Sommelier of the Month - Julia Oudill
Head sommelier & wine buyer at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels London, La Compagnie Delicatessen & Experimental Beach Ibiza
- Name: Julia Oudill
- Date of birth: 17th October
- Place of birth: Pau, France
- Eye colour: Brown
- Height: 1m 70cm
- Nationality: French
Julia was born in 1989 in Pau. She obtained her bachelor's degree at the catering high school of Biarritz (2008), during which time she won three competitions. These included the "Olympiade des métiers;" "Best young sommelier" with a specialism in wines from the South west of France and the Lesdiguières-Chartreuse contest, in Grenobles where Julia won a gold medal for cocktail creation.
In 2009, Julia continued her studies at the catering university of Talence (near Bordeaux), where she won the Mumm contest specialising in champagne and then went on the win the Chapoutier contest which resulted in her being named 'The Best student sommelier of France'. Julia's first job was at Alain Dutournier's restaurant, "Le Carré des Feuillants" (2 Michelin Stars), where she was employed as the sommelier. It was a great accomplishment regarding her youth and has never been seen before.
In 2010 Julia became the head sommelier of "la Maison de l'Aubrac" in Paris a restaurant with 1200 wine references. Following this, she worked in the Parisian gourmet restaurant "Le Pavillon Le Doyen" for one year. In 2012, Julia returned to Biarritz, Basque Country, and helped run the family restaurant, La Villa d'Ilbarritz, as general manager.
Julia returned to Paris in 2013 and began work at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, in Saint-Germain-des-Pres. When the famous wine bar opened a second location in London, she was offered the position of head sommelier and later took on the additional roles of General Manager as well as wine buyer at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels London, La Compagnie Delicatessen & Experimental Beach Ibiza. That was priceless.
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels is situated in the heart of London's Covent Garden, tucked away in storied Neal's Yard. It boasts its very own 'savoir faire' with a team of wine experts bringing the Experimental Gorup's signature joyeux bordel to the London wine scene. Unabashedly classic, the seasonal menu draws on French flavours whilst incorporating the best ingredients from local British producers, including dishes such as Le Cassoulet, with White Bean Stew and Braised Duck (£12); Burrata with Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Casanova (£8) and the signature Posh Madame, a Croque Madame with Truffle Ham and Quail's Egg (£12).
Served at lunch and dinner, the menu is designed to pair delightfully with Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels' dynamic list of over 550 clean and vibrant, original wines, compiled by expert sommelier and General Manager Julia Oudill, who sources bottles from original producers across the globe. Julia's list changes frequently due to the limited supply from small producers, and one can expect new and interesting references on a weekly basis; sufficient to keep everyone from the novice to the most discriminating wine aficionados intrigued.
A selection of Oudill's chosen wines are also available to buy and take home from La Compagnie Delicatessen next door, along with ingredients used in Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels' menu and other delicacies.
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels Seven Dials is the first London wine bar from Experimental Group, the collective minds behind iconic cocktail bars, wine and restaurant establishments in New York, Paris, London and Ibiza, including Experimental Cocktail Club, Experimental Beach, Beef Club & Ballroom, the newly launched Grand Pigalle Hotel in Paris and Joyeux Bordel, the new Shoreditch cocktail bar. The Experimental Group is independently owned by the founding 'garçons,' childhood friends Romée de Goriainoff, Olivier Bon and Pierre-Charles Cros, along with Xavier Padovani who became a partner in 2010 with the addition of London's Experimental Cocktail Club.
Julia's wine and food pairings
Pan Fried Scallops, Carrot and Ginger Puree, Crunchy Quinoa
Egon Muller, 'Kanta' Riesling, Adelaid Hill, Australia 2010
One of my favourite dishes on the new Autumn menu are the scallops pan fried are served with a carrot and ginger purée and shitaké mushrooms. Our chef, Ilaria Zamperlin, plays with Asian influences to create a brilliant combination.
With this dish I decided to pair an unusual Riesling, produced in Australia by Egon Muller, the star German winemaker. Here, the wine develops some ripe stone fruits & sweet spice flavours that will create a stunning pairing with the ginger and carrot purée. The vibrant acidity also works well with salty characteristics of the scallops.
Saint Peray, Les Pins, Bernard Gripa, Rhone, France 2011
This dish is our bestseller. We’ve had it on the menu since the very beginning and simply cannot remove it!
The idea is to take the Croque Monsieur, a typical French toasted sandwich, but add a decadent twist. We take two thick slices of soft and fluffy sourdough, black truffled ham, aged comté & béchamel. And on the top of it, we add two quail eggs...
With this, I like to recommend a Saint Peray, from the Domaine Bernard Gripa, especially the 2011 vintage. This blend of Marsanne and Roussanne show some Autumnal aromas such as truffle and accacia honey that the dish and pairing sublime. And it also provides an incredible tension that balances the richness of the Posh Madame, making it a fresh and exciting pairing.
Roasted Red Prawns, Lardo Di Colonnata & Borlotti Puree
Golliardo, Forjes Del Salnes, Rias Baixas, Spain 2013
This dish is more of an Italian ispiration. The red prawns are wrapped into Lardo di Colonnata, a famous Tuscan ham, and served with a wonderful borlotti bean purée. Here our chef decided to roast the prawns, so the fat of the lardo melts and gives all the earthy flavours to the flesh of the shellfish.
Recently, I discovered an incredible domaine from Rias Baixas in Spain. The cuvée Golliardo, made of old vines of Abarino, is stunning. The ocean influences of the wine provides a salty finish on the palate that works beautifully with the prawns. The wide and complex aromas swing with the grilled and meaty flavours of the dish while the freshness of the wine will be balanced by the creaminess of the bean purée.
Chateau D'Aydie, Madiran, South West, France 2010
I really like this pairing because it reminds me home. The cassoulet is a traditional recipe from the south west of France. It is a white bean stew and we add duck leg confit and sausage. For this type of dish, I like to pair a regional wine from Madiran. This appellation between Toulouse and Bordeaux produces powerful and structured red wines made of Tannat, the local grape.
The succulent duck needs the strength of the wine to lift it up. In spite of tannins, the wine is very juicy, with red berries and blackcurrent flavours. It brings some gourmandise and a real a kick in the mouth. It’s a traditional but amazing pairing.
What do you think makes a great sommelier?
First of all, I think about Passion. I think it is rare to be able to work every day, doing something that you love. It is a big opportunity and one I don't take lightly. Then you have to be open-minded, willing to listen others, customers, producers, sommeliers all the time. There are good things to learn from everyone. Curiosity, to want to understand and discover new things, are also paramount to being a good sommelier.
Then you need to have a solid knowledge with a dose of humility, and of course being super organised is a necessity.
Describe your typical day at work.
I usually start around 10am with paper work, invoices and orders. Once I've gone through paper work, lunch service starts and is often quite a busy few hours. In the afternoon, I like to keep 2 hours to taste, meet the suppliers and an additional hour to review stock and update the wine lists. Just in time to be ready at 6pm for the dinner service!
When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you?
Rather I am looking for a wine to go with a dish or a dish to go with a wine, there are no rules and a lot of options. But there are two main ways that you can follow, and that I often do. Firstly, create a pairing with an echo. I define the main aromas in the dish and will look for a wine that reminds me of those. For example, a Lamb Tagine with sweet spices, plums & coriander would pair well with an Australian syrah. It’s a powerful wine, with eucalyptus, black pepper & black cherry flavours.
The second approach would be to marry the dish with a wine to balance it, kind of finding the opposite. The same lamb tagine can work well with a light and juicy pinot noir with raspberry & floral aromas, easy to drink bringing fruit and freshness to the palate.
After all it is all a matter of taste, but always respect the seasonal wines and products.
Please describe your process for sourcing new wines.
Most of the time I focus myself on a region at the time, depending of the period of the year, the will and interest of the customers, and the season.
Then, I try to go to this region, to try to understand the terroir, and meet the people there. That is why my wine lists don't have a lot of new world wines. I then ask my suppliers what they have and taste a lot. It is only when I understand a little bit more about a region that I can make a proper selection.
The rest of the time, I taste a lot, and always keep my eyes open!
What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently?
I have noticed that people are less and less afraid to go for wine coming from unknown or less famous regions. I think people got bored of trying the same wines all the time. They are keen on trying Trousseau from Jura, Mansengs from Irouleguy or Furmint from Hungary.
That has been helped by the wine bar effect. You don’t have to go to a fancy restaurant anymore to get an interesting & good bottle of wine.
You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant?
Difficult question, but I would say Riesling, because you can do every type of wine, from the sweetest to the most incredible dry, with the largest aromatic palette.
My second would be Syrah, this is something that I will never get bored of. The texture can be as delicate as the most fine pinot noir from Burgundy to the richest and velvety southern Rhone. I just love it.
Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?
I am going to be super simple, but it would have to be blue cheese and port.
A nice piece of Gorgonzola Picante, or Stilton and a bottle of Port 20 years old from Quinta da Gaivosa are the only things that I have in my fridge at home.
And a most unusual food and wine pairing?
Last summer, I had an incredible Jamon iberico de Bellota, the whole leg on a table, while we were playing cards. We ate it with a magnum of Poiré Granit (pear cider) from Eric Bordelet. This pairing is absolutely not supposed to work, but believe me, I would eat and drink these together every day if I could.
How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask?
I like to know what they are here for: a date, a birthday, a girl's night out or just a drink after work. It helps me to find THE type of wine they want.
Then it's great if they can give me an idea of what they want, it could be a region, a grape variety, a memory or a picture they took of a bottle. This then helps me drive them through the wine list, and surprise them.
Otherwise, they should just ask "what is your coup de cœur at the moment" or "if you were having dinner tonight, what would you drink". There is no better way to get the best out of me.
Who is the one person you'd most like to share a bottle of wine with?
How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips?
I always say to write down everything. At the beginning it is difficult to remember every name, grape or sensation. 3 words per wine.
Then blind tasting is always a good exercise. Don't be afraid to talk about the wine, don't feel shy.
Like I do to source new wines, focus on one grape or one region for a while, it will give you the opportunity to compare.
Where do you see your future career path?
Anywhere there will be wine (and perhaps Paul McCartney).