Career Development Award allowed to pursue my wine chemistry dreams

Posted on: 25 September 2023 by Dr Filip Szczypinski in Blog posts

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Dr Filip Szczypinski

Dr Filip Szczypinski, Research Associate in the Department of Chemistry, shares how a Postdoctoral Career Development Award enabled him to develop expertise in wine chemistry.

My doctoral studies involved measurements of oligophenols association through hydrogen bonding, a phenomenon closely related to the behaviour of polyphenolic tannins in red wines. This academic journey instilled in me a profound interest in the world of wine and its intricate chemistry. To enhance my understanding of wines, I actively participated in and even organized masterclasses, immersing myself in the nuanced art of tasting, pairing, and appreciating wine. My skills led me to represent my university at international blind tasting competitions held in the UK, France, and Switzerland. These experiences not only deepened my passion for wine but also allowed me to build connections across the global wine landscape. During pandemic lockdowns, I sought hands-on winemaking experience to complement my theoretical knowledge. I spent over a month assisting Paul Chevreux, the winemaker at Quinta da Roda da Quintã in Dão. This invaluable exposure allowed me to grasp the basics of real winemaking, from grape selection to fermentation and aging, further fuelling my enthusiasm for the field.

Academia also made me realise my passion for teaching and I have pursued wine education on my own through introductory wine tastings for audiences of varying levels of wine expertise. One notable milestone in my journey was an invitation to deliver a lecture on the chemistry of wine at the 10th International Millésime Contest held at the École Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL Hospitality Business School), consistently ranked as one of the world's premier hospitality school.

At the University of Liverpool, I was given an unparalleled opportunity to pursue formal wine education alongside my research work. The funding from School of Physical Sciences through the Postdoctoral Career Development Award enabled me to undertake the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 3 Certificate in Wine program at the Northern Wine School. The course was spread across eight consecutive Mondays, which I was able to attend thanks to the University’s commitment to staff development and the availability of ten days a year for research staff to be used towards that goal. I have been awarded this internationally recognised certificate with distinction across both the theory and tasting parts of the exam.

Since receiving the award, I have been diligently applying my newfound expertise in the realm of wine education. I have had the privilege of delivering an interactive lecture on the chemistry of wine, complemented by a wine tasting session, for the Trinity College Science Society at the University of Cambridge. Additionally, I have curated personalized tasting experiences for private companies, sharing my passion for wine with diverse audiences.

I am excited about the prospects of integrating my recently acquired skills with my ongoing research pursuits. To this end, I am working with a Master's student from the University's Department of Chemistry on a project focused on the stability and exchange dynamics of molecules responsible for mouse taint in natural wines. This research will help us understand the origin of this common taint in recent winemaking trends and provide important insights into how such wines evolve in the bottle. Ultimately, I seek to enhance the quality of wines available to consumers. I look forward to the outcomes of this exciting project and making my very own contribution to the field of academic wine chemistry.