OT: Could you tell us a bit about your journey as the resident sommelier for the Claridges?

Judith Scarione: Well, the journey has been amazing. I joined two years ago. It turned out that just as I was considering settling down in India, at about the same time the Claridges was looking for someone with exactly my profile. Here, they are open to trying new things and that kind of flexibility is a huge blessing for a sommelier.

OT: What are some of the changes you’ve made since you’ve come here?

Judith Scarione: I haven’t implemented huge changes because it is a landmark property, but we have imported five exclusive organic wines from France. In India, they were already available, but at exorbitant prices. We’ve introduced them at more reasonable rates.

OT: What do you think about Indian wine?

Judith Scarione: In India, winemaking is very young. Sula Vineyards is a pioneer, and we’ll never be grateful enough to them. But now, we are seeing more boutique wineries. I am very curious to see where the industry is heading, but we probably won’t see the best wines coming from India—not in my lifetime. In places like Burgundy, winemaking is centuries old and you can’t take history away.

OT: Indians prefer sweet wine. So how do you deal with their palate?

Judith Scarione: To some extent, it is true that Indians prefer sweet wine but that’s because they’ve just started drinking it. So I don’t want to speak for the Indian palate. I want to have many flavours available for any different taste that’s out there.

OT: Do you like India?

Judith Scarione: I love India and it has been very good to me. It’s a place that keeps you grounded. Here, you are surrounded by great diversity.

OT: How did your passion for wines come about?

Judith Scarione: I have always been obsessed with food and flavours and I eat anything if it is well made. It’s the same with wine. I discovered wine when I was 26. Someone poured me a glass and I was like, “whoa!”. I haven’t looked back since.

OT: Why wine? Why not, say beer or whisky?

Judith Scarione: A colleague sommelier once said to me that the beauty of wine is that no two wines are ever the same. So, it’s an extremely humbling field. Some people think that I know everything about wine. I think I know nothing and am just starting to figure things out.

OT: What’s your favourite place you’ve travelled to in India?

Judith Scarione: I loved everything! My favorite city would be Cochin. I also love the whole of Kerala, the Western Ghats and Kashmir. It’s so diverse. However, I haven’t been to Pondicherry yet. I hear it’s amazing.