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Commonwealth Wine School: A Leader in Wine Education

Boston is considered one of the nation’s centers for higher learning and is home to many renowned universities. The city is also home to Commonwealth Wine School a leading institution for both avocational and professional wine, spirits, and sake education.

Located in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge, Commonwealth Wine School offers a range of courses from beginner to advanced levels. For industry professionals, Commonwealth Wine School offers certification level programs from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), the Wine Scholar Guild, and the Society of Wine Educators.

We recently caught up with Kim Simone, Manager of Commonwealth Wine School, and asked her about what you should look for when selecting a wine studies program. Kim has worked in education for many years and has numerous wine certifications including Level 3 WSET and Certified Wine Educator. She served as corporate sommelier for the Legal Food Restaurant Group for many years and is founder of Vinitas Wineworks, a wine consulting company that collaborates with retailers and wineries.

Kim Simone, Manager, Commonwealth Wine School
Kim Simone, Manager, Commonwealth Wine School

TCT: Kim, many people may be considering a wine program to advance their education. What questions should they be asking when looking at schools?

KS: It depends on their priorities and what they want to do with their education. We see people from many backgrounds and with many reasons for enrolling. Some students work in the industry and want professional certifications to advance their careers. Others are enthusiastic wine consumers who want to become familiar about a certain wine region or style. Or they are traveling overseas and want to learn about the wines beforehand. We offer a broad range of studies for both groups.

TCT:  We see more people using initials like WSET, CWE and CSW after their names. Tell us about the certification programs offered.

KS: Commonwealth Wine School offers the full course of wine studies and certification levels for WSET as well as for spirits and sake. That is something that sets us apart. We also offer certification programs for the Wine Scholar Guild and the Society of Wine Educators.

Commonwealth Wine School offers all levels of WSET certification for wine, spirits and sake

TCT: Tell us about your instructors.

KS: We work with many fantastic teachers in the Boston who are respected for their knowledge. Many are published authors or who have worked in the restaurant and hospitality management industry – just to mention a few: Erika Frey, Adam Centamore, Jo-Ann Ross , Ashley Broshious.

TCT: How large are your classes?

KS: Our classes on average range from 12-to 20 people. Especially for the professional studies programs, we want to keep classes small to encourage communication. Of course, we also host winemaker dinners and tastings that are larger, and we also offer virtual classes. So anyone can join us from outside Boston throughout online platform.

Trade classes at Commonwealth Wine School are kept small to encourage more interaction with students.

TCT: Have you noticed any changes in what students are enrolling in?

KS: We are seeing more students enrolling from our restaurant partners. We see them sent by their beverage group or manager. Many enroll to advance their education and improve their standing in the industry, or they may work retail and want to improve their knowledge to better serve their customers.

TCT: Anything else you want to share with us?

KS: Yes, it is important to note that Commonwealth Wine School is about building community, whether you are joining us for avocational or professional reasons. We offer a diverse range of workshops, wine camps and tasting events that are affordable for those individuals who enjoy learning with like-minded people, and we aim to be the leading center for higher wine education in the greater Boston/New England area for industry professionals.

Check out the current class schedule at this link:  www.commonwealthwineschool.com/calendar

Follow on Instagram@commonwealthwineschool

Listen to our SIPS podcast with Kim Simone here

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Sipping Aged Albariños with Bodegas Fillaboa

 

Albariño wines from Rías Baixas in Spain are aromatic wines with zesty tropical and citrus notes and zippy acidity that tap dance on your palate as you savor them, perhaps with with a plate of fresh-caught Galician seafood.

But, as we learned tasting aged albariños from Bodegas Fillaboa, that time spent on fine lees with the steady stir of bâtonnage creates wines more like a graceful pas de deux of flavors and complexity.

We tasted three different selections from Bodegas Fillaboa, a family-owned estate in Galicia. Located in a 15th century Romanesque castle near the border between Spain and Portugal, Fillaboa produces some of the finest and rarest estate-grown wines in D.O Rías Baixas.

Bodega's Fillaboa's name translates in the Galician dialect to “the good daughter” and references a local story that a Count left his best lands to his youngest daughter. Since, 2000 Fillaboa has been owned by the Masaveu family.
Bodega’s Fillaboa’s name translates in the Galician dialect to “the good daughter” and references a local story that a Count left his best lands to his youngest daughter. Since, 2000 Fillaboa has been owned by the Masaveu family.

Estate grown wines in Rías Baixas are still uncommon, according to Isabel Salgado, winemaker at Bodegas Fillaboa since 1998. “We feel having estate grown fruit is important for maintaining full quality control.”

Fillaboa is located near the Portuguese border (150 feet) and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (22 miles) and the Tea and Miño Rivers. “This is a very windy and rainy part of Spain with granite-rich soil and round rocks from the river. Here we use “en parra” (pergola) system to elevate vines six to seven feet to protect the fruit from the damp soil and increase wind flow through the plantings,” Salgado noted.

Isabel Salgado, winemaker for Bodegas Fillaboa

Salgado believes albariños have great aging potential. “At the beginning of my career, everyone wanted fresh albariños to drink. Over time, I researched the aging potential of white wines in bâtonnage. I was inspired to keep some albariños on fine lees to see how they would evolve. No one in the region had made wine like this in the past. In 2000 we released our first Seleccion Finca, and it showed how well albariño can age.”

What we tasted

Bodegas Fillaboa Albariño, 2020 (SRP $20) This wine spends at least four months on fine lees. This is an aromatic wine with refreshing notes of pineapple, lemon, mango and apple with bright acidity. Consider pairing with boiled seafood, lightly grilled or poached fish with citrus sauce, mussels in garlic and white wine. Salgado feels this wine has three-year aging potential.

Fillaboa Seleccion Monte Alto

Selección Finca Monte Alto, 2018 (SRP $26) This is a single vineyard wine from Fillabao’s Monte Alto plot of just seven hectares with 28-year-old vines. The wine is aged on fine lees for one year. Annual production is limited to 10,000 bottles, depending on the vintage. This wine has fuller flavors of tropical fruit, apple and light toast with a smooth finish. Consider pairing with blackened redfish, Spanish tortas with jamón and queso, fish stew. Salgado sees its aging potential for five years.

Fillaboa 1898Fillaboa 1898, 2010 ($58) This is a complex wine made only in the best vintages. Albariño grapes are sourced from eight estate plots; the wine is six years on lees with regular bâtonnage. This wine delivers unctuous notes of ripe tropical fruits, baked apples and brioche toast with a long finish. Savor with roast pork, coq au vin, butter-poached lobster.

Tasting through these three albariño selections gave us a greater appreciation for these wines and the complexity they can develop with age. Bodegas Fillaboa wines are imported in the U.S. by Folio Fine Wine Partners.  www.BodegasFillaboa.com

Follow and connect  @masaveubodegas

In addition to the winery and vineyards, the Fillaboa estate features a Roman bridge, a stone chapel built in 1909, and a Romanesque palace that houses works of art by Spanish painters from the fifteenth to twentieth century.

Listen here to our conversation with Bodegas Fillaboa Winemaker Isabel Salgado on The Connected Table SIPS.

 

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Sipping w/ Pablo Cunéo, Bodegas Luigi Bosca, Argentina

World Malbec Day, April 17, is an annual observance that celebrates this noble red grape. Malbec’s roots are from southwest France, but it has achieved superstar status in Argentina where it has flourished.  In fact, Argentina now produces seventy-five percent of Malbec, and its wines have become world-renowned.

One example is Bodegas Luigi Bosca. Established in 1901 by the Arizu family, Luigi Bosca is one of Argentina’s few continually owned and operated family wineries. Its main winery is in Lujàn de Cuyo, a sub-appellation of Mendoza. The Arizu family was instrumental in helping establish Lujàn de Cuyo as an official CDO in 1989. The winery also vineyards in Maipú and and the Uco Valley, also in Mendoza.

Head winemaker, Pablo Cunéo, has worked with Luigi Bosca since 2017. If anyone is an “ambassador” for Mendoza, it is Cunéo, who praises its climactic conditions for making exceptional wines.

“We are fortunate to have very stable growing conditions year after year,” he noted. “Mendoza has a continental climate bordered by the Andes and high elevation vineyards. Its poor alluvial soils help to produce a high concentration of fruit. The cool winds from the Andes, low humidity and ample sunlight are ideal for ripening the fruit with exceptional vibrance and color, especially as you go higher in altitude in the Uco Valley.”

Bodega Luigi Bosca’s De Sangre collection of reserve wines was introduced in October 2021. (Importer: Frederick Wildman)
“De Sangre means ‘of the bloodlines,’ and these wines are close to the Arizu family, special reserve wines usually brought out to serve for special occasions. Now, they want to offer them to the world,” said Cuñeo.“The wines are made from grapes sourced from select parcels to show the characteristic of each variety.”

We tasted three selections:

De Sangre White is a blend of Chardonnay (50%), Semillon (35%) and Sauvignon Blanc (15%). “The Chardonnay is fermented for eight months in French oak to attain toasty, caramel notes. The Semillon has herbal and chamomile characteristics, and the Sauvignon Blanc adds citrus and acidity. We thought this wine would well with a variety of dishes, from a light creamy pasta to spanakopita to pan-roasted trout almondine or Florida grouper in a tropical sauce. So many ideas came to mind!

The De Sangre Cabernet Sauvignon (100%) is blended from grapes from four different parcels in Mendoza. “Each adds something special to the wines,” said Cuñeo. After 12 months aging in oak with malolactic fermentation, this wine delivers pleasing black fruit and peppery notes and ripe, balanced- not overly agressive- tannins which we appreciated. Consider this wine for a for grilled meats, game, or roasts. We enjoyed it with a savory roast chicken.

De Sangre Malbec is one of three Malbecs produced in the collection. The Malbec DOC Lujàn de Cuyo is aged 12 months in oak with malolactic fermentation, which imparts soft elegance and a ripe roundness to the fruit laced with notes of cacao and coffee. This Malbec is silky and plush. We discussed grilled meat, steak and barbecue and tasted at home with David’s “vegetarian” meat loaf.

Cuñeo feels Lujàn de Cuyo produces the most representative of European Malbecs made in the 19th century- very classic. “I call it [Lujan de Cuyo] the Malbec that conquered the world,” he said.

Hear more of our conversation with Pablo Cuñeo on The Connected Table SIPS podcast on iHeart Radio (ir your favorite podcast platform). www.luigibosca.com