Interview With A Sommelier – Jean-Louis Naveilhan

6th May 2024

Interview With A Sommelier Jean-Louis Naveilhan

The World of Wine is beautifully showcased by an army of talented Sommeliers, who help the consumer discover their next favourite bottle, understand the different regions and pair a delicious meal with the right Glass of Bubbly.

In this feature, I speak with a man from, England, who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, his name is Jean-Louis Naveilhan, let’s find out about his life as a Sommelier.

Tell Us About Yourself

“A French native, I earned my Sommelier diploma from world-renowned Tain l’Hermitage and am certified by the International Court of Sommeliers as well as one of a handful of holders of the Sake Educator certificate. I have been in London since 1999, with a first stint at Le Gavroche as a Junior Sommelier when I graduated from Sommelier school, I had my biggest spell for 10 years as Sumosan Mayfair Head Sommelier, until 2015, but have since moved to the other side, as a wine importer, running my own company supplying independent restaurants, retailers and private clients my selections of crafted wines, sakes and spirits. On top of it, I am also the Head of Education for the Sake Sommelier Association, training new Sake Educators worldwide as well as helping setting up judging & Sommelier competitions for the association’s network.”

Do You Remember Your First Experience With Sparkling Wine? When It Was And What Kind Of Wine It Was?

“It would have been at family reunions when I was young. As you know, the French start early their initiation. Always Champagne, as part of my family is from the Champagne region, when I was born, at my christening, the cross on my forehand was made by the priest dipping his finger in Champagne, so I was properly introduced to the drink. We always had growers Champagne at home and for every occasion, our ‘house’ brand was Champagne Collery (Aÿ near Epernay), and it was always a special moment when I was allowed to dip my lips in a fresh glass of Brut Grand Cru. And more lately in my career, while working for Nicolas, I have the most exquisite memory of a Bollinger RD 1985 enjoyed for the 2000 new year celebrations. It was magic.”

What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?

“In my family, nobody was working in hospitality, but we had great traditions of long family meals and special occasions always calling for good wines. That part always interested me, and I was keen to go to the cellar helping to choose and prepare the wines for the feasts. That is how I decided after secondary school to focus on hospitality and then Sommeler studies.”

During Your Time As A Sommelier, What’s The Most Surprising & Interesting Thing You’ve Learnt?

“That is a good question, as I have seen a lot in my career, so I do not get surprised easily. But when I did my first Sommelier training placement at L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence, I served a German couple drinking 4 bottles of white wine under the sun and drove off after perfectly fine.”

What Sparkling Wine Producing Countries or Regions Hold A Special Place In Your Heart?

“Champagne will always be high up there, but when I visited South Africa, I was impressed by the quality of the local sparkling. France as a whole, outside of Champagne, always impresses me, value for money, Cremants from Alsace, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Limoux and Loire, and that is what I import and sell the most.”

What Advice Would You Give Inspiring Sommeliers?

“Always make up your own mind about what you like but always stay fair and give enough choice to your clients and cover the food pairings.”

Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?

“I have a great memory of a lunch organised by Mumm at the Ritz. It was a discovery of a selection of rare vintages that was truly impressive, as well as the top service from the team there.”

Thank you, Jean-Louis, for sharing your words, knowledge and experiences with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to Jean-Louis Naveilhan. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission, to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.