Monday 10 December 2012

French Foodies in Ireland: Julie Dupouy, Best Sommelier Ireland 2009 & 2012

I'm delighted to start my "French Foodies in Ireland" interview series with Julie Dupouy from Agen in the South-West of France who has been a sommelier since 2003.

Julie won Best Sommelier Ireland 2009 & 2012 and will represent the country at the World Sommelier competition in Japan in 2013.

  •  What brough you to Ireland? 
The first time I moved to Ireland was to work in Patrick Guilbaud Restaurant. It was in January 2004. I wanted to improve my English and I stayed in Dublin for 18 months. To put things into context, I was just arriving from a 6 months seasonal job in a 2-michelin-star restaurant in France... and I was not ready at all for the Irish definition of “hospitality” and “fine dining service”. I was taught at school to consider that in average people drink 1 bottle of white wine between 4 people and 1 bottle of red wine between 5 people... and It took me a while to get used to the “Irish rule” of 1 bottle per head !  Plus the fact that regularly, people that you never served before, would give you a big hug leaving the restaurant... that was quite a big shock for my well-polished, slightly cold and slightly arrogant French little person!
So I decided to leave Ireland and to move somewhere I could find what I would have considered at the time a more “civilized fine –dining clientele”. I spent in total one year between Luxembourg and Belgium... and I realize very soon that I made a big mistake: I took a flight back straight to Dublin, with no job but with the certitude that the Irish culture was the one I wanted to belong to! Enough of fake manners, arrogant staff and customers, dullness and coldness... I wanted a chance to desacralize the image of sommelier in people’s mind. Wine knowledge doesn’t necessarily need arrogance. A sommelier is not someone here to scare you, bore you with their knowledge or sell you the most expensive bottle of wine! A sommelier should be here to help you, make you feel comfortable and bring an extra dimension to your meal.

  •     You won “Best sommelier in Ireland ”in 2009 and 2012, Could you tell me more about the competition?
Sommelier Competitions usually follow the same format in every country or even at international level: a questionnaire of between 50 and 100 questions and a couple of wines in blind tasting. After that the candidates who get the most points go further in the competition (only 3 of us in 2009 and 2012). The afternoon then consisted of various tasks: food and wine pairings, correction of an erroneous wine list, decanting a red wine, blind tasting (in black glasses) of 6 spirits and blind tasting of 3 wines.

  •     When did you start being interested in wines?
For my 16th birthday my grandad opened a bottle of Margaux, Château Marquis de Terme 1983. At the time I was studying acting as well as going to school and that was what I wanted to do for a living... which did not sit very well in my dad’s mind.

Food was always a big part of our family meetings. One of my grandmothers used to write on the kitchen wall paper the recipes that she made and liked. She would never cook twice the same recipe. I grew up surrounded by a lot of flavours between the kitchen, the garden and the orchard. After my big disappointment with not being able to study acting at an higher level I originally thought of the perfume industry as another option (but it is a very difficult middle and there are very little job opportunities) so I thought about wine...and that is when my grandad opened the bottle of Margaux....

  •     What are your favourite wine destinations?
I do not really have a favourite wine destination... There are lot of places where I would love to go and very few I was able to visit twice!

I particularly was impressed by South Africa. They really developed their wine tourism. It is very easy to travel there and you can stop in any winery, they have premises for tasting, you do not need to book in advance and the tasting fees are really reasonable.

On the other side, to combine romantism to wine tasting, Santorini is absolutely stunning and I do say I was really impressed by the quality of the wines. I would not recommend spending more than 3 or 4 days on the island though as it is quite small and there are not too many things to do except sailing and shopping.

I also loved Germany (Mosel, Rheingau, Rheinessen, Nahe ). I actually went twice there. The setting is amazing and going through the different areas and tasting the wines, you really understand what people are talking about with the notion of “Terroir”.

I guess France and Italy are two other beautiful wine destinations and you can add to it the gastronomic aspect of the trip... you might need to be more organized though as most of the tasting require booking in advance and if you are not working for a renown restaurant you might even be refused at certain wineries...

  •     What’s your favourite wine and food pairing?
An easy and classical pairing would be aged Comté cheese and Vin Jaune from Jura. It was actually a revelation for me as it is a difficult wine to understand at the beginning and the association of the two products together is magic.

Then one of the most memorable pairings I had was a Carpaccio of sea bream, lemon grass and wasabi dressing served with a Montlouis sec from François Chidaine 2008. The flavours of the dish and of the wine, plus the different textures and the acidy were just like a duo of opera singers answering back to each other. I remember giggling while having it.

Finally, another combination that I love is very simple and delicious: Pêche Melba served with a Moscato d’Asti.

  •     What’s your favourite restaurant in Ireland?
They are a few places I really like, from very simple to more sophisticated: “Poppy’s” in Enniskerry (their Guinness Pie is really good), Matt the Thresher on Pembroke Street in Dublin (I go there if I want to eat some fish), The Green House (I was there once so far and I definitely want to go back. The style is miles away from anything we had before in Dublin and I love that), Patrick Guilbaud Restaurant (I was there in September and the food was superb. The service is top. The wine list magical. The whole experience is very special).

  •     What food do you always bring back in your suitcase from France?
If I tell you I might be stopped at the border next time... ;-) I better be discret about it : homade jam, duck confit and foie gras made by my grandmother.

  •     What are you hoping Santa to bring you for Christmas?
A place in the final in Tokyo in March ;-)!

*All pictures courtesy of Julie Dupouy

You can follow Julie Dupouy on twitter 

Mes amis, my blog has been nominated for Expats Blog award, the results will be announced on the 13th of December.
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