Interview With A Sommelier – Julien Beltzung
23rd August 2023
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 who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, his name is Julien Beltzung, and let’s find out a bit about his life as a Sommelier.
Tell Us About Yourself
“I was born in Alsace, France, a region celebrated for its cuisine and wine culture. My culinary journey began with an unforgettable experience at a three-Michelin-starred restaurant when I was just ten years old. In a prophetic twist of fate, at 14 years old, during a school trip overseas, I visited Scotland and the oldest working distillery in the country – The Glenturret Distillery in Crieff. I was fascinated by the distillery and always remembered the trip.
Initially, I wanted to become a chef, I pursued my passion by enrolling in catering school for three years, followed by two years of degree courses and an additional year dedicated to wine studies. As my interest in guest interaction and wines grew, I found a position as a commis sommelier at Villa René Lalique in Alsace, the restaurant was a bike ride from my grandmother’s house, so between work and home, I would visit and explore many of the vineyards in the region. After one year I became assistant head Sommelier.
Seeking new challenges, at the age of 22, I moved to Hong Kong, and joined the Landmark Mandarin Oriental, where I delved into international wines and beverages with a focus on new world wines. and worked at Somm and Amber 2 Michelin-starred restaurant by chef Richard Ekkebus. In 2020, amidst global events, I moved back to France and was contacted by colleagues at Villa René Lalique in Alsace (Romain Iltis), who talked of a new position in Scotland, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was only upon arriving in Scotland that I realised I had come full circle and returned to the Glenturret Distillery. accepting a role at The Glenturret Lalique restaurant. My journey is defined by a strong dedication to the art of hospitality and the world of wines, and I’m eager to continue exploring and sharing my passion for wines and beverages in the future.
The synergy to Scottish Chef Mark Donald’s food was instantaneous. It spoke to a connection to country that resonated with my years in Alsace. At Glenturret Lalique Restaurant, I have created a list that embraces his endless curiosity. A vibrant, evolving list that speaks to my knowledge within the wine community. I aim to have something new for every regular guest’s visit, from English sparking to low-contact wines by boutique wineries. By contrast, and as part of the Lalique family, my cellar holds (600 bins) a variety of rare mature vintages from the private wine selection and estates of Lalique Chairman Silvio Denz, whose enviable wine collection is accessed exclusively at the Glenturret Restaurant. Expect a who’s who of Burgundy, Margaux’s in top condition and much more from Bordeaux, Alsace and throughout Italy.”
What Inspired You To Become A Sommelier?
“My grandfather used to make his own wine from the grapes coming from his own garden. Since I was a kid, I’ve done almost every year the harvest and the start of the wine process with the family. It’s only one day per year but loved it, I think it was the start of my passion for wines.
On top of that, I was always curious to see what my dad would order as wine with his meal. Realising that a good meal couldn’t be without having at least a good glass of wine. Curiosity on top of that did help me to see that I was fully passionate of wines. It’s a world where you learn every day and there is so much more to learn. Becoming a sommelier is just fantastic, you can share with people and learn from them. You can see the emotion of the guests in their eyes or they smile, when the job is done.”
How Often Do You Find Yourself Recommending English Sparkling Wine?
“Not as often as I would love to. We have very few demands on English Sparkling Wine. As we are based in Scotland, in the oldest working distillery of the country, we do have a strong culture of Whisky cocktails to start a dinner. When guests are asking about having bubbles, they do ask Champagne as we are a restaurant where people do mostly come to treat themselves for a special occasion. English sparkling are not yet automatically associated with festive time, at least where we are located. I really do have good hope. When I see the general quality of what you can drink in 2023, I’m really positive for the future. I’ve discovered recently a few new producers that are much better that some Champagne brands. Let’s wait 5 more years and the demand from the guests will have change.”
In Your Professional Opinion, Out Of Champagne And Prosecco, Which Do You Think Does A Better Job With Complementing A Meal?
“My answer won’t be very objective as coming from France. Even I forget for about a few minutes, from where I’m from, I do prefer Champagne pairings. The diversity of terroirs and ageing do make a difference for me. There are so many more styles of Champagne to be able to play with for pairings. In the last couple of years, you also do find smaller winemakers, specialising in artisan Champagne and that give even more choice. You can more easily find good quality Champagne compare to Prosecco on the UK market.”
What Advice Would You Give Inspiring Sommeliers?
“Follow your own way, be very curious but don’t forget to try all kind of wines from everywhere in the world. Travelling does help a lot. A sommelier in 2023, should not only be focusing on wines but all drinks, very important for me.”
If You Sat Down For A Quiet Dinner, What Dish And Sparkling Wine Would You Choose To Enjoy Together?
“Oxford Preamble N2, Hundred Hills 2018 and Mussels with white wine, garlic, cream, parsley and smoked sea trout. I love the balance of the Preamble N2, the texture with the bubbles is amazing. You know when a wine is good, when you finish the bottle before the food and you are opening another bottle.”
Thank you, Julien, 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 Marc Millar Photography @schnappsphoto . Glass of Bubbly was granted permission by Julien Beltzung, to use them.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.