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Wine Expertise

Melba Allen-Buillard is the wine expert behind Passport Gourmet and is a unique pioneer in today’s wine industry.  She is the only female wine professional whose interest, education and career development is based in France. A native Houstonian, Allen moved to Paris in 1988, where she worked as a model for houses such as Jean-Louis Scherrer and Balmain. She became interested in wine by accident, learning that she had an excellent nose and memory for aromas and flavours when she was (literally) knocked off her chair by a wine professional in a Paris restaurant.

Allen soon found herself teaching wine appreciation classes. She stayed with CIDD for three years. With her passion ignited, she pursued her interest in wine as an entrepreneur and went on to obtain the title of Sommelier-Conseil after intensive study at the Université de Vin (University of Wine) at Suze la Rousse in France.

Allen’s association with CIDD led her to meet her husband, enologist Michel Buillard. Buillard was the enologue at CIDD, but Allen did not meet him until several months after she left the organization. She and Buillard were brought together to work on a couple of projects, and their shared interest in wines sparked a mutual attraction. The rest, as they say, is history.  The couple went on to create a wine consulting firm that specialized in training amateurs and professionals in wine appreciation.

Recruited by the French-owned Culinary Institute LeNôtre in Houston, Texas, Allen and Buillard moved to Houston to provide wine expertise for this school. Allen’s vision of a wine education program that would expand Houston’s gastronomic reputation led to her creation of the first wine institute in Texas. As director, Allen first established the Institute’s series of amateur classes, and subsequently expanded its scope to propose training for aspiring professionals.

Despite the attention that the Wine Institute garnered, Allen and Buillard could not resist the pull of the European wine market. So they decided to move back to France, settling in the Burgundy region. They dissolved their consulting firm, but continue to teach professionally – Buillard at a multinational company devoted to the production and marketing of beer and wine and Allen at the university level.

Allen has taught at the prestigious Institut Vatel in Lyon and currently holds classes at the European Centre of International Hotel Management in Paris. She has provided instruction for more than 600 pupils in recent years, giving lectures on the vineyards and wines of France, the wine making process and wine marketing, as well as practical demonstrations on wine tasting.

Though she primarily teaches professional courses, Allen also instructs amateurs in wine appreciation.  She coordinates wine pairing dinners for groups of corporate and leisure travellers, organizing events at restaurants ranging from small neighbourhood wine bars to the three-star Michelin restaurant Taillevent.

With more than ten years in the profession, Allen is well on her way to establishing a reputation as an expert in the industry. She is a member of the Union des Sommeliers de France and the Chaîne des Rotisseurs, and has written a column on wine appreciation entitled “Ask the Expert” for the e-publication

Travel Planning Expertis

The operations and logistics are run by Larry Davis. Larry is British and lived in the US for 24 years before moving to Paris in 1999.

In 2001 he opened online art gallery focused on 19th century Academic Works and original French art from the 20s and 30s. This evolved into the contemporary art field, product distribution and 4 years ago the travel business.

Larry has been a luxury brand management consultant / business strategist as well as a Jewelry manufacturer and distribute in the US, which he managed and operated for many years. Clients included major mass-retailers, upscale department stores and direct response customers such as American Express, QVC and Saks Fifth Ave.

Larry holds an MBA in Accounting from Pace University new York and an MBA in luxury brand management from Essec. He is a certified gemologist.


Just a note to let you know that our Nice pick up and delivery to the Ship, with wonderful highlights and good weather, along the way worked very well...You did a good job!!....especially the weather!!....
Travel Agent

Hi Larry, Just wanted to pass on our thanks for organizing the wine tour Charlotte was fantastic - please pass on to her our thanks. We had a great evening. Just a pity our time in Paris was so short this year - will have to try and do better next time!

Dear Larry, Wasn't able to get to your special feedback site, but wouldn't like to withhold mine. It was 'merveilleux' Saturday 28th June 2008. Celebrating the second lustrum of our organzition, both staff and management went on a three day trip to Paris.

Larry.....both guides were great. We particularly liked Brian who was knowledgeable, courteous and funny.

Larry, I just wanted to let you know that I've had wonderful feedback from my client. The whole trip ran like clockwork. I think we'll definitely have to look at how we can work together in the future, especially when our clients are looking for more than just flights or standard transfers into town. Kind regards,
Jet Provider

I just wanted to let you know what a terrific time we had with Steve in Rome. My brother who was visiting Rome for the first time was thrilled, and I, having been there three times, saw Rome differently. He was very good, although we did get a little tired toward the end, having just flown overnight from the US. Nevertheless, he was helpful technically as well as spotting the interesting corners of Rome. We highly recommend him and we would appreciate it if you would pass this along to him. We never got his email address.

Our Philosophy

I travel constantly between France, Italy, and Spain (and occasionally a few other destinations) to find interesting places to offer and as importantly meet people who feel the same way about traveling as I do. Travel should be fun and informative. I don't want boring historical lectures that go on and on. I want to experience the place I'm in and enjoy interacting with local people where they live and work. So in effect - its all about the experience of "being there" no about the price paid or what is expected.

You will find we are highly responsive, creative and value driven. Certainly this is one reason we are able to manage large corporate groups well and re-sell our tours through the largest online portals like Expedia and GTA.



Trust Earned Travel ( educates business and vacation travelers.


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About Us

Passport Gourmet is an online wineportal combining expertise in wine and spirits with the desire for tasting adventures arounds the world

We create unique tasting experiences in Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Florence and Venice and you will find many on these on other web sites.

Our head office is in the 7th arrondissement on the Left Bank. Our wine center is in Burgundy

Please feel free to make any comments or suggestions.

Thank you for visiting our site and remember to tell your friends as well.

Larry Davis
Managing Director

Melba Allen
Sommelier at Large

Mailing Address:
13, Ave, Duquesne
75007 Paris France


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