I don’t have a nickname; not yet.
I would like to have the ability of an ant. They are much stronger than their size would suggest, are organised, patient, and able to build incredible things. And they are incredibly resilient.
The wine that lit the fire:
The first one I remember tasting was Chateau Marquis de Terme 1983, Margaux. I was 16 at the time. I did not fall in love with it but I became intrigued by wine, enough to decide a few months later that I wanted to become a sommelier!
I am originally from Agen, in the South West of France but I have been living in Dublin, Ireland, for the last 15 years.
Funny enough I do not have a daily routine ... and that in itself describes pretty well who I am. I do not like routine. The only time in my life I had a routine was when I was preparing for the World Sommelier Championship. Since it is over, I am back to my free-spirited self!
The thing that led you to wine as a career:
I grew up in a family where cooking and sharing quality time during dinner was very important. I was, from a young age, introduced to many fresh ingredients and I always loved eating and tasting new food items. My mom's parents were farmers and used to make wine for their own consumption. Sometimes, during Sunday lunch, I was allowed a big glass of water with a drop of red wine. I was also allowed to do "Chabrot" which consists of some red wine to soup left in your bowl. You then drink the mixture directly from the bowl.
I always was fascinated by the scent of things and my dream was to become a "nose", to create my own perfumes. However, on my 16th birthday, my dad's dad opened a bottle of wine from my year of birth and I became very intrigued by wine. This was the trigger for me.
I am working as a sommelier-consultant for Chapter One, a 1-Star Michelin restaurant in Dublin. I am also the consultant for Cognac Exsto, a new Cognac brand on the market (only in Singapore at the moment). I am in charge of the taste development for each limited edition. I am also the Brand Ambassador for some Champagne houses in Ireland. I host a lots of staff trainings around the country and consumers tastings and dinners. Finally I also a judge at some wine competitions such as Decanter Magazine and IWC.
Favourite part of your job: Sharing is definitely the favourite part of my job. Sharing knowledge, passion, emotion, ideas, experiences, and more.
If you could pick another way to get involved in the wine world, what would it be?
I would probably like to be involved in a more legal and political side of the wine world. I think it does not make any sense that wine has no list of ingredients/additives on the labels and to gain a certification to state that you are "organic" or "biodynamic", people have to pay. I believe that you should not have to call out on your wine label the fact you haven't added anthing to it but you should have to add on the back label everything which is present in the wine. Wine is not necessary for living, wine is pleasure and is part of a cultural heritage in many countries, I think that the consumers should know, or have chance to know, what they are really buying on an everyday basis so the they get a chance to make a more informed decision when buying wine
Current wine crush:
That's difficult, I have many.... Orange wines and good Natural wines, Blaufrankish and Madeira... As for non-wine it is sake and Oolong teas.
Favourite wine resource:
For studying the guildsomm website as well as official law texts from different countries such as the INOQ website for French wines. When it comes to reading for pleasure, I tend to prefer a magazine or a book. Personally, I think that the magazine Vinum is great.
Orange wines and tandoori cuisine, fino sherry and sushi, Moscato d'asti and Peche Melba, Champagne and Iberico ham, sea urchin and my new Cognac EXSTO Elixir on ice :-).
Dream dinner date:
Pascaline Lepeltier... every time I meet her we are both in a rush and never have time to share a glass of wine! So it would be nice to finally get a chance to dine together! ;-)
What do you love about your current position?
All the opportunities that I have to keep on learning, improving my skills, travelling, meeting other passionate people. I work at something I love and I never really feel that I am “working”.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
To work hard, to never give up and to use each failure as an opportunity to get up again and eventually succeed.
Have you ever experienced gender bias or discrimination in your work? How did you approach the situation?
I never experienced gender bias which I feel very lucky about. I spent most of my career in Ireland and gender equality is pretty good there. It is a society where women are highly respected and reach senior positions regularly (2 of their presidents were women!). However, I do still regularly receive some comments from men with sexual connotation or comments on my looks. The thing is there are meant to be simple jokes and sometimes probably some sort of compliment but I am always shocked to hear them, especially nowadays with the growing "me too movement".
Why do you think women are underrepresented in the wine industry?
Well I am not sure for the whole wine industry but I would say that in the restaurant industry, being a woman you eventually need to face some career choices linked to your personal life. Having children and working late nights and weekends is not necessary compatible.
What are the most significant challenges for women in our industry, and for those women who will come after us?
I think that pay equality is one of the main challenges. It is so hard as a women to be paid the same amount of money as male colleagues. It is also so common in this industry to be asked to do things for free. I think it is very important to categorically refuse to work at anything for free. It is easy to justify it as " a good experience" for your CV. No, I am sorry but if someone ask you to write an article or to help them out with their wine list, etc then it means that they consider you good enough to do the job and you should be paid for your time.
What can we do to change these issues?
Simply refuse to work for free or to be underpaid and don't rush to accept a job opportunity and pay. First, ask around you, the idea of pay should not be taboo anymore and should be made more transparent. Ask for advice around and make sure that you are taking an informed decision. If everybody does this, then eventually the mentality and the culture will change.
Is there something that you do to support the women in our industry?I am always available and happy to help and advise colleagues. I would like my legacy to be simply the evidence that you can be a woman and still make your place in this industry by working hard, being honest, true to yourself and very importantly respectful of all other peers, may they be men or women. I think it is very important to keep in mind that wanting to affirm ourselves as women is great and wonderful but this has to be done with respect and dignity. The issue that some women may face in the industry are not coming from gender differences but from gender inequality created by narrow-minded people of the opposite sex. We cannot as women, decide to affirm ourselves by forgetting the value of gender equality and end up dismissing male colleagues, making the same mistakes that were made in the past and potentially repeating history the other way around.
Is there anyone who has become a mentor for you, or otherwise been especially inspirational or supportive?
Gerard Basset was the person who helped me believe in myself and found the strength to work harder than I would ever imagine. He was a model of generosity, kindness, humility and for this I will be forever grateful to him.
Post hoc: What’s next? Do you have any goals within your current position/company, or another plan?
I have been working on a Cognac project for the past two years and we finally launched it on the Singaporean market. It was such an exciting opportunity to be part of a creative project. I loved it and I really want to continue in that direction. My dream, as a child, was to create my own perfume so I will definitely keep on exploring the opportunities of creating in the wine and spirit industry.