Interview With A Sommelier – Mélina Soulavie
12th December 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 woman from England, who has helped many people to discover the vast world of Wines and Sparkling Wines, her name is Mélina Soulavie, let’s find out about her life as a Sommelier.
Tell Us About Yourself
“Hi everyone! My name is Mélina Soulavie, I’m 28. I am working as a Sommelier at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught in Mayfair.
I am from the Rhône Valley, the Northern part, from Ardèche precisely. Since a young age, I always wanted to work in Hospitality. I did a hospitality degree before going to Tain l’Hermitage Wine School. This is where everything began for me. I did 2 years of studying. During the first year, we learnt about viticulture, Oenology, Wine service, French vineyards and we had two internships to do. My first one was at Domaine Vincent Paris in Cornas for harvest and the second was at Maison Lameloise 3* in Burgundy as an intern commis sommelier.
The second year is about the international wine world program focusing on the WSET (Wine and Spirit Education Trust) level 2 and level 3 in English and one international internship. I went to Hong Kong as an intern commis sommelier in a French Brasserie.
After my wine degree, I decided to move to England. I started as a commis Sommelier at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, and after two years, I moved to London.
My first London experience was at Davies and Brook at the Claridge’s as a sommelier. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed its doors, therefore, I went for the reopening of The Ledbury in Notting Hill and I am now at Hélène Darroze at the Connaught in Mayfair as a Sommelier.
Since I moved to London, I always push myself to grow my wine/hospitality knowledge. Last year, I did the certified exam from CMS (Court of Master Sommelier), and recently, I represented the United Kingdom at the International Young Sommelier Competition. It was an amazing experience and I cannot wait to see what my next challenge will be!”
Do You Remember Your First Experience With Sparkling Wine? When It Was And What Kind Of Wine It Was?
“Since I was a kid, there were always a few bottles of sparkling wine for every family birthday. I am pretty much sure that I tasted some of it before the legal age.
Where I am from, it’s very common to celebrate a special occasion with some Clairette de Die. This is a sparkling wine from the Rhone Valley. We enjoy local products!
This is a very special sweet sparkling wine made from a blend of Muscat à petit grains blanc and Clairette. It is vinified according to the ancestral dioise method.
It is a wine with fruity aromas, where we can taste apricot and peach, as well as floral aromas such as rose, rosehip or honeysuckle.”
What Inspired You To Become a Sommelier?
“My parents inspired me to become a Sommelier. Since I was little, I have been going with my parents to different wine fairs in the northern part of the Rhone Valley (Cornas, Saint Joseph, Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, Condrieu, Crozes Hermitage, Saint Péray). I had a lot of opportunities to speak with lots of winemakers and I always admired all the hard work they were doing to be able to make such an amazing wine. I am also very passionate about gastronomy and in my opinion, wine is always adding the final touch to a great meal.
During Your Time As A Sommelier, What’s The Most Surprising & Interesting Thing You’ve Learnt?
“The most surprising & interesting thing I have learnt is the multiple choice of wine pairing. There is never only one ‘right’ pairing, we can play as much as we like with the different combinations. We are like painters playing with colours. Food and wine pairing is always a strong question for a sommelier, as in the end, this is why we are here, to recommend wine for our guests, what will pair very well with their food.
There are no rules in wine pairing, I believe the limits are just our imagination. We can always find ways to pair wine with food, looking at similar flavours within the dishes; or by opposite style (contrast) such as sweet wine and blue cheese.
What Sparkling Wine Producing Countries or Regions Hold A Special Place In Your Heart?
“Champagne region holds a really special place in my heart, as during my second year at Tain l’Hermitage, I had to do a dissertation. The subject was Maison de Champagne against Grower’s Champagne. I went for one week in Champagne, doing some tasting and meeting with winemakers from very different backgrounds.
The Estate Champagne R. Pouillon & fils in Mareuil-sur-Aӱ was a mind blowing experience for me because, for the first time, I tasted a Champagne made from Solera method.
This is a generational-wine. With the Solera winemaking process, young and older wines mutually share their features.
Successively blended vintages dating back to 1997 and up until today.
It reflects the way in which it was made, a subtle combination of assets: the heat of Mareuil’s legendary slopes, the cold of deep chalk, the crispness of the maturing process, the balance of dried, candied and stewed fruit, associated with smooth aromas and minerality.”
Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?
“The most memorable place where I enjoyed a glass of bubbly was with my grandfather when we celebrated his 100 years old birthday. I opened with him a beautiful magnum of Champagne and it was an amazing souvenir which I will never forget! All my family and our friends were there to cheer with us to this beautiful life moment.”
Thank you, Mélina, 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 Mélina Soulavie. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission, to use them.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.