Socially Distanced Sips: Laidback learning via virtual videoconference

So you want to know more about wine but don’t want the formal study, intimidating jargon, the snobbery or the stuffiness? I highly recommend these themed virtual tasting events organised by the magnificent Mandy Stevens of ReWINEd fame, having participated in two in May 2020 - at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. My first, "White wine: France v South Africa"; my second, "Italian Reds". Mandy has adjusted her signature live workshops, successfully moving them onto the Zoom videoconfefencing platform so she could continue to deliver them during lockdown.

Magnificent Mandy Stevens hosts a virtual SipSocial session on Zoom

So, who should join in?

No prior knowledge is needed: these events are perfect for those who just love wine and want to know what to order in a restaurant or buy for home consumption. They also offer wine students an opportunity to practice their tasting skills in a friendly environment with a similar shared experience to the classroom but without the apprehension...

Swirl, Sip, Slurp...

Each virtual tasting is offered to a limited number of participants. After a brief introduction, Mandy starts us off with her unique spin on tutoring in how to taste - the Swirl, Sip, Slurp technique; then describes the wine that she has selected to meet the particular theme of the session - in this case a Barbera from Piemonte. After which, show and tell style, each guest gets to display, taste and describe what's in their bottle. And as you have chosen it yourself, it's likely to be a wine you already enjoy. Unless you are the adventurous type in which case you could bring out a bottle of wine that you have never tasted before. Either approach is fine.

My turn to become a Sipologist...

A hugely knowledgeable host, Mandy offers insights into what to look for in the wine's character, for example how my Barbera from Lombardy differs from her Barbera from Piemonte; then adds details on how the relevant laws, terroir (soil) etc‬. contribute to an understanding of how wines made from the same grape can differ based on where they are grown.

I had to translate the notes on my bottle of Barbera from the "Italian Reds" session from Italian Into English (thanks Google) to determine the wine's origin. Otherwise we might all have assumed it was grown in Piemonte 

"Lombardy Region in the heart of the Oltrepo Pavese: It is obtained from the vinification of Barbera Grapes. Deep red wine with violet reflection, intense and fruity aroma with notes of cherry. Fresh, full with a pleasantly bitter aftertaste"

My description of the taste prompted a lively “round table” discussion on tannins, acidity and fruit as Mandy explained how each contributes to ageing potential.

What else does SipSoc offer?

Mandy tutors a variety of more in-depth workshops but in the same informal style. For example her ReWINEd Workshop offers a fresh look at grape varieties that participants may recognise and drink regularly, to learn what differentiates them; allowing you to discover the reasons you like them, which food group they suit and what to buy in future for any occasion.

In my opinion, the more you know about wine the greater your enjoyment of it. I have observed many wine "communicators" since lockdown began. Mandy is one of the friendliest, most engaging and down to earth. If her skill in negotiating the potential technical nightmare of Zoom conferences is any indication, I for one can hardly wait for lockdown to be eased so that I can attend one of her fantastic SipSoc events in person. 

Want to become a Sipologist?

For further details and pricing please visit:



Twitter: @SipSoc 

Instagram: SipologistSocial 

The SipSoc Philosophy (which I heartily endorse)

Sip- There are so many great wines out there. -Ologist. Twisting our taste with experiments around (basic and fun) science, maths, and sometimes even music to take you on a flavour adventure. Social. ExplorIng and learning in a relaxed setting with like minded folk.