your memory–every time you pull something out of your brain, you improve your ability to do so. Use as much active recall and spaced repetition as you can.

One caveat: Just because revision is the second stage of our two-step process, this does not mean you should leave it all for the week before the exam—that’s just a drawn-out version of cramming for the test. Rather, strive to fit some revision time into your schedule throughout the process—such as taking one day a week or fifteen minutes a day to revise your latest batch of new study material.

Here’s an example from the world of wine: In your CSW studies (especially if you are taking my class), when you reach the section on Tuscany you might heed the following:

  • Study phase—big picture and context:
    • Tuscany’s vinous history, location within Italy, general terroir, main grape varieties, leading wines produced in the region.
    • Testable appellations of Tuscany.
    • Terminology/vocabulary specific to Tuscany that might help you understand the area, the wines, or (especially) the label terms used in the region (Governo, Super Tuscan, Vin Santo, Brunello, Morellino, Prugnolo Gentile, Gran Selezione).
  • Revision—details and memorization:
    • Details of the various testable appellations of Tuscany—regulations, grape varieties,leading style(s) of wine(s) allowed for production.
    • Which is a DOC, a DOCG, or, (since we are talking about Tuscany), an IGT.
    • Each appellation’s specific location.
    • Noteworthy/unique details (as applicable)—this will be specific to each appellation and might include soils, winemaking techniques, location, elevation, or other factors. For instance, Carmignano is unique in the required use of Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Cabernet Franc, Vernaccia di San Gimignano is unique as the only DOCG exclusive to white wines in Tuscany, the Maremma is unique as a coastal/cooler climate region.
    • Over-learn your Tuscany-specific vocabulary terms.

This post was inspired by the most delightful of students, who just couldn’t understand why she didn’t pass the CSW on her first try. When I asked her how she studied in the time period leading up to the exam, she said, “I listened to each one of your webinars a hundred times!”

My advice to her? Go around again!

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

Use it or Lose It: Active Recall (for wine and spirits students)

We all know it: in order to acquire or maintain a skill, you must practice.

Do you want to improve your tennis game? Practice your backhand!

Do you want to improve your weightlifting ability? Work out with weights!

But what if you goal is to improve your knowledge? Perhaps you want to improve your ability to help your customers navigate your 100-item bourbon list. Or, maybe your goal is to pass a wine or spirits certification exam.

In all these instances, the answer is the same: use it or lose it.

However, in the context of studying (particularly for an exam), students often use passive study methods. These include re-reading the text, re-reading notes, watching videos over and over, or floating a highlighter over a book. These strategies are b-t-n (better than nothing), but for most people, they are not  the most effective. The main issue with these techniques is that they improve your ability to recognize the material—your brain tells you “oh yeah, I remember that!” and you think you know the material. It might even lead you to experience the illusion of mastery (ouch).

Recall, on the other hand, is retrieving content from your memory—and using a study method called active recall is the “use it or lose it” of improving your knowledge.  In a nutshell: you actively try to recollect what you are learning. No peaking, no lists, no notes—close your eyes and flex your brain.

Active recall is one of the most efficient ways to increase your knowledge. But you don’t have to take my word for it: according to Jeffrey D. Karpicke and Janell R. Blunt, as reported in February 11, 2011 edition of Science Magazine, “Every time a memory is retrieved, that memory becomes more accessible in the future. Perhaps most surprisingly, practicing retrieval has been shown to produce more learning than engaging in other effective encoding techniques.”

Here are some specific ways to engage in active recall in the context of the study of wine and spirits:

  • Draw maps from memory
  • Use flashcards: Like many educators, I have a love-hate relationship with flashcards. I hate it when students over-rely on them, or try to use them in place of  a more appropriate method of building background knowledge and context. I also acknowledge that they can be described as promoting “rote memorization” of “random factoids.” However, in order to understand complicated material, we must first have knowledge of certain details (factoids if you must)—so flashcards have their place.
  • Write up a list of questions and quiz yourself: Here’s an example: Bubbly Professor – Active Recall – sample questions
  • Re-write your notes using “blanks” in the place of important facts, then fill in the blanks from memory. When used in teaching, we often call such notes guided notes as used in interactive lectures.
  • Use the Cornell method of note taking (particularly the “review” step): Click here for more information (directly from Cornell).
  • Stand and deliver: Re-read your notes or a page in your textbook, then paraphrase it out loud. This is fun to do in a small group, but there’s nothing wrong with talking to yourself—just go for it.
  • Rephrase it: Read three paragraphs or sections in your textbook. Starting with the first one, write a summary of each, re-stating the information “in your own words” rather than quoting the source material.

The more often you engage in active recall, the better your results will be. There’s even a plan—known as spaced repetition—for when and how often you should actively recall information in order to really learn it (more on that later.)

In conclusion: we all focus on getting information into our brains. Turns out, it is just as important to pull information out. Or, put another way: re-membering beats re-reading

Use it or lose it.

References/for more information:

Click here to read more of our posts on study techniques.

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


Mind your Latitude: 48° to 50° South


The areas around the 48th to the 50th parallel are a bit too cold for wine production in the Southern Hemisphere. While wine production extends to the 50th latitudes and even a bit beyond them in the Northern Hemisphere, the same region in the Southern Hemisphere has significantly more ocean and much less land—making the areas surrounding the Antarctic much colder than the corresponding regions in the north. Despite the fact that grapes are not currently grown this far south, we’ve found a few points of interest worthy of the last entry in our “Mind Your Latitude” series.

Última Esperanza Province, Chile: Última Esperanza—the name translates to last hope. The province is named after Última Esperanza Sound—which was so named (in 1557) by the Spanish explorer Juan Ladrillero, who believed it to be his last chance to reach the Strait of Magellan. (The Sound ends at a glacier, not the strait—but Ladrillero found his passage a year later.)

Última Esperanza is one of four provinces in Chile’s Región de Magallanes y de la Antártica Chilena—the southernmost, largest, and second-least populated region of Chile.  The area is scattered with some small towns (mostly in the interior, near the border with Argentina) and a few industries (sheep farming, coal mining, cattle ranching) but the main draw here is adventure tourism. Intrepid tourists flock to the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (Torres del Paine National Park) and the spectacular, glacier-eroded, jagged granite peaks of the Cordillera del Paine.

Santa Cruz, Argentina: The province of Santa Cruz is located in the southern section of Argentine Patagonia, just to the south of Chubut. It borders Chile (to the west and south) and the Atlantic Ocean (to the east). Santa Cruz is the least densely province out of all the provinces on Argentina’s mainland, but the area is rich in natural resources and enjoys a prosperous economy. The current inhabitants include the native Tehuelche people as well as immigrants from Spain, England, Germany, and Eastern Europe. Viticulture is yet to be seen in this frigid, dry region, but the local industries—including fishery, extraction (petroleum, coal, gold), sheep farming, timber, shipping, and cattle ranching—keep the region prosperous.

Auckland Islands, New Zealand: The Auckland Islands of New Zealand are located about 290 miles (460 km) south/southwest of Bluff (the southernmost town of New Zealand’s South Island). The Auckland Islands are not part of any political region or district of New Zealand, but (along with four other island groups) are known as the New Zealand Sub-antarctic Islands. The area is currently uninhabited, although the 1800s saw a few unsuccessful attempts at settlement. Currently, the Auckland Islands are protected as a National Nature Reserve of New Zealand as well as a UNESCO Heritage Site; the ocean surrounding the islands is a National Marine Reserve. Visitors are strictly limited and allowed by permit only.

Point Nemo: Point Nemo—technically known as the oceanic pole of inaccessibility—lies as far away from any wine region on the planet as is physically possible. As a matter of fact, Point Nemo is the single place on the face of the earth that is the farthest away from any type of dry land. Located in the South Pacific Ocean (at 48°53′), Point Nemo is at least 1,670 miles (2,688 km) from the nearest island, cliff, or sandy shore. Depending on which way you sail from Point Nemo, you would—eventually—reach the Pitcairn Islands (to the north), the Easter Islands (to the northeast), or Maher Island (off the coast of Antarctica, to the south). Point Nemo is named for Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo, as well as the fact that “nemo” is Latin for “no one.” This seems apt, as the area is so remote that sometimes the closest human beings are astronauts aboard the International Space Station as it passes overhead.[1]

References/for more information:

[1] Davies, Ella. (October 5, 2016). The Place furthest from land is known as Point Nemo. BBC. Retrieved on January 15, 2020.

Click here if you’d like to check out the rest of our “Mind Your Latitude” series. 

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

Mind your Latitude: 45° to 46° South


We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re looking at latitude. Today, we present:  45 to 46 degrees South—and along with it, we enter into the “southernmost vineyard in the world” debate.

Central Otago: New Zealand’s Central Otago Region—located near the southern end of the South Island—seems to be the clear contender for “southernmost viticultural region and official geographical indication currently producing commercially viable wine.” Central Otago is one of New Zealand’s oldest winegrowing regions—a Central Otago “Burgundy” was awarded a Gold Medal at a 1881 wine competition in Sydney. However—despite this early success—cherries, apples, and nectarines were the leading agricultural crop in the region until the 1970s, when commercial viticulture began (again) in earnest.

Today, Central Otago is planted to over 1,873 hectares/4,630 acres of vines. The great majority (nearly 80%) is Pinot Noir. Other leading grapes include Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. Many of the vineyards of Central Otago are planted at high elevations, on rocky hillsides, and along steep river gorges. The Southern Alps provide a significant rain shadow and give this area a semi-continental climate as well as extreme annual and diurnal temperature fluctuations. As we all know, vineyards can thrive in these kinds of conditions—and the area’s intensely flavored Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines can certainly attest to this.

The Central Otago GI has six sub-regions; the southernmost—situated at 45°25’—is Alexandra. the Alexandra area is home to several producing vineyards, including Grasshopper Rock, Last Chance, and Legacy Vineyards.

For the record: the southernmost point of the Central Otago GI is located close to the town of Millers Flat, located at 45°66’S.

Chile Chico: Chile Chico is a tiny town located on the south shore of General Carrera Lake. General Carrera Lake—shared by Chile and Argentina (where it typically goes by the name of Lake Buenos Aires)—is surrounded by the Andes Mountains. The climate in this area is typically cold and humid, but certain swathes in the area enjoy a sunny, temperate microclimate. It is believed that some spots located along a narrow ridge of land—east of the ice floes and tucked into the Andes west of Chubut—could potentially sustain commercial viticulture. Apparently, the Torres Family believes the area has a future in viticulture, as the company has purchased a large parcel of land in the province of Coyhaique (at 45°43’S). According to the Miguel Torres Chile website, the purchase was made “taking climate change into account…as a project for future generations.” Who knows what the future may bring?

Sarmiento, Argentina: Sarmiento is located in the foothills of the Patagónides (a series of mountain ranges east of and parallel to the Andes) and tucked between two lakes (Lago Musters and Lago Colhué Huapí). In general, the area is challenging and subject to spring frosts, strong winds, and short summers. However, Sarmiento is one in a series of high-altitude plateaus spread across southern Chubut. Sarmiento benefits from the moderating influences of a series of nearby rivers and lakes, as well as the protective rain shadow of the taller mountains. This area has long been planted to cherry orchards; and—as of 2011—vineyards are being planted as well. Sarmiento’s latitude—reported as 45°59’S by Google Maps—certainly makes it a contender for the southernmost vineyards in the world.

References/for more information:

 Click here if you’d like to check out the rest of our “Mind Your Latitude” series. 

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

Mind your Latitude: 44° South


We’ve looked at wine through the lens of grapes, places, soils, barrels, bottles, and stems…and for the next few weeks we’re taking a look at latitude. Today, we present: 44 degrees South! At this latitude we are getting close to the southern edge of commercial viticulture, but there is always something interesting to find!

Waitaki Valley—Canterbury: New Zealand’s Waitaki River—flowing eastward from the Southern Alps to the Pacific Ocean—serves as a natural boundary and political dividing line between the provinces of Canterbury (to the north) and Otago (to the south). As such, there are two wine regions that go by the name Waitaki Valley.

On the north side of the River, the Waitaki Valley-Canterbury region is an unofficial sub-region of the Canterbury GI. Geographically, the Canterbury region is quite large, and most of the vineyards are located to the west and/or the north of the city of Christchurch. Canterbury’s Waitaki Valley area is located a good 120 miles/195 km further south. This is an emerging region for viticulture, centered around a sunny area 30 miles/48 km inland from the coast.  Plantings are limited but the area shows promise for the production of Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines.

Waitaki Valley—North Otago: On the south side of the river, the Waitaki Valley-North Otago region is an official geographical indication for wine, registered in December of 2018. The area stretches along the south bank of the Waitaki River for about 45 miles/75 km, centered around the town of Kurow. The majestic mountains of the Southern Alps, located to the west, provide significant protection from rain and clouds, helping to create the area’s “almost continental” climate with warm, dry summers and cold winters. This is an emerging region—I was only able to locate about 8 wineries—but it is an area to keep your eye on. Leading grape varieties include Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, and (surprise!) Arneis.

Cisnes (Aysén Region): The town of Cisnes is located within the Aysén del General Carlos Ibáñez del Campo Region of Chile. The name of the region is, for obvious reasons, typically shorted to simply Aysén Region (Región de Aysén). The Aysén Region is one of Chile’s 16 top-order administrative regions, and the third largest in area. However…it is the second-southernmost and the most sparsely populated—with a population density of 0.85 inhabitants per square kilometer (compared to 8,470 inhabitants per square km in the capital city of Santiago). The reason for the sparse population is somewhat obvious: Aysén—straddling both the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field—contains the third largest ice field in the world (after those in Antarctica and Greenland). Most areas are reachable only by boat or plane. We won’t find any viticulture in these parts, but it is, at least in theory, possible that vines could grow in the interior—perhaps close to the Chile/Argentina border (100 miles inland from the coast).

Los Altares, Chubut: The Los Altares wine region is part of the Argentina Province of Chubut. It is located at the near-perfect geographic center of the province, about 150 miles (240 km) from the Chilean border, the Atlantic Coast, and the provinces of Río Negro (to the north) and Santa Cruz (to the south).   Los Atares is a sparsely populated region with a semi-arid terrain that is typical of the Patagonian Steppe (Argentina’s largest desert).  The area is well-known for its rock formations—there are close to 50 miles (80 km) of rock walls; some up to 230 feet (70 m) tall. The name of the area—Altares—derives from the altar-like appearance of some of these walls. The vineyards of Los Altares are planted close to the banks of the Chubut River which has the unusual feature of being higher than the land around it in some places. This leads to frequent flooding and a subsequent narrow band of fertile soil on both sides of the river. There are only about 73 hectares/180 acres of vines spread across the whole of central Chubut, so viticulture is truly in its infancy here.The area’s short growing season is a challenge, however, the region shows promise for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc.

References/for more information:

Click here if you’d like to check out the rest of our “Mind Your Latitude” series. 

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