James Flewellen
James Flewellen

Taste Unlocked Equinox 2015

By Monday, September 21, 2015 Permalink

Taste Unlocked Autumn Equinox 2015 in Chartres, France

Taste Unlocked 2015 was a great success. Our guests have returned to England, but the house reverberates with the still-fresh memories of their presence and the joys of good food, fine wine and the excellent company we shared. Happy souvenirs of their visit, a few unfinished bottles we tasted will be emptied in coming days, but we shall toast our special guests each time we partake.

I prepared traditional dishes from the Beauce region, using the recipes I’ve researched over the years and the best products from local farmers and producers. These were accompanied by what we consider our local wine, that of the Loire Valley, which starts less than 50 miles down the road from here.

ChartresCathedralLighted2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We kicked off the weekend on Thursday over a dinner of locally farmed duck cooked in Eure-et-Loire apple cider and served with Beauce turnips and carrots and apples. This was followed by a curried green gauge plum sautée with Financier almond cake.

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James Flewellen

3-DAY TASTE AWAKENING COURSE IN CHARTRES

By Tuesday, June 30, 2015 Permalink

SEPTEMBER 17-20, 2015, DURING AUTUMN EQUINOX AND LIGHT FESTIVAL IN CHARTRES, FRANCE

Award-winning wine writer James Flewellen and Cordon Bleu-educated cook and food journalist Jonell Galloway present food and wine tasting masterclasses in the historic French city of Chartres. Comprising dedicated wine tastings, sumptuous meals made from local ingredients paired with regional Loire Valley wines and a unique, “sense-awakening” taste experience, our food and wine holiday courses will help unlock your taste buds and introduce the richness of aromas, flavours and textures present in food and wine. A music festival, with live music in the streets, restaurants, theatres, churches and bars, is held to celebrate the Autumn Equinox and to mark the end of the Festival of Lights. To sign up, please click here or fill in the contact form below.

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James Flewellen

Concise Guide to Wine & Blind Tasting

By Thursday, June 18, 2015 Permalink

Book Review: The Concise Guide to Wine & Blind Tasting

by Jonell Galloway

The Concise Guide to Wine & Blind Tasting is destined to become a modern classic. Written by Neel Burton, psychiatrist and Oxford professor, and James Flewellen, biophysicist at Oxford – together founders of the Oxford Wine Academy — the book is well stocked with vital information about all aspects of wine, from soil and vine to drinking for pleasure and blind tasting.

Its clear, detailed information will appeal to serious amateurs and experienced professionals alike. The first three chapters tackle the history of wine as well as the principles of viticulture and winemaking, using an approach unique to the authors, reflecting their methodical way of thinking and scientific backgrounds. This section serves as a comprehensive, accessible introduction for less seasoned wine drinkers, giving them a firm technical basis and the curiosity to want to continue learning.

The ensuing twenty-three chapters address the world’s geographic regions, including three dedicated to notable French appellations, sparkling wine and fortified wine, respectively. Chapters are well structured, dealing with the lie of the land, climate, soil, grape varieties, appellations, and wine styles, and give thorough attention to each of these components. The authors explain how to differentiate wines based on the interplay of these factors, and address the effect of appearance, palate and nose and how these interact with one’s senses and perceptions. This section serves as a reference for even the most seasoned wine drinker.

For those interested in blind tasting, the appendices explain how to set up a blind tasting, and include crib sheets by grape and terroir — a most useful reference for those interested in honing their skills — along with international classification systems and food and wine matching.

This is both a user’s manual and a connoisseur’s guide, and its clear and fluent exposition sets it apart from other guides. You’ll keep this reference book on your shelf; its pages will yellow (and possibly purple) and show their wear and tear. You might even pass it on to your grandchildren. That’s how good it is.

 

 

 

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James Flewellen

3-DAY TASTE AWAKENING COURSE 19-21 JUNE, DURING CHARTRES SUMMER SOLSTICE MUSIC FESTIVAL

By Wednesday, March 11, 2015 Permalink

3-DAY TASTE AWAKENING COURSE 19-21 JUNE,
DURING CHARTRES SUMMER SOLSTICE MUSIC FESTIVAL

Award-winning wine writer, James Flewellen, and Cordon Bleu-educated chef and food journalist, Jonell Galloway, present wine and food tasting masterclasses in the historic French city of Chartres. Compromised dedicated wine tastings, sumptuous meals made from local ingredients paired with regional Loire Valley wines and a unique, ‘sense-awakening’ taste experience, our food and wine holiday courses will help unlock your taste buds and introduce the richness of aromas, flavours and textures present in food and wine. A music festival, with live music in the streets, restaurants, theatres, churches and bars, is held to celebrate the Summer Solstice. If you’re interested in signing up, please click here.

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James Flewellen

The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: Quality

By Tuesday, October 30, 2012 Permalink

by James Flewellen

One of the common themes running through my wine education courses and writings is that you, the taster, are the final authority on whether you like a wine or not. While I can tell you whether a wine is well made, and give my perception of the aromas, flavours and structure of a wine, I can’t get inside your head to assess your perception of a wine or whether you like it or not.

There are, however, some objective guidelines on assessing a wine for its quality. These are espoused by the WSET and various other wine educators and can be remembered easily by the acronym ‘BLIC‘.

B is for balance. A well-balanced wine will have a consistency between the aromas you smell and flavours you taste. The acidity will match the body of the wine and any sweetness. It won’t be sharp and unpleasant; nor will it be flabby and soft. The alcohol will suit the body of the wine and not be too harsh nor weak. If a wine has been aged in oak, then the level of oak will support the natural fruit flavours rather than overwhelm them. One factor that should be taken into consideration is the age of a wine and when it is expected to be drunk. A barrel sample of a very fine wine will not necessarily be in balance, yet it should be by the time the wine is ready to be drunk a decade later. One of the hardest jobs I’ve seen in the wine business is that of winemakers assess their newly-fermented wine and to make decisions on how to mature it based on their projections of how the wine will develop.

The length of the wine is straightforward. Simply: the longer the better. After swallowing, the finest wines will linger over your senses for many tens of seconds, even minutes in some cases! The one caveat is that the remaining flavours should be enjoyable. I’ve had at least one occasion of a wine with a very bitter flavour and an unpleasantly long finish.

Intensity is the next criterion. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword in that an overly intense wine can be overwhelming in some cases. If a particular aroma or flavour dominates at the expense of the balance or complexity of the wine, then too much intensity is a bad thing. However, with this in mind, the best wines will have an intensity and concentration of flavour that is precise yet generous.

Finally, we have complexity. This is perhaps the most difficult criterion for a wine to achieve. Complexity in a wine begins with high quality grapes. The vineyard must be well tended and the grapes healthy before a winemaker can make great wine. The winemaker’s skill is in preserving the complex biochemicals that occur naturally in the grape, enhancing and concentrating them, while still maintaining balance. Further complexity in a wine is achieved through judicious use of oak for maturation. Finally, the time spent in bottle results in further subtle and complex chemical reactions that develop ever new flavours in a wine. The end result of a fine wine that is opened at its optimal age for drinking is a plethora of aromas and flavours that change and evolve in the glass. The exact aromas and sensations can be hard to describe, yet the finish always leaves you wanting more!

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James Flewellen is The Rambling Epicure wine columnist. James is a biophysicist at the University of Oxford. Originally from New Zealand, the huge range of wine James discovered in Europe spurred his interest in all things vinous. He became involved in the University’s Blind Wine Tasting Society and has recently completed a two-year term as its President. During this time he represented the University in a number of domestic and international wine tasting competitions, winning several awards. He is currently completing the WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits. James has a passion for wine communication and education and runs the Oxford Wine Blog and the Oxford Wine Academy.

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