Sipologists' pictures, videos and articles
Examples of bespoke corporate and private events.
As we keep saying, it's not your average wine tasting...
Over lockdown we recorded some educational videos for our Sipologists so you can come back and see us time and time again. Lucky you!
Who’s who? (article written by Mandy for AWE blog Dec 2021)
In the run up to taking over as Chair of the AWE I spent a while thinking about the priorities I had for our members, educators and wine trade. One of the main points that I kept coming back to was a desire to show wine enthusiasts there are wine educators and then there are ‘Wine Educators’ and that our members are the best in the business, with top notch knowledge, presentation skills and experience. Certainly, with hospitality closing up for the majority of 2020 there have been lots of opportunities for individuals to host online tastings and set up swanky looking websites and businesses. And there are many confusing job titles that, like in all industries, are really stretched and manipulated by certain people and used purely as a marketing ploy to get more traction. I was saddened to hear that a few businesses and friends wouldn’t do another wine event as their host just wasn’t up to scratch even though their online presence was indeed impressive.
So, for those in the AWE I ask that we all start using our logo in all correspondence to make it more obvious to wine lovers who to trust and learn from. To those not yet a member, get in touch!
And to all the wine fans who may wish to attend classes and tastings sometime here is a little guide as to what’s what in the UK. (The American system and others round the world tend to have slightly different gravitas on roles again)
Master of Wine (MW)
This is considered one of the top qualifications to aspire to and there are less than 400 in the world. It takes years of study and experience to pass the tough tasting and theory exams and was something my Grandfather was proud to introduce around the world as back in his day it was just a UK qualification. Don’t be fooled if someone claims to be a Master in Wine, this is exactly how cowboys try and get you!
Somms gain their experience in restaurants. The top qualification is a Master Sommelier (MS) which focusses more on service and food pairing than the MW but is considered of similar status. Lots of restaurants give the job title Sommelier quite freely and they may just work in the bar so make sure your wine host has attended The Court of Master Sommeliers, International Sommelier Guild or equivalent.
Specifically trained to teach you about the world of wine, look out for those who have their Wine and Spirit Education Trust, WSET, Diploma or higher, as mentioned above. All our full AWE members are qualified to this standard, are assessed before joining and should have mention of the Association on their signature or website.
These individuals tend to work for wine businesses and train the staff who work with their companies’ wines. Again, they should have WSET qualifications under their belt or be working towards a high level.
Oenologist/ Winemaker/ Vintner
The fabulous girls and guys that make wine. They have a wealth of knowledge and expertise but just as not all footballers will make good commentors pick wisely or you may be listening to someone take you through wine at their level and not yours.
Grape growers who need to get the berries on the vine just right for the perfectly balanced wine. Again, very interesting and knowledgeable especially if on your wavelength.
Journalist/ wine writer
This one is pretty obvious but what I always suggest is that you make sure you have a similar palate to critics if you are going to take advise on which wines to buy as recommendations and scores from some of the most influential writers can differ immensely, just like film or art reviews.
A classic example of a made up, impressive (?!) sounding expert. This time invented by yours truly to give the sense of combining learning and fun. But as I have mentioned as silly as the name may be I do have the qualifications behind me too.
Please do use this website to look up our members and get in touch with them to host your event. Or get in touch if you would like the chance to join us too.
Wine professional + AWE logo = some great learning and tastings!
And we thought you may be interested in reading some extracts from our Newsletters...
We have been sipping through lots of bespoke Virtual Wine Tastings and as you learn from SipSoc we have been learning from you too. Here are a few things I have picked up that I thought I should correct asap….
You still cannot stopper a bubbles with a spoon. Even if the spoon is silver or the bubbles Champagne. Use a bottle stopper!
Room temp and that which we should serve red wine is 18 degrees- not our comfortably heated rooms of 21C. Pop your reds in the fridge for 5-10 mins before opening if they have been sat out in the kitchen
Do trust supermarket (premium) own brand wines. They will be classic examples of region or grape and most probably the same wine as another sat on the shelves nearby, just with a different label
Blue dye can show you what your genetic taste make-up is. Doing this on Zoom is not as easy as it is in TasteBuddies, we had a good go (see below) but what you can see is that our tongues are as different as our fingerprints. Don't assume everyone likes the same wines!
With SipSoc virtual tastings going Global this month we wondered- how far has wine travelled?
It turns out wine has made it to the moon!
Buzz Aldrin, being a religious man, held communion on up there complete in 1969 with a wafer and ‘fermented grape juice’.
It almost made it a second time, as NASA, trying out how to make space travel more comfortable for astronauts, actually hired a guy to choose wine for the Apollo program. He was tasked with finding something tasty that could stand up to the rigours of flying through space and settled on Sherry.
They even got as far as inventing a special bag to drink it out of with built-in straws but sadly some teetotal space fan convinced others to join a protest to ban it’s journey in the end.
Now days we know (though the Skylab Medical Experiment Altitude Test) program, that wine in zero-gravity releases an unpleasant odor so maybe it may never make another trip.
As we all drink our way through lockdown, spare a thought for those in historical times when wine was used more medicinally.
Wincarnis was a 'wine tonic' that had similar alcohol content to Port, triple the sweetness but also contained meat extract.
Or you could choose Orange Quinine Wine which sounds more drinkable. Mainly, I love that the advert uses the 'word' wineglassful as a measure
However I would still go for the Covid two glass rule as per the above pic. Covers it all!
Some more lockdown Musings....
People often ask where the best place to store wine is. If you're not going to drink it for a while then the kitchen is the worst place (currently where my wine rack is. Then again I intend to drink my wine over the next month.) My one 'keeper' is stashed in my wardrobe- somewhere with the least temperature fluctuations. However someone in Australia built this during lock-down and we love it. A genius who has created demand overnight for something we all never knew we wanted.
Meanwhile in Italy this neighbourhood have invented wine glass holders that enable drinkers to actually 'cheers' more people than just who they are in isolation with. (Perhaps this is just a prototype to another genius idea, albeit niche and hopefully not needed for much longer)
While Germans respond better to understanding the 2m rule (well 1.5m there is seems) by the number of wine bottles away they are to each other. I'd love to see what the other European countries would have chosen. French baguettes? Spanish bulls? English cricket bats?
Highlights from 2019
With such successful charity collaborations over the last few years for Aspire Oxford, Safe!, Youth Challenge Oxfordshireand Neuroblastoma UK, we kicked off this year by offering a private ReWINED event for a local school.
The Betty Layward Primary got in touch to ask for our help in their fundraising project to replace a very small and dangerously old playground. We were pleased to hear they hit their target and building is soon to be underway.
SipSoc are always happy to support great causes so do get in touch if you'd like help with one.
It was one of SipSoc’s besties hen parties so obviously we were crazy enough to go swimming (defined as three or more strokes) in the North Sea. As you can imagine it was pretty Baltic and we all needed some warming soup upon reaching the beach hut.
This got me thinking, we're all good at listening to our bodies when we want warming, or refreshing, food but we seem to turn off this instinct when it comes to wine. Why? Heading back to the '90s soup advertisement stating, 'You've got to knorr how' perhaps we just don't have the foresight.
Personally at that point, red wine would have hit the spot but we only had fizz or beer. When it comes to pre planning what drinks to pack I'm going to start listening to my food brain more and we advise Sipologist's do the same.
(*Ok, full disclosure it was actually March 2nd but close enough, right? Feb is such a short month anyway!)
As we fly through another quarter we took a moment to review our most FAQ. Here goes....
How come wine isn't always VEGAN? (Or some variation of this)
As animal products have been used in all alcoholic drink’s production process, wine was not traditionally vegan. Nowadays some producers have swapped using milk or egg white, as an example of a fining agent, for clay. This tends to be more in Australia and New Zealand as 'Old World' winemakers are wary that it strips too much flavour from the wine.
If you are interested you can always check your wine here or find some recommendations on the Messy Vegan Cook website
SipSoc headed to Germany to find out these fine facts you
The Ace in their hand is Riesling but only 23% of vineyards are planted with this gem. There are 15 other (main) varieties that come from 13 regions
Each region has a Wine Queen who knows all there is to know about wine. Their knowledge is ridiculous and something to aspire to
Germany are the Kings of crossing different varieties to create new grapes. Scheurebe (“shoy ray beh”) is one of these, bred in 1916 and can be delicious
They are currently promoting their 31 Days of German Riesling so look out for the taxis and offers in bars around London for the rest of July.
Bordeaux, one of the most famous (and strict) wine regions in the world announced their producers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of widening the grape pool in the region in response to climate change.
The big name to watch out for is Touriga Nacional, a grape found in Portugal's hot Douro Valley and huge contributor to Port. For whites, look out for Alvarinho/ Albarino, which makes terrific wines from the coasts of both Portugal and Spain at the moment. Interesting times!
Electrical tennis rackets and virtual drinks
I was looking for a new tennis racket this summer and I came across one that you can plug in to your computer. It has sensors that record data such as the intensity of spin and power you can achieve, sending it instantly and wirelessly to an app. I was vaguely tempted. Perhaps this is the secret I need to improve my game? Thankfully I came to my Sipologist senses...This would complicate my perception of my play entirely and I'd probably come to loathe it.
I had the same feelings when I read about the new Vocktail, a virtual drink that tricks someone drinking water (or any liquid) into thinking it's actually a cocktail. Sounds great at first but then reality hits. It's a device conducting electrical currents through metal strips on a glass rim to trick your mind. There are so many glorious tastes and aromas out there in wine, beer and real cocktails why do we need to fake them?
Tech geeks may love the idea of both of these inventions but as a Sipologist I'm keen to attempt my best tennis without stats beeping at me from the sidelines. And I'm not sure you'll ever see me with scented gas cylinders near my drink.
We've all been spending as much time as possible outside this summer but would you get this design mown into your lawn to jazz it up a bit?
A different Piggy Bank
We are all about being different here at SipSoc but we aren't sure it works here.
Now you've got our attention!
This on the otherhand looks like the perfect Sipologist accessory but maybe for red wine only as white would get rather warm.
The Rosé Rhône (write up of an epic wine trip 2018)
As some of you know I am not only a Professional Sipologist but also a member of the Association of Wine Educators (AWE) and was lucky enough be invited on a trip to the Rhône Valley this month with other wine trainers. Our first port of call was at the Ecole des Vins in Avignon - wine educators like nothing better than going back to school too.
We were led through a wealth of information about the region. Here are some quickfire facts –
The Rhône is the second largest appellation d'origine contrôlée (French AOC wine regions are controlled to protect the quality and style of a particular wine-making place.)
It covers both the north and south of the valley though there are different rules in every village so the wine styles vary across the 48 appellations, 5,300 producers, 70,000 hectares
Last year they sold 1 million bottles a day across the world and have a wine-making history going back 2000 years. And now they are focussing on organic and biodymanic production. Infact 10.5% of Rhône wine production is already organic.
Rosé may not be what you associate most with the Rhône, but is 13% of the total sales (more than white at 6%).
And as there are increasingly some really successful rosés to be found I was keen to explore this colour more than usual- the power of the sunshine and approaching summer!
There is much debate among wine drinkers about the colour of rosé, with most settling on only drinking the 'pale' ones like those made nearby in Provence. There is an AOC called Tavel in the Rhône that produces a very dark pink wine and is best to have with food, like you would a red.
The SipSoc verdict? There is a time a place for all colours of rosé, just make sure the acidity remains fresh.
When is a bargin a bargin?
BOGOF's, Bin Ends and Reduced prices. We all get taken in by these offers but which ones are worth the money? (2018)
Falling off my chair.
Yes, the picture above is sideways*. It's the view I had of my hotel just after seeing the bill for my small glass of wine in Dubai this month. I was over there teaching some Somms. as wine is an ever growing drinks category with the laws of consuming alcohol relaxing ever so slightly there. But with a whooping 50% tax on it no wonder the Government want tourists to drink it by the case load. Hotel margins are ludicrous too.
They whack another huge mark up on top meaning a pretty bog standard £6 wine would be over £50 there. Gulp! In the UK we expect margins to be on average 65% higher in a restaurant than a shop. But beware, you are quite often being stung just a little bit more for choosing the fashionable (or easy to pronounce) wines. Our tip? Ask to try a sample of something you haven't heard of or figure out what it's most similar to. If SipSoc have anything to do with it they should all be fully trained up!
*Sorry, I could work out how to add pictures back into this article
Don't believe everything you see in the UK
Wines that are reduced are normally marked up in price for a couple of months first so retailers can then show how much you may be 'saving' tempting shoppers to empty the shelves of that particular product.
We don't like paying too much attention to 'awards' either. As we know from Sip to the Beat, taste changes with different music and we know for a fact many judges get a say in the playlist.
Grab the Champers!
Branded Champagne on the other hand is something you may want to stock up on when you see it's on offer (usually around holiday periods). This is because the Champagne Houses position themselves in the market place based on price just like spirits.
How are some supermarkets (Aldi/ Lidl) offering £10 Champagnes? Steady on, Sipologists! I am writing that course at the moment... Keep it in mind for gift cards
We're not saying spend a fortune. In fact those who have been to ReWINED will have learnt what the best price to spend on wine is. Just don't get tempted by a bargain that isn't actually a bargain at all. Being part of the Association of Wine Educators, SipSoc have access to recommendations from many experienced palates from retailers across the country at many a price point and we are happy to share this with you all.
The Algave in March. (2018)
All my previous Portuguese experiences have involved lots of sunshine and even more wine, why should this be any different? Quick answer, I was there for Bootcamp. And the sun did not shine, there were frequent hail storms. Normally a great excuse to cosy on by a fire and drink a warming, rich red. But no, having put my body through it's paces all day I didn't want what any 'empty calories' from my wine. What is a Sipologist to do?
We're all pretty savvy with diet soft drinks so why not with wine?
It's taken a while to get this right as the processes initially stripped our favourite flavours away. But it seems M & S are leading the way with their South African Sumika range (£7.50 per bottle). A Sauvignon Blanc with “refreshing flavours of elderflower, passionfruit and peach“ containing only 63 calories per 4 oz (small glass to you and I) and a Shiraz with hints of “mocha, blackberry and spice notes” that has 70 calories. Pretty impressive when you think how many calories other wines contain...
What's lowered the calorie count?
It's the alcohol of course. At only 8.5% abv this is almost 40% down on what we'd expect in 'full-fat' South African wines.
It will have started out as a fully fermented wine and was then dealcoholised by either vacuum distillation, that requires heating to evaporate off alcohol at lower temperatures than expected due to the vacuum, or reverse osmosis.
Reverse osmosis uses high pressure and a physical membrane to separate water and alcohol from the concentrated wine. The extracted liquids are then heated to remove alcohol and added back to the wine concentrate. Additional water also needs adding to account for the loss of volume from the removed alcohol.
Back in Portugal...
Vinho Verde is a region in the north of the country producing a unique style of dry white wine with lower than average alcohol levels and a slightly spritzy freshness. There are several origin stories behind its name, including the idea that it is harvested early and should be drunk young. With spring round the corner (finger's crossed) fill my glass up with this blend of indigenous and delicious grapes and get me back to sanity....
THE WIN(E)TER OLYMPICS (Feb 2018)
With the excitement of the Olympics this month SipSoc’s mind turned its attention to Gold Wine. Is there such a thing? Er, well it’s not an official category like White, Red, or even Orange wine (see Oct newsletter) but we do get wine that looks very golden. And sweet wines are one of those that has flashes of metallic gold due to their sugar concentration*.
By sweet wines, we are normally referring to those we drink with pudding, being the opposite of a dry wine that we discussed last month. Although if you've 'Discovered your Palate' to be George rather than Ringo or Paul, you may well be drinking it more regularly.
Sugar is to wine, like toothpaste is to orange juice. If you put the former in your mouth it coats your gums and can change the flavour of the next taste. And it's not that pleasant. So to combat this balance the sweetness of the food and wine evenly. Or pair it with a salty blue cheese.
They're not cheap though. Look for Monbazillac as a cheaper alternative to Sauternes. Or Italian Vin Santo and South African straw wine for something a bit different.
*Sweet wines can be other colours too!
In other Olympic news
The French magazine, Gault-Millau organised a Wine Olympics in 1979.
330 wines. 33 countries. 62 judges from ten nationalities. And the golds went to the 1976 Trefethen Vineyards Napa Chardonnay, 1970 Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon blend, Gran Coronas Mas La Plana and 1976 Tyrell Pinot Noir from Australia. A Pinot from Oz? Wow. That’s not what we would have predicted. But then anything can happen in the Olympics....
South Korea are one of the heaviest-drinking nations in Asia which got us thinking, other than the infamous Soju what choices do the athletes have as their celebratory tipple? According to the Asia Times one of the options, “most similar to Western fortified wine” is a sweet and full-bodied rice-based wine containing chestnuts, sugar and extracts from 15 fruits and roots. Named Beolddeokju, literally translated as “Erection Wine” it’s not as stiff as we’d expect with that comparison to Port at only 13%. And even comes with it's own rather imaginative top.
How wine's been used to win...
Ok, ok, so this was a while ago. And in the summer. But we still wanted to share it.
The 1904 Olympic marathon was hot. 35 degrees hot. So with two miles to go, South African leader Charles Heffron accepted (and downed) a glass of champagne offered up by a spectator. Perhaps he was taking inspiration from the 1896 runner Spyridon Louis who was the first to enter the stadium in Athens despite stopping halfway to eat an egg and quaff a glass of wine. Sadly half a mile later Heffron suffered alcohol-induced cramps and an instant hangover. Meanwhile, the American runner Hicks was given a “potentially lethal, but perfectly within the rules at the time” early 20th-century performance enhancer of a swig of brandy from his Coach. Hicks won Gold before collapsing just after crossing the finish line. (We think Heffron should have gone for a sweet (golden) wine and it would have made all the difference.)
DRY JAN (2018)
Happy New Year! I trust you drank all sorts of delicious things during the festive season. And now it's time to stay off the booze, right? Well even I am trying to give my liver a bit of a break.
But in this first newsletter of 2018 I am determined to eradicate the word DRY.
I recently went out with some friends for dinner. They always get me to choose the wine for them but this time I refused. It was the New Year and time for them to pick. So the waiter comes along and ‘She-who-shall-not-be-named’ says, “I’ll just have something dry please.” My heart sinks. So does the waiter's. Er, what exactly does she mean by this? Dry so it makes your mouth dry? Dry because it doesn’t taste too fruity, so citrus flavours are preferred over tropical ones? Or just because that’s how you order white? Or does she want red?
Unfortunately my friend has described any and all of the wines on the list.
The waiter and I classify the term dry to mean, not sweet. The EU Regulations state that in wines of ‘moderate acidity’ there should be no more than 9 g/L of residual sugar. Residual Sugar being the level of glucose and fructose (grape sugars) that are not converted into alcohol during fermentation.
Our perception of sweetness is affected by both acidity and bitterness. Think of homemade lemonade. Lemon juice on its own is too tart, but with the right balance of sugar you get a refreshing, even if somewhat bracing, drink. In fact, many dry acidic wines (e.g German Riesling) permit higher residual sugar when the acidity is above a certain level, because they’ll still taste dry.
Some wines, mainly those from warmer countries, may smell of peaches or honey and this in turn prompts your brain to think of sweetness. Ignore it. It’s probably still dry.
So what should you do? Well quite frankly I’ve heard enough of the word dry in January (and mainly without the preposition there.) As Sipologists’ I encourage you to take the word out your wine lingo as it’s commonly misunderstood. So try and work out the flavours you might like in your wine instead.
And if you don’t know just yet get yourself to a ReWINEd session!
Storm Ophelia and Wine (Oct 2017)
So, what has the recent storm to hit our shores got to do with wine? Well nothing really but some of the extraordinary phenomena got us thinking... Avoiding foam
SipSoc can offer no advice on managing the uncontrollable foam that covered this seaside town during Storm Ophelia this week. But what we can help with is minimising the froth on your sparkling wines.
First, there is a lot of energy in bubbles, up to three times a car tyre's pressure in fact, which is why we should chill our fizz to reduce the liveliness.
Don't be tempted to use your freezer though as this kills bubbles and over chilling (any) wine will also dull the aromas and flavours.
Onto pouring which can cause an explosion of fizz if rushed. Traditionally the glass should be totally straight when you fill it. But this is hard to do foam free so we see most people tilting their glass like we do with beer. If you fancy giving the upright glass method a go, make sure you 'wet' the glass with a splash of wine, allow the bubbles to settle before pouring up to ¾ full.
So, chill the wine. Wet the glass or tilt, we're not bothered. But most importantly take the cage and cork off together and twist the bottle not the cork.
This is London on Monday when the Sahara sand and forest fire smoke got mixed up in the storm and turned our skies an eerie orange.
It reminded us of producers mixing the skins of white grapes and creating a textured, orange wine.
This process known as skin contact produces tannins so we get some 'grip' to our orange wines but also pick up colour. The style is somewhere between a white and a red and is becoming more and more fashionable. Head to a specialised wine bar and there should be one to try.
SipSoc @The Festival of Wine (Oct 2017)
We attended our first wine festival this week and met some great characters all embracing our wine experiments in taste and flavour. Our table was definitely unique... Walkmans, panic button, jelly beans and the infamous blue dye.
Our Canadian Sipologists (Sept 2017)
We've gone international!
Well, our first 'Canadian' Sipologists are really Scottish but we were out in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia so we still think it counts. It's a region that makes some fantastic boutique wines and as we tasted our way around the area we managed to get a few special SipSoc moments; it appears that our Canadian/ Scottish palates who normally always buy the fashionable Sauvignon Blanc grape in fact preferred an off-dry Riesling.
Also on the trip...
I found out that Merlot Moisturiser is actually a face cream on the market, made Vine Vera. I picked it up at a Canadian Rodeo way out in Alberta, among the horses and bulls, but apparently they also sell it on Bond Street.
And I bought some cowboy boots to replace my old favs that died a few years back. Turns out they're the 'must have' this season in New York. So our SipSoc tastings are to be held in them from now on.
*line dancing not included
So these musical Sipologists were the guys and gals, (yeehaw- getting more cowgirl by the day in my Canadian boots,) who helped put our play list together for our fab new and unique Sip to the Beat tasting.
And not that we needed it but we had even more back up that this really does work last week as we were invited to take part in official research for UNSW (that's in Sydney but I was actually at the Master of Wine HQ, which by the way is very impressive)
Don't just take our word for it, come and test you're own beats.
We know you probably won't be able to read writing this small and perhaps aren't even interested unless you are a real wine geek but we got a real kick out of finding the Master of Wine exam that our Grandfather would have taken back in the 1950s at the institute in Battersea.
It was on the wall in the loo, so one of those situations where you end up looking like you may have some other issue if you're in there too long. But then again you have that problem at SipSoc HQ too as our bathroom walls are filled with photos.
Time to get some Sipologists up there we think!
Royal Tipples and more (Summer 2017)
An article about what the Queen drinks went viral recently after her cousin let on she, “takes a gin and Dubonnet before lunch, wine with lunch and a dry Martini and a glass of champagne in the evening.” As a Sipologist I was intrigued as to her preferred choice of wine and champagne and what these choices could say about her palate. Is our Queen a super-taster? We suspect not- these are strongly flavoured cocktails.
I actually saw Her Majesty last month, completely by accident. I was showing some tourists round on Boris bikes and she was entertaining the King of Spain in her carriage. It was a shame she didn’t see me as the wine list they had that night at the banquet would have suited my palate brilliantly. English sparkling wine, white Burgundy (Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2008 so not just any, for the record), Ribera del Duero and a 15 Year Old, Madeira.
A new company has received over $90,000 of Kickstarter funds to develop a glass that catches sediment in your wine so you'll never have any unwanted floaters. We say- this happens with so few wines on the market, what's wrong with a good old fashioned decanter? Invest in something better!
This South Koren ice-cream is called the Gyeondyo-bar, which translates as "hang in there" as it supposedly contains a magic hangover cure. Now we're talking! It is made from 0.7 percent oriental raisin tree fruit juice -a traditional hangover remedy cited in a Korean medicine book from the 17th century so it must work. Our money would go on this one...