Friday, January 29, 2021

APWASI Courses Add A New Dimension To Wine Education

Add culture and cuisine to your wine learning menu.

New Wine Horizons

Milanesa (1)It’s been five years since I studied, swirled, and sweated to earn my Certified Specialist of Wine designation. My wine education is not over, though. I’ve continued to learn, some through formal training while also absorbing knowledge through less formal means such as tastings and reading.

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Whenever the world opens up again, our next international trip will be to Argentina to explore the country and its famed wine regions. To help prepare, I enrolled in the Asia Pacific Wine and Spirit Institute class to become a Certified Argentinian Wine Specialist.

APWASI has an interesting approach to learning. In addition to the country’s wine history, geography, climate, grapes, and wine, it adds some extra elements. Culture, cuisine, and history are all well covered.

Cultural Interaction

Indeed, part of APWASI’s mission is to expand global awareness, diversity, and inclusivity, through cultural interaction, experience, and adventure. It has an interesting array of classes. For those with general interest in wine there are the following classes: Consumer Wine Course, Wine Essentials I and Wine Essentials II.

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There is also a training course for tasting room staff and courses on luxury and spirits topics like whiskey, cigars, ice wine, and caviar. What attracted me is the deep dive into wines of a particular country. The wine icons like France and Italy have courses, but so do countries like Portugal, South Africa, and Canada. A new course, on the wines of China, was just introduced.

The country-specific course are US$345 except for Italy and France, which are US$545. The spirts and luxury courses are also US$345. The Wine Essentials and tasting room training courses cost less.

Toasting the ACAWS certificateMy focus was on Argentina. The course is all online and has 10 lessons. Each lesson consists of facts and information plus a number of videos. The videos are not produced by APWASI and aren’t included on the exam, but I found them to be tremendously valuable.

Immersed In Wine And Culture

They enabled me to become immersed in the country, its wine and culture. Some of the early lessons had videos that simply showed drone footage of various regions in Argentina. How wonderful! It really allowed me to get a feel for the land. Later courses had videos with winemakers, tours of Mendoza and Salta, and videos highlighting the food and dance of the country.

After each lesson, there is a brief quiz, which is timed. Most questions are true/false or multiple choice with a few fill-in-the-blanks. You must get 55% right in order to proceed to the next lesson. Even though I could refer to my notes, it’s easy to get tripped up. When I prepared for the final exam, I went back and retook several of the quizzes to test my knowledge. I estimate that the course took about 20 hours to go through the lessons then I spent another five hours reviewing and studying. I did this over a month’s time. For a country like Italy, I image the time would be considerably longer.

The culture and food aspects of the course really brought Argentina to life. Since I’m planning on visiting Argentina, it was extremely valuable to learn, for example, that dinner doesn’t start until 10 PM and that it is insulting to pour with the left hand. There was information on the asado, which is the Argentinian barbecue. Not only was there information, but a great video showing a family cooking up some tremendous dishes.

Trying An Argentinian Specialty

It was through the cuisine section that I learned about Milanesa, a dish that is made from pounded beef or chicken covered in breadcrumbs. As a way of driving home my knowledge, we created a wine dinner with Milanesa Napolitana (there is a tremendous Italian influence in Argentina), basil roasted potatoes, and a nice wine pairing.

Malbec is the signature red grape and we poured the 2011 Nieto Senetiner
"Don Nicanor" Villa Blanca Malbec from  Luján de Cuyo and the Phebus 2020 Torrontés, Mendoza. The Phebus has round flavors with citrus notes. Torrontés is the country’s signature white grape and its flavor can vary depending on the altitude of the vineyard and the soil.

Malbec, Torrontes, & MilanesaThe Don Nicanor is simply one of the best Malbecs we've had. At 10 years since vintage, the tannins are unobtrusive and only show at the finish. The texture is plush and soft with black cherry and raisin.

Fortified by this great meal and wine I was ready for the exam the next day. The exam is 100 questions and it is timed – although time for me wasn’t really an issue. Many of the questions were easy after studying all the course lessons. Others were a bit tricky, like the name of the first Spanish settlement or the date when the first vines were planted.

This is an unproctored exam, so you can glance at your notes if your willpower weakens.A minimum grade of 65% is required to pass the exam. If you do not pass the exam, you can retake it for a $60 fee.

Crossing The Finish Line

As an added bonus Dr. Clinton Lee, who is the APWASI executive director, hosts weekly Zoom wine discussions, which I’ve found to be enjoyable and educational. Dr. Lee is an international wine lecturer, wine writer and critic, who has earned the top WSET designation of Diplomat and well as numerous other wine credentials. He is a visiting professor at the North-West University College of Oenology China, China’s only Oenology institution. He is an International Sherry Educator and Sake professional under the auspices of the Japanese Sake Education Council. Dr. Lee has trained and passed the Whisky Ambassador program in Scotland and is the only recognized Whisky Ambassador to offer Whisky classes in British Columbia.

I was quite proud to successfully complete the APWASI Certified Argentinian Wine Specialist class and celebrated in style with a glass of delicious 2018 Arraigo Benegas Cabernet Franc from Mendoza. Cab Franc is uncommon in Argentina and can be beautiful and expensive. Here’s a bit of knowledge from the course: the Benegas Cab Franc comes from stony soil that is flooded for irrigation, as is traditional in Argentina.

Learning is a lifelong quest – and with the APWASI courses, the journey can be a delicious one.

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