Our following sommelière is often described as ‘une étoile montante’ (a rising star), please meet Julia Scavo.
Julia was born in Craiova (Romania) where she obtained a Bilingual Baccalaureate: English-Mathematics and Physics and after this she decided to go to France to study engineering and mathematics at the University of Lyon. The last thing you would expect is that she would become a top sommelier, but better believe it :-) . Over the years Julia has won and finished as finalist in many International sommelier competitions like winner of the tile of "Central - European Sommelier Championship" 2012, 3rd place at the "Meilleur Sommelier d’Europe 2013", 5th "Meilleur Sommelier du Monde 2013", Finalist Master of Port 2011-2012, 2nd Best sommeliers of Romania 2008 and this list goes on and on….
To think that wandering around markets and vineyards in Bourgogne and Beaujolais would be leading to a career change? As she started to get more interested in wine she decided to switch from the University of Lyon to the University of Wine in Suze-la-Rousse where she attended the Sensory Analysis Course. Over the years that followed Julia has worked in a wide range of restaurants (both in Romania as in France) like La Trattoria by Alain Ducasse; Keisuke Matsushima in Nice, Restaurant “Ischia Tour” to develop herself and become the top sommelier she is today
Even the personal life became wine-related, after meeting her future husband Bruno Scavo (TOP sommelier in Monte Carlo and also on my list to interview :-) ) at Vinexpo in 2009.
Today Julia (besides being a mom of 2) is brand ambassador for the Reveal'UP glassware range from Chef&Sommelier, free-lance wine trainer and wine-educator in restaurants and in various training institutes in France (ICOP Aubagne, ICOP Paris, Formazur Nice, IFR Cannes, GRETA Nice, IRIS Development Monaco, Best Partners Mandelieu). I’m also very thankful that Julia took time for this interview, because she is currently also preparing herself for the ASI European Championships that are in Vienna in 2 weeks.
What is your favorite wine region to work with?
Douro Valley and especially Port: there is so much history and culture gravitating around this region and this wine! Millions of year of tremendous geology to create such a majestic landscape and generations of people that had continuously been thinking how to bring the row slate to perfection: tough work, modeling the mountains, calculating every single detail of altitude, aspect, slope, position... Not to mention the rich ampelography. The result, on of the most versatile wines ever, deep and complex, somehow "borderline" as it is split between the strength and delicacy, generosity and finesse. I love creating Port wine-dinners and serve these wines from the "apéritif" up to the cigar!
What does it take to be a good sommelier according to you?
Curiosity, search for universalism and a good dose of pedagogy.
Is the job of a sommelier underestimated/valued?
I have the feeling that the job is underestimated indeed. Some restaurants train their employees to have a basic knowledge about wine and think this could be enough to replace the sommelier, especially that in many places the task of selecting the wines goes to the F&B, the owner or his wife! Economical reasons have made it so that if there is an employee that can disappear from the staff, that should be the Sommelier (or barman). It surely depends from one region or one country to another, and hopefully, this is only due to an economic context, that will certainly change one day! There is also another problem: the job is that intense in the restaurant that the sommelier has very few time to progress, update his knowledge, travel and visit new wine-regions... Moreover, as a she-sommelier, the equation gets even more complicated, as motherhood is a critical moment for the job!
When and how did you get the passion for wine?
My passion for wine comes from my interest for the gastronomic culture and simply speaking from my passion for culture! Wine is a cultural object, surrounded by history, natural sciences, Physics, Chemistry, Philosophy, Literature, other arts...
I graduated from Mathematics and also did some Engineering studies and my previous background was literary, so it is normal that the sum of these brought me to wine!
Who is your big example in the wine/sommelier world?
Monsieur Pierre Galet, a vivid memory of ampelography and wines, a kind of "Homo Universalis" with encyclopedic knowledge. I had the priviledge to meet him 3 years ago during a symposium about terroir and grape varieties - a great moment of culture!
What is your approach for pairing wines(or other beverages) with
My approach is to create the dish "note by note" through the wine or beverage tasting, taking into account aromas, structure and texture of each other. I believe it is a better way to approach a great match.
Which wine region would you recommend everybody to visit and why?
Well, since I have already talked about the Douro Valley, which I would absolutely recommend everybody to visit, I will move to the Piedmont! Why? Again, culture and history are there too, there is always a castle, church or museum to visit between two tastings. There is also a mysterious atmosphere during the "Nebbia" period which is so metapysic, that one can only penetrate it in the obscure cellars, in glass of Barolo or Barbaresco. Austere in appearance, but generous by nature, people here have so much in common with their wines: charisma, character, lots of personality. The hilly aspect of the region gives a friendly impression, but the region is carved in deep marls, the wines may be difficult to understand while youthful, but the local cuisine brings salt and pepper, not to mention the most exquisite truffle fragrances!
For which wine would you make a big sacrifice to be able to taste?
TBA 1959 Scharzhofberger from Egon Müller, of course ( as a coincidence, this is the vintage when the actual Egon Müller IV was born!)
What is your most wonderful memory of hotel management school or
It is simple: in 2009 I took up a wine, spirits and beverages marketing diploma in Paris, at the ICOP institute. One week later I met the one who become my husband and eventually the father of my children, in Vinexpo, Bordeaux. I keep a wonderful souvenir of the day when the school director allowed me, with all the organisation difficulties, to move to the sister institute in Provence and so follow the man who mentored me for my contests. I eventually had my diploma in 2011 and one year latter, after my first pregnancy, I started teaching at ICOP, both in Paris and in Provence!
A culinary or wine experience everybody should have had besides
have a meal at your restaurant, shop, winery, etc..?
Eat at the Hostellerie Jérôme, in La Turbie, not far from my place! "Emotion" should be the word.