Sommelier of the Month - Marco Feraldi
- Name: Marco Feraldi
- Date of birth: 15th May 1973
- Place of birth: Palermo, Itlay
- Eye colour: Brown.
- Nationality: Italian
Marco Feraldi was appointed Head Sommelier at the Michelin starred restaurant Seven Park Place by William Drabble in November 2012.
Marco has brought with him extensive experience at the highest level, having worked for a number of Michelin-starred restaurants as a senior sommelier including La Chapelle, Galvin at Windows and Gordon Ramsay's Maze. Prior to this, Marco gained valuable knowledge at several fine-dining restaurants in Italy, including one Michelin-starred, La Capinera in Sicily.
About our restaurant
Seven Park Place, is a small but perfectly formed 26-cover Michelin-starred restaurant by William Drabble, and is located in the St James's Hotel and Club, a stone's throw from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly London and the boutiques of Mayfair.
William Drabble has created a menu that, whilst influenced by his classical French training, is packed full of British seasonal ingredients. His approach is unfussy allowing the meticulously-sourced local ingredients to speak for themselves. Signature a la carte dishes include poached native lobster tail with cauliflower puree and lobster butter sauce; best end of Lune Valley lamb with confit potatoes, caramelised onion and thyme jus; marinated hand-dived scallops with Dorset crab and blood orange; and braised stuffed oxtail, celeriac mash, wild mushrooms and bone marrow. For a truly memorable dining experience, opt for the outstanding six-course degustation menu at £72 (£123 with paired wines), whilst an exceptional value-for-money lunch menu offers two courses for £25.50 and three at £29.50.
An elegant space, with a clear nod to the 'Golden Age' of 1920s glamour, the intimate jewel box-like dining room exudes a sense of occasion, touched with modern comfort and a relaxed ambience. The work of British designers is evident throughout with handmade crystal lighting from Vaughan and soft furnishings by William Yeoward, Osborne & Little and Designers Guild. Neisha Crosland wraps the walls with glamorous print.
Private Dining For a more intimate affair, William Drabble's cuisine can be enjoyed in one of the gorgeous private dining rooms. From the Wellington Boardroom to the stunning Mayfair suite, the rooms are ideal for a whole host of occasions from business lunches to birthday dinners, wedding breakfasts and family celebrations.
Marco Feraldi is on hand to guide diners through the impressive 350-strong wine list, which includes a host of unique and rare vintages from all over the world. Look out for the restaurant's regular food and wine pairing dinners, producer evenings and cheese and wine master-classes that take place throughout the year with William and Marco.
Please tell us some background about yourself. How did you first become interested in wine, and how did that interest evolve into a career?
A casual job as waiter became passion; this passion turned into love and this love into a career.
During an interview for a position as Electronic Engineer, I was asked "Please answer without thinking, don't use your head but your heart... Where do you see yourself in 10 years-time?" My heart replied "I want to be the Director of my own hotel". I watched a movie which changed my life: "The Concierge" with Michael J. Fox - it was then that I decided to make a career out of my casual job as waiter, achieving my current position with passion and dedication.
What do you think makes a great sommelier?
To be a great sommelier training is fundamental, of course, but I think patience, dedication, self-control and great passion are just as important as training. All the great sommeliers I have met and know, have a real thirst for discovery. They are always eager and striving to know more and more; as I say, they are able to "feel the wine". Normal people touch a bottle and they feel glass, whilst a great sommelier touches a bottle and feels the pure essence of wine. A great sommelier is able to match the right wine with food and with a third element which is... people!
Describe your typical day at work.
Everything starts in the morning with the 'mise en place; we make sure that everything looks perfect in our beautiful dining room and then we are ready to serve! Thanks to the great help and support that I receive from my colleagues, I am able to focus only on the wine service and I am always on hand during lunch and dinner service for any wine recommendations or questions our diners may have.
How does pricing affect the wine advice you give diners?
A wine list should give you the chance to select amongst a wide price range, from the best value for money options to the most prestigious nectar you could possibly imagine. I like to avoid embarrassment from my guests when recommending wine and I try to really understand guests' personal taste and economic preference rather than pointing the finger on a line. It is the diner's guidance what directs my wine advice rather than price.
Have customers become more knowledgeable about wine?
Yes, I find that more and more customers already have a sound knowledge about wine as well as food, and they are more adventurous with their choice. This is also why my role is becoming increasingly exciting and every day is a challenge. I'm glad that there is more enthusiasm amongst people and their intrinsic interest in the world of wine.
Who has been most influential in your career?
Matteo Ramazzina. He was 22 when I started at the Morton's Club, four years ago. He was the youngest Head Sommelier in the UK handling the third biggest wine list in Europe. I gained from him not only a good wine knowledge, but I was also inspired by his dedication and passion, that led me to my current position as Head Sommelier at the Michelin starred Seven Park Place.
Describe a good sommelier's introduction or presentation of their list at a table.
I think that there is no rule or standard for presenting a wine list; you can set as many standards as you like but all guests are different. The best way to introduce yourself and your wine list is to listen to your guests and try to understand as much as you can before doing so. The rest should follow.
When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you?
I usually try how several wines taste with the food. It is possible to imagine a good pairing without even tasting it. However this takes a huge amount of experience and does not always deliver the best result. So... I really have a tough life... trying all the delicious food that we serve and all the amazing wines that can work with it!
How often do you manage to touch base and re-taste your wines?
It really depends on the wine. In the case of a bestseller, I'd rather wait a month or so to taste it again, whilst a great vintage for a fine wine... well, anytime there is a chance to! Generally speaking, I taste very often all of my wines. It is necessary if you want to make sure that the wine reaches the table when it is at its best.
Please describe your process for sourcing new wines.
I try to understand the market, the good vintages, and I always keep our clients' preferences in mind. Thanks to the size of my wine list, I am able to keep it fresh and lively by adding new labels every month. These are wines that have caught my attention or have been recommended by repeating guests. A good chat with my suppliers is often recommendable; I rely upon them for new discoveries as much as my customers rely on me to recommend the best value for money on my wine list. Sometimes it could be a great deal of an almost forgotten bottle of a great producer.
Selling wines by the glass. Your thoughts please.
I think that the wine by the glass selection represents the business card for a sommelier because it is really hard to find a good wine by the glass. When this list is good, then half of the job is done. I put a lot of effort in it, for example, I am now working on the new sweet wine selection which will be probably ready in three months.
What are you really thinking when a customer sends a perfectly good wine back?
It has happened only twice in my career so far. My first thought was "Did I describe the wine to the guest properly?" I think that there is always a way to avoid missed satisfaction. My research consists of finding those ways.
What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently?
Great sommeliers and wine masters are involving starting to educate diners by teaching how to be curious and adventurous and by guiding them through the selection process. Unfortunately the market is still driven by big brands and clients make their choice according to the popularity of the label and often what it looks like. Hopefully, soon, by helping the client building their wine knowledge, we will manage to overcome the common perception that big brands are better than small, less known, independent vineyards.
You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant?
Sauvignon Blanc, to make enough money to go back to my town in Italy; Nero D'Avola, to show to the entire world how this grape can perform somewhere else rather than Sicily. Has anybody ever tried before?
What's the key to developing staff to become well-trained to sell and serve wine?
Something I learnt from Matteo is the importance of transmitting passion. It is essential.
Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?
And a most unusual food and wine pairing?
Shochikubai Mio Sparkling Sake and hand dived scallops, oyster emulsion and seaweed cream.
How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask?
They need to show passion, emotion and pleasure for wine and food.
Who is the one person you'd most like to share a bottle of wine with?
My wife. Without a doubt.
How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips?
At home? Better in a wine shop. Tasting, studying, then tasting and studying again. A wine trip from time to time can help.
What's the one thing you love most about your job?
When a client smile right after tasting a wine I suggested; making people feel good is what makes me love my job.
Where do you see your future career path?
Director of my own Hotel.