Focus more important than size in wine lists, says top somm

“It’s more important to have a focused list than lots of wines,” says Julia Oudill, a sommelier turned general manager who oversees the drinks selections at outlets in London and more recently Ibiza too for a company called The Experimental Group.

Oudill made the comment when speaking to the drinks business last month as part of a series of profiles on people in the wine trade who are bringing dynamism to the sector.

Currently looking after the wines on offer at the Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels in Neal’s Yard and the newly-opened Chess Club in Mayfair, as well as managing the Experimental Beach Ibiza, Oudill splits her time between the UK and Spain, tailoring the drinks selection according to her audience.

Having told db that it’s more important to have a focused list than lots of wines, she explained that she has created a 300-strong wine selection for the Ibiza outlet that showcases the new wave of crisp Spanish whites and rosados. Among the Spanish wines on the list are magnums of Albarino from Zarate and Albamar and standard bottle formats of pink wines from Avancia in Valdeorras and Totem Wines in Ibiza – the rosados chosen to tap into the huge demand for pink wines on the island, above those from the south of France (the club also carries Provençal pinks from well-known producers such as Miraval and Minuty).

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But whether it’s Oudill’s lists in London or Spain, it’s Champagne that’s her great passion, particularly low-dosage and pure Chardonnay cuvées – a love that she ascribes to an immersion in the wines of the region having won a sommelier award from a Champagne house in 2009.

Later that same year she was named the best student sommelier in a competition sponsored by Michel Chapoutier, explaining her early rise to prominence – due to turn 28 years-old in October, Oudill has achieved much at a young age.

Although Oudill is French, having been born in the southern French town of Pau, she expresses no strong urge to work in her native nation, and enjoys splitting her time between London and Ibiza, although she has a strong desire to travel.

Like most people working in the hospitality sector, her dream is to have her own place, but such is the pace of change at The Experimental Group, she wants to stay with her current employer “as long as she can”.

Keeping her enthused are her customers. “I meet different people all the time, that’s why I love this job,” she says. However, for those who don’t know her, she tells db that she does elicit a surprise reaction on first meeting. And that’s because, she records, when people ask for the sommelier, they expect someone much older and male.

This profile featured in full in the August edition of The Drinks Business and was run in partnership with Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, which seeks to identify members of the UK wine trade “who have brought innovation and dynamism to the sector”.

Over the following pages are the French and Spanish wines feature on Oudill’s list at the Experimental Beach Ibiza.

One Response to “Focus more important than size in wine lists, says top somm”

  1. M.Q. Adams says:

    Very good approach to listen to the customer needs! Interesting wine list. It looks like 250-300% markup. Any push-back from consumers?

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