Sommelier of the Month - Michael Deschamps

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Author: TheDrinkShop
Tags: Sommelier, Wine
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  • Name: Michael Deschamps
  • Place of birth: Limoges, France.
  • Eye colour: Brown.
  • Nationality: French.

Michael has been with the Marcus Wareing group since 2006 where he started as our Assistant Sommelier. His passion, drive and love for wine has earned him the position he is in today and he will be overseeing the wine program across the Marcus Wareing group as they develop.

About our restaurant

Private Dining in the Salon

The Salon is a modern, bright, private dining room with views over Wilton Place and St Paul's, Knightsbridge. Nestled in the corner of the restaurant this area allows up to 16 guests to enjoy our menus at their own secluded table. If less privacy is preferred, the doors can remain open allowing larger parties to enjoy the buzz of the main dining room.

The Salon is a superb venue for any bespoke event. The dedicated event team is on hand to coordinate every stage of the booking; their goal is to bring you a unique and memorable event tailored to your needs. The team will work closely with you to create the menu best suited to your needs and the occasion. Choose from the selection of set menus or swap dishes to create your own unique menu. Alternatively leave it in the hands of Head Chef Mark and have the taste menu, an array of delicious plates designed to highlight the restaurants favourite seasonal dishes.

Executive Sommelier Michael Deschamps will be on hand to share his knowledge and expertise to help you choose the perfect wines to match your occasion. Offering total flexibility, Michael can work to your budget and select wines by the glass or bottle.

Alexandre 's Q&A

What do you think makes a great sommelier?
A great sommelier must be knowledgeable, must understand the need of the customers. As any good sales person, a sommelier must be passionate about his job and a good manager too (Team, budget, wine selection). They must be a good team worker, for me hospitality is like a football team, the goalkeeper is nothing without his defender. The sommelier must support the front of the house and the kitchen team.

Describe your typical day at work.
I start my day by the mise en place at the bar; making my wine station ready, look at the bookings for the day and any special requirements. Then I catch up on emails, follow the different events, organise my tasting with suppliers, follow the stock for the bar and the cellar, check invoices, price the wines and add them onto the list. I always find some time to catch up with my assistant and we plan our work together. Between the two of us, we supervise the lunch and dinner service, give recommendations, and give some help at the bar. In less busy days, we find the time to do some training, blind tasting, and improve our knowledge. We have two further assistants, one of whom is a stagiaire so we try to ensure we spend time training with them through the week on both wine and bar elements.

How does pricing affect the wine advice you give diners?
I always try to give 3 different ranges of prices when I recommend wine. I try to see how the customers react when I come with the higher priced wine. It's common that I recommend a wine a bit less expensive than the customer is ready to pay, but I will make sure it suits his likes and interest.

Have customers become more knowledgeable about wine?
Yes, definitely, we see more enthusiasts. The thing is when you have regular customer, you educate them, and you give them the opportunity to realise that there is a lot more to know than they thought. When they come back, they can bring you something new; even us, sommeliers, we get to learn from our customers.

Describe a good sommelier's introduction or presentation of their list at a table.
A good introduction by the sommelier should start by taking knowledge of the menu selected by the customers. Then you can then think or at least guess where to guide people. The second point is to read the type of customers and finally suggest different alternative wines. I always recommend different types of prices, region or grapes variety. The most important thing for me is to understand that every customer, every table is different.

When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you?
There are two processes:

  1. The chef has the menu and we have to match the wine. It this case, we taste the food with the chef, he gives us its impression, we bring our expertise, work out which are the main elements, find how the balance is made in the dish and either we try to complement the dish or contrast it to create a special combination.

  2. We have the wine and we create a special menu with the chef. It's very important to show where is the balance in the wine for the chef to create a special dish. We normally decompose the wine, work out the main character and then chose the main element of the dish. The garnish of the dish will come to give a value to the dish and the wine combination.

Whatever you can read about food and wine matching shouldn't be an automatic satisfaction. We use our own perception and expertise to find the right balance.

How often do you manage to touch base and re-taste your wines?
There are a few wines we can rarely try, but probably 60% of the wine list that we taste very often. So it gives us a good impression about the evolution of the wine and gives us the opportunity to adjust our expertise. Every bottle we open are tasted, all times, no matter what wines.

Please describe your process for sourcing new wines.
The process is quite common, as much as possible we try to go to London and attend suppliers tasting, it's always a great opportunity to meet people and often winemakers too. It's as well a good way to stay in touch with the suppliers. I try to receive some suppliers at the hotel too. We do a few blind tasting training in other restaurants or with suppliers or ex-sommeliers, which gives the opportunity to try new wines. My assistant does the same on her side and then we share the tasting notes.

Selling wines by the glass. Your thoughts please.
It's an important selling point for us. People are coming to Terravina to discover and drink new wines. We do normally 6 white and 6 red by the glass at a very interesting price range. We try to not repeat the style, grapes and region in our selection (at the moment we have some Maria Gomes from Portugal, Marsanne from Uruguay just to name few.) Over the weekend we have more customers, so more flexibility to open other wines and then we are able to offer an even better selection!

What are you really thinking when a customer sends a perfectly good wine back?
It's the shame, either if I recommended it, I feel embarrassed, or if the customers chose it, then I cannot do anything, I won't be upset but....

What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently?
The market changes for sure, and we see people going to more adventurous wines. People are less scared to taste new wines, even if they like their classic.

You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant?
Possibly Pinot Noir and if it is a volcanic island even better, Malvasia.

What's the key to developing staff to become well-trained to sell and serve wine?
Be curious; ask questions, study, taste wines, adjust the service details and believe in yourself.

Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?
I like cheese and wine. Such diversity in both sides, at the moment I enjoy Madeira and hard English cheeses.

And a most unusual food and wine pairing?
Sauternes and Rossini beef.

How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask?
I always ask the customers what type of wine they like and don't like, we try to get as close as possible to their taste, unless if they want something new. The best question I had recently was, " I would like something like L'ermita, Alvaro Palacios but for half of the price", then it's a challenge for us to find something similar but with same potential.

Who is the one person you'd most like to share a bottle of wine with?
It cannot be only one person, so right now, it will be with Laura Rhys, Ana my assistant and George Blogg (a great chef to watch), and it should be a Syrah, from the Rhone Valley.

How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips?
Organise a evening with friend and do a big blind tasting with varietal wine, it can be good fun when it come at the end of the evening!

What's the one thing you love most about your job?
Be able, from a same place, to travel through a diversity of wine, spirit, digestive...educate people, recommend a large diversity of wines and rise in the industry beside some great mentor.

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