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SIPOLOGIST SOCIAL - Wine buff puts fun and science into tasting

Sipologist Social

Did you know music impacts the way you perceive flavours or that the human tongue is as individual as a fingerprint?

Mandy Stevens is revolutionising the wine-tasting industry with Sipologist Social - fun and science-based classes which demonstrate how factors like music and other flavours impact our taste buds.

Some classes involve covering the tongue in blue-dye with a pipette and using a mirror to look at the taste buds.

Sipologist Social

Mandy explained: “Our tongues are as different to each other as our fingerprints – our taste buds are in different places and their sizes vary and that determines what kinds of wine we like best!

“I sort people into categories (based on the names of the Beatles) depending on their taste buds – some will be in John’s group and others in Paul’s – it gives them an idea of the styles of wine they would naturally like. But then there’s nurture – we can start to introduce new wines they may learn to love.”

Among the classes offered by Sipologist Social – or SipSop as Mandy calls it – are ‘ReWined’ – a back to basics course explaining what makes wines different and highlighting tricks for buying good wine, Discover Your Palette and Sip to the Beat – showing how different music can change our tastes. They are the latest business to join the Local Buyers Club, offering members discounts of 10-15% on courses. (Click here for info).

Mandy, 35, added: “When I first heard of this concept I was sceptical! But researchers at a university in New Zealand carried out a wide study on this and it’s true! I was invited to the Master of Wines in London to take part in an experiment around music and wine and I was amazed. Music really does influence our perceptions of taste.”

Other fun games involve a “dribble test” to check the acidity of the wine and a “tannin test” that involve drinking wine and seeing whether your top lip sticks to your teeth!

Mandy Stevens

(Mandy Stevens hosting an event)

SipSoc’s headquarters is in Oakley Road, Islington and is a kitchen space with all the tools you need for a fun wine-tasting experience, including buzzers so participants can buzz-in with questions or answers. Courses are also held at people’s homes.

When she’s not running Sipologist Social, Mandy lectures at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in London and provides professional sommelier training.

Despite her grandfather being a Master of Wine and her father having his own wine company, Mandy’s love of wine only really came about during a gap year to Australia after university.

She said: “Growing up my friends would always ask me for recommendations for wines, because my family were in the business. But at that stage, though I drank wine, I didn’t really know much about it. At university I used to buy three bottles for a tenner!”

While overseas, Mandy worked on a vineyard, gaining experience of every aspect of the wine-making industry, from bottling to bench blending. She went on to work in New Zealand then landed a job as a buyer at The Sampler.

She added: “I’ve always enjoyed teaching people about wine so taking the plunge and running my own business was a natural step. I love seeing people’s surprise when they learn about wine and enjoy watching their confidence grow. My aim is to make wine-tasting much more fun and adventurous – the tricks and science I use makes it more memorable.”

Mandy’s grandfather David Stevens was at the forefront of a movement to make wine more international – he became the first Master of Wine to teach in America and Australia and his achievements were recognised by wine buff Jancis Robinson in a speech at Vintners’ Hall. Her father Alastair ran the wine agency Stevens Garnier, which was bought out by Portugal’s largest wine company Sogrape.

She said: “It’s funny – my father went into the wine industry because he felt what my grandfather was doing was old-fashioned and he wanted to help bring about a new approach. When I set up SipSop it was because I felt the industry which my father had been so much a part of had become old fashioned and I wanted to do things differently!”

(Mandy Stevens)

Mandy was nominated in 2015 for Imbibe Personality of the Year in Education and the WSET Global Wine Educator for Enotria Winecellars.


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