Growing up in New Zealand, I was exposed to a great variety of both Australian and New Zealand wines. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Oxford to pursue a doctorate in biophysics that I discovered the huge variety of wine the world has to offer.
I joined the Oxford University Blind Tasting Society and became enamoured with the art and science of blind tasting. Along the way, I was twice awarded the ‘top taster’ award at the annual Oxford-Cambridge tasting match, helped Oxford to victory over a number of European university teams in the prestigious SPIT competition, and was even mentioned by Jancis Robinson in the Financial Times.
This has fuelled my passion for wine education. I firmly believe that the best thing a wine writer can do is to educate the public on how to develop their own tastes. While I do include tasting notes and my own impressions of wines in this blog, I like to focus on general wine information and specifically the skills for how to taste wine. This approach has culminated in co-founding the Oxford Wine Academy, an educational institute, and in co-writing The Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting published in 2014. This book is a labour of love borne out of my studies for the WSET Diploma. It is a survey of the world’s major wine regions with a particular focus on how the differences in variety and terroir can be discerned through blind tasting.
This year, I am also running a food and wine tasting workshop in Chartres, France with Jonell Galloway of the Rambling Epicure. This masterclass weekend is called Taste Unlocked and highlights the food of the Beauce – the “breadbasket of France” – and wine of the Loire Valley. For more details, go to www.tasteunlocked.com.
I hope you enjoy my blog and please feel free to comment on the posts and to make your own tips on tasting wine along with recommendations of wines you enjoy. James Flewellen