Rising Stars: Lily Ferguson-Mahan

ArticlesRising Stars

Liam Plowman understands the value of having a great team of staff, and says that having two reliable and talented full-timers has accentuated the positives.

“Like most independent wine shops, we had big growth during the pandemic, and mainly that’s through deliveries, and a little bit of wholesale,” he says.

“Lily and Brendan have made it possible for me to pursue those things as well as having some time to work on our website to make it a bit more navigable.”

Lily has been with the business on a part-time basis for almost three years and became full-time last August.

“She’s got a real appetite for learning and has completed her WSET levels 2 and 3,” says Liam. “Lily is a trained chef, so she has an excellent palate. She’s really adept at communicating with our customers and, of course, she can recommend the perfect food pairings. She’s used to running restaurants so she’s pretty unflappable. She’s good at making customers feel comfortable and dealing with all sorts of situations.”

Initially a Wild + Lees customer, Lily invited Liam to do tastings with some of her clients and they began to work together. “When Lily mentioned she was looking for a change of direction and asked if there were any part-time opportunities, I just knew she’d be a good fit,” says Liam.

Officially known as wine pedlar – “we do keep our job titles quite informal as there’s only the three of us and that’s the title she chose,” Liam explains – Lily is really happy with her career change.

“I worked my way up the ranks to becoming a head chef,” she says, “but found the higher up I got within the kitchen, the further away I got from continuing to learn about different aspects of the culinary world. When I took a step back, it became clear that wine was one of the areas I wanted to dive into headfirst.

“When Wild & Lees opened in Herne Hill it became a community hub that we didn’t know we needed until it appeared.

“One of my favourite things about working here is its position within the community and seeing the customers who come and want to listen to really good music, drink some delicious wine and have some good conversation.”


Flowers make me feel that a space has been shown a bit more love


Liam is also very appreciative of Lily’s flower displays. “They’re fantastic,” he says. “It’s probably not a very wine merchant thing, but she has a real skill and we love having them in the bar area.”

Lily says one of the things that drew her to London from her native Chicago was her appreciation of flowers. “Well, my name is Lily,” she says, “and my mother is a landscape designer. The addition of flowers makes me feel that a space has been shown a bit more love.”

So what is a favourite wine and food pairing of Lily’s? “I have a lot of love for Gamay,” she says. “I’m a vegetarian, so pairing a Gamay with a veggie tartlet of some kind, or some goat’s cheese … those garlicky Mediterranean flavours go well with a light and fruity red.”

And what’s next for the green-fingered wine pedlar? “My dream is to eventually have a space of my own that will combine the love that I have for wine with baking,” she says. “For the last couple of years I’ve been delving into viennoiserie. I’ve found the bakery and wine communities in London to be really friendly and encouraging – very supportive and not competitive in the way that some parts of the culinary world can be.”



Lily wins a bottle of Pol Roger Vintage 2015 courtesy of Pol Roger Portfolio
If you’d like to nominate a Rising Star, email claire@winemerchantmag.com

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