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Sommelier of the Month - Bastien Ferreri

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  • Name: Bastien Ferreri
  • Date of birth: 21st July
  • Place of birth: Marseille, France
  • Eye colour: Brown
  • Nationality: French

I usually tell my friends that I am clowning around all day, which can be true in some ways... Every day I am learning about wine, food, history, geography and sharing the info with our guests. I am mainly a food and wine geek, who is lucky enough to meet some fantastic people from very different backgrounds - from the very small producers to the executive group wine buyer, from the practising lawyer who became a winemaker, to the winemaker who became restaurateur....

About our restaurant

Creativity, boundary pusher, seasonality, over excitement, entertaining! These are the few words to describe Hibiscus.

It is a fantastic place run by Claude Bosi, the French Englishman with the thickest accent ever, or the other way around. I love to work here for the creativity, precision, and boldness of the cuisine. This allows me to be even more creative, surprising with the wine selection and especially the wine pairing. You create a completely different relation, interaction with dinners, and you can, with time, understand what atmosphere to create with wine pairing, the way of describing it and so on.

The restaurant is a small space and a warm welcoming ambience, with constantly evolving market menus and artisanal wines, which are key to create a unique experience for each diner.

Bastien's wine and food pairings at the Sketch restaurant

Scottish Langoustine Tartar, Strawberry Sauce Vierge 2013, Gabrio Bini, Zibibbo, Pantelleria, Sicily
This is a classic of Hibiscus, paired with an unusual style of "orange wine", made in the tiny island of Pantelleria, off the coast of Tunisia but still part of Sicily. Zibibbo is a local name for the Muscat d'Alexandrie Grape. It is made with a skin maceration of the white grape (orange wine consist of the red wine making with white grapes, providing a deeper colour, more aromas, more spices and a touch of tannins in the mouth). The muscat in orange wine has an explosive, superbly charming aromatic of dried apricot with some North African spices, date, peach and pink peppercorn (super sexy to be honest)! The biggest surprise appears when you have the wine on the palate; despite the sweet aromatic on the nose, the wine is bone dry, the spices are superbly intense and balanced with the ripe apricot and its acidity! Long Live Orange Wine when they are this good! With the dish, the trick is with the sauce: oily, smooth, with an almost a fluffy feeling on the tongue. It also has sweet hints from the strawberries, a tangy acidity from the green strawberries and sharpness from the fresh herbs. The wine answers back perfectly and lifts the texture of the silky langoustine, intensifies the punch of the langoustine reduction and finishes with a sweet, sour and mild spices aromas.

Summer Vegetable Minestrone, Obsiblue Prawn Consomme 2012, Ilarria, Irouleguy, South West, France
This dish is composed of 4 dumplings (all gluten free), peas, beetroot, sand carrot, and onion cooked in lime. The prawn consomme is vibrant with intense aromas of caramelised seafood, citrus and sea salt... bold as ever! We pair it with a tiny production from the Pyrenees, on the French Basque country, not far from the Atlantic and Spain. The wine is a blend of the local Gros Manseng and Petit Manseng, a grape famous for the local sweet wine, which provides a huge acidity to balance a candied grapefruit aroma. I love this wine because the aromatic reminds me of old popular sweets we have in France, called Arlequin; they are a tangy with fruit acidity and slightly confit grapefruits - all the main flavours in both! With the dish, it lifts the caramelised seafood aromatic, swinging within the sharp lime and the sweetness of the roots vegetables dumplings. It refreshes the palate and finishes with a slightly umami and savoury hint. The ocean influences into the wine, and the mountain location also provides a crystalline minerality that compliments the Minestrone texture and clarity.

Scottish Lobster, Barbajan, Malaysian Style Black Pepper Sauce 2008, Julien Courtois, Savasol, Loire Valley
One of our signature dishes is a lobster tail, gently roasted in brown butter, and a deep fried ravioli of the lobster claws and black pepper with a superbly intense sauce of the roasted shell of lobster, infused slowly with lemongrass, black pepper and a dash of ginger. This dish is garnished with some fresh cherries and cumber melon (cross of cucumber and melon!) Savasol by Julien Courtois is very unusual Sherry-like wine from an old school grape of the Loire valley. It is a blend of Romorantin and Menu Pinault, harvestes at a high maturity and fermented in barrels, followed by an oxidative ageing process (where there is a lot of contact between the wine and air). It is one of the only wines I never change for this specific food pairing. It is not listed anywhere- a real off the wall, off the record wine! It has a medium brown colour and an extremely intense aromatic of dried grapes, walnut, tobacco, roasted almond and dried apricot. The palate is wide, wild and complex, with a mix of toasted nuts, smoke and dried fruits. I love this pairing because it really creates another dimension with the dinner; it is challenging with some and disturbing with some others and I love the suspense it creates. The expectation are rising up... I always tell them that alone it is terrible but it does make sense with the dish only. It matches with the chunky, delicate and naturally sweet Lobster tail and is refreshing on the deep fried ravioli. It catches the intensity of the black pepper sauce to extend the aromas and turns the spices to a intense gingery, caramelised, peppery slightly sticky sauce.

Milk Fed Rack of Veal Cooked on the Barbecue, Girolles, White Peach, White Almond 2010, Fausse Piste, Les GarCons, Colombia Valley, Oregon, USA
This is our current main course on our special 15th years anniversary tasting menu. A delicate, chunky and tender rack of veal on the bone, cooked on the barbecue, with a fricasse of tiny girolles, fresh almond and white peach, finished with a wild chervil oil. The wine is a pure Grenache noir, from Oregon, I know...please do not tell my mum I served American Grenache! She is from the Southern Rhone Valley....and will tell me "oh tu vuoi fare l'americano". Yes I do!!! Fausse Piste is a boutique wine, miles away of the blockbuster. It is very gentle and super smooth, blending liquorice and plum with pepper and earth.... In some way it is more of an old school jazzman than an exited pop star! With the dish it creates an intimate relation with the earthy flavours from the mushroom, the smoke from the BBQ, or the pitt shall I say? Its good acidity is woken up with the refreshing white peach and the anise hint from the chervil. The low tannin profile protects the milk fed veal and the sweetness of the girolles, but it is not scared of the crunchy fresh almonds. It has a medium brown colour and an extremely intense aromatic of dried grapes, walnut, tobacco, roasted almond and dried apricot. The palate is wide, wild and complex, with a mix of toasted nuts, smoke and dried fruits. I love this pairing because it really creates another dimension with the dinner; it is challenging with some and disturbing with some others and I love the suspense it creates. The expectation are rising up... I always tell them that alone it is terrible but it does make sense with the dish only. It matches with the chunky, delicate and naturally sweet Lobster tail and is refreshing on the deep fried ravioli. It catches the intensity of the black pepper sauce to extend the aromas and turns the spices to a intense gingery, caramelised, peppery slightly sticky sauce.

Bastien's Q&A

Please tell us some background about yourself. How did you first become interested in wine, and how did that interest evolve into a career?
My mum is a fantastic cook, my dad a good hunter, my cousin a fine nose and my family always hosts big parties. I was born surrounded by great food and wine, my parents always made me taste everything, and we had a garden with hundreds of different food, veg, animals...

When I was younger, we use to travel all around France and we always stopped at local farms, restaurant, bed and breakfasts, winemakers, etc... I believe this is how I caught the bug for food and wine!

I started my sommelier journey in 2007, in Provence, after 3 years of catering school, focusing mainly on cooking first, and then falling in love with wine and everything around it. I have then attended a sommelier school for the following two years, meanwhile I worked in a small 2* Michelin restaurant with an extensive wine list, in Provence. I spent lot of hours studying and tasting (even more fun)! I passed my diploma with merits and decided to jump onto another challenge; I packed my bag and came to London in 2009 to learn English and to discover the best wines from all around the world. I was not disappointed! I started at Maze for a short time, Murano for 2 years and then Hibiscus since 2011.

What do you think makes a great sommelier?
Being knowledgeable, open minded, and being able to listen to the stories and experiences from the winemakers, buyers, other sommeliers and even more from the diners....

A great sommelier should not forget that if anyone can know less than he does, everybody can know more as well... being knowledgeable does not mean showing off but being precise and confident with what you provide to your guests.

A great sommelier is the one able to share, interact and interest everyone with simple words as well as very complex technical terms.

A great sommelier is the one who does not try to oversell from the first contact but overexcite about the future experience! Then sales will come.

Describe your typical day at work.
I usually start around 9, 9.30 am. When I can, I love to start my with a wine tasting, it cheers me up.... especially champagne! As we are a fairly small team and restaurant, we do everything: ironing, cleaning, setting up the table, cleaning the cellars.... We split the duties and basically run a restaurant! I am more focus on the buying and listing of the wines, organisation of the wine pairing, organisation of the daily duties for the team, the wine description...and the less fun part of stock control, and accounting.

When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you?
I usually break down the dish in few main parts: texture, way of cooking (cold or hot, BBQ or poached), acidity, richness, 2 mains aromas. Then I have two options: selecting a wine which goes the same way as the dish, called a complimentary match, or a wine which is opposite and will uplift mainly one or two elements of the dish, which we usually call it an opposition matching. And the most important part, often forgotten, we taste, taste, and taste! That the only true key point about wine matching! Taste it!

Please describe your process for sourcing new wines.
I source wines according to the season in relation to the dishes created by the chef at this time. I mainly work with artisan producers, which means most of them are working following (as a minimum) the organics principle, biodynamic, or natural winemakers (no interventions at all, all depend of the talent of the winegrower!) As big as the industry can look, wine is a small world, especially when you work with smaller producers. I meet a lot of winemakers via other winemakers, friend of friends... I have no rules for the selection, as long as the final list is balanced in term of varieties, appellations, and price range.

What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently?
There is obviously a big trend around the "natural" wine movement, word I do not particularly like. At Hibiscus we have been working with these wines for a while, and I have always been working with Artisanal wines. This movement is great but has to be carefully handled as the selection has to be very precise, the wine perfectly understood to be well recommended, and like any other trends there are people able to do well and are discreet and other not so great, but very loud.... The sommelier, wine geezer, take here all its pertinence!

The orange wines trend is getting bigger too, and as well, at Hibiscus we created a special page about these white wines about 4 years ago. Styles will vary depending of grape varieties, length of maceration, ageing process.....and once again an attentive, knowledgeable, precise sommelier will be your best friend to guide you thought it.

There is as well a big movement around American wines, which is great and very exiting! A lot of new waves of Californian wines are arriving and it shows the ability of producing authentic, highly qualitative and interesting wines!

And London is the place to be for wine lovers. There is always a new producer, a new focus on new country and new style....

Just remember it is not because one of its kind is great that all of them are, and the way around!

You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant?
I will definitely plant Chenin Blanc, because you can do everything, and everything great with this, from sparkling to sweet! The other one will be Cinsaut; it can be fruity, fresh and lively, or it can as well be full on, slightly spicy and earthy to satisfy the soul!

Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?
Tricky question... I will say Chenin blanc once again, with a chunky white fish, a classic beurre blanc, crushed caramelised potatoes! Happy days.

And a most unusual food and wine pairing?
Vin Jaune, or Sauvignon oxidative from the Jura Mountains with LiEre a la Royale!!! It was recommended to me by one of our, now, regular guest, who really knows his food and wines.

I have tasted it and it works brilliantly! We have done a Hibiscus version of the LiEvre a la Royale, with a loin of Hare cooked in Hay, in Cocotte LuttEe, served with Black truffle Sauce....Brilliant!!!

How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask?
Hi, How are you? What do you recommend today! This turns me on for the wine talks!

How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips?
Blind tasting is very good, it opens up your mind and taste bud a bit more. You are more focused on what you feel than what to except. I like blind tasting for this, not just for the sake to find what is in the glass.

Tasting flight of the same grape variety from different spot and countries is really efficient too to determinate the styles and geographical influences.

Where do you see your future career path?
Working with food and wine!

I like to share knowledge too, staff training and so on...maybe work more along this path. And we organise some wine parties with the sommelier friends in town, we called it the wine bantz, success and fun, I really like this too. Please tell us some background about yourself. How did you first become interested in wine, and how did that interest evolve into a career? My mum is a fantastic cook, my dad a good hunter, my cousin a fine nose and my family always hosts big parties. I was born surrounded by great food and wine, my parents always made me taste everything, and we had a garden with hundreds of different food, veg, animals...

When I was younger, we use to travel all around France and we always stopped at local farms, restaurant, bed and breakfasts, winemakers, etc... I believe this is how I caught the bug for food and wine!

I started my sommelier journey in 2007, in Provence, after 3 years of catering school, focusing mainly on cooking first, and then falling in love with wine and everything around it. I have then attended a sommelier school for the following two years, meanwhile I worked in a small 2* Michelin restaurant with an extensive wine list, in Provence. I spent lot of hours studying and tasting (even more fun)! I passed my diploma with merits and decided to jump onto another challenge; I packed my bag and came to London in 2009 to learn English and to discover the best wines from all around the world. I was not disappointed! I started at Maze for a short time, Murano for 2 years and then Hibiscus since 2011.

What do you think makes a great sommelier?
Being knowledgeable, open minded, and being able to listen to the stories and experiences from the winemakers, buyers, other sommeliers and even more from the diners....

A great sommelier should not forget that if anyone can know less than he does, everybody can know more as well... being knowledgeable does not mean showing off but being precise and confident with what you provide to your guests.

A great sommelier is the one able to share, interact and interest everyone with simple words as well as very complex technical terms.

A great sommelier is the one who does not try to oversell from the first contact but overexcite about the future experience! Then sales will come.

Describe your typical day at work.
I usually start around 9, 9.30 am. When I can, I love to start my with a wine tasting, it cheers me up.... especially champagne! As we are a fairly small team and restaurant, we do everything: ironing, cleaning, setting up the table, cleaning the cellars.... We split the duties and basically run a restaurant! I am more focus on the buying and listing of the wines, organisation of the wine pairing, organisation of the daily duties for the team, the wine description...and the less fun part of stock control, and accounting.

When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you? I usually break down the dish in few main parts: texture, way of cooking (cold or hot, BBQ or poached), acidity, richness, 2 mains aromas. Then I have two options: selecting a wine which goes the same way as the dish, called a complimentary match, or a wine which is opposite and will uplift mainly one or two elements of the dish, which we usually call it an opposition matching. And the most important part, often forgotten, we taste, taste, and taste! That the only true key point about wine matching! Taste it!

Please describe your process for sourcing new wines. I source wines according to the season in relation to the dishes created by the chef at this time. I mainly work with artisan producers, which means most of them are working following (as a minimum) the organics principle, biodynamic, or natural winemakers (no interventions at all, all depend of the talent of the winegrower!) As big as the industry can look, wine is a small world, especially when you work with smaller producers. I meet a lot of winemakers via other winemakers, friend of friends... I have no rules for the selection, as long as the final list is balanced in term of varieties, appellations, and price range.

What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently? There is obviously a big trend around the "natural" wine movement, word I do not particularly like. At Hibiscus we have been working with these wines for a while, and I have always been working with Artisanal wines. This movement is great but has to be carefully handled as the selection has to be very precise, the wine perfectly understood to be well recommended, and like any other trends there are people able to do well and are discreet and other not so great, but very loud.... The sommelier, wine geezer, take here all its pertinence!

The orange wines trend is getting bigger too, and as well, at Hibiscus we created a special page about these white wines about 4 years ago. Styles will vary depending of grape varieties, length of maceration, ageing process.....and once again an attentive, knowledgeable, precise sommelier will be your best friend to guide you thought it.

There is as well a big movement around American wines, which is great and very exiting! A lot of new waves of Californian wines are arriving and it shows the ability of producing authentic, highly qualitative and interesting wines!

And London is the place to be for wine lovers. There is always a new producer, a new focus on new country and new style....

Just remember it is not because one of its kind is great that all of them are, and the way around!

You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant?
I will definitely plant Chenin Blanc, because you can do everything, and everything great with this, from sparkling to sweet! The other one will be Cinsaut; it can be fruity, fresh and lively, or it can as well be full on, slightly spicy and earthy to satisfy the soul!

Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing?
Tricky question... I will say Chenin blanc once again, with a chunky white fish, a classic beurre blanc, crushed caramelised potatoes! Happy days.

And a most unusual food and wine pairing?
Vin Jaune, or Sauvignon oxidative from the Jura Mountains with LiEre a la Royale!!! It was recommended to me by one of our, now, regular guest, who really knows his food and wines.

I have tasted it and it works brilliantly! We have done a Hibiscus version of the LiEvre a la Royale, with a loin of Hare cooked in Hay, in Cocotte LuttEe, served with Black truffle Sauce....Brilliant!!!

How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask?
Hi, How are you? What do you recommend today! This turns me on for the wine talks!

How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips?
Blind tasting is very good, it opens up your mind and taste bud a bit more. You are more focused on what you feel than what to except. I like blind tasting for this, not just for the sake to find what is in the glass.

Tasting flight of the same grape variety from different spot and countries is really efficient too to determinate the styles and geographical influences.

Where do you see your future career path?
Working with food and wine!

I like to share knowledge too, staff training and so on...maybe work more along this path. And we organise some wine parties with the sommelier friends in town, we called it the wine bantz, success and fun, I really like this too.

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