Alex Camatta
12 November 2020 | Alex Camatta

The Interview Series #4

In this Interview Series #4, we speak with Kavita Faiella, Sommelier and Sales + Marketing Manager at Shaw + Smith. Alex Camatta, our Tasting Room Manager spoke to Kavita about what led her to the world of wine and what she’ll be pouring during the festive season.
Can you tell us a little about how you started working as a Sommelier?

I started working in restaurants in Sydney whilst I was studying at university. I worked for restauranteur Tim Connell and chef Stefano Manfredi at both Coast and Manta. It was the first time I had experienced working in restaurants with sommeliers and was pretty impressed that there was a person whose job it was to look after the wine side of things. I had grown up eating in more simple Greek, Lebanese and Indian restaurants with my family, so the whole world of wine and its service was new to me. I looked into how you became a sommelier and somehow convinced Tim to set me up on what I called a sommeliership, similar to a chef apprenticeship and I went to TAFE one day a week and worked in the restaurants full time. I loved how much there was to learn about wine and that I could learn something one day and put it into practise in the restaurant immediately. Unlike what I was studying at university, that seemed years away from ever being a reality. So, I made decision to differ from university and commit fully to being a wine professional. I haven’t ever looked back. 

When did you realise you could make a career in the wine industry?

Right from the time I knew being a sommelier was a career, I thought it was a great job. For me personally, the opportunities that being a sommelier could bring became a reality when I was working in the Maldives as the head sommelier of the Conrad property and was offered roles at both the French Laundry in California and The Fat Duck in the UK, two of the best restaurants in the world at the time. It made me realise that this was a job that allowed me to not only do what I love and work with something I'm passionate about, but to also travel the world and experience living in other countries. 

Do you remember the first time a wine really blew you away?

It's never about just what’s in the glass for me, I am equally as interested in the story of the place it comes from, the people that made it and the journey the wine has taken to get the table it is being opened at. Perhaps that comes from having worked in a number of pretty unique places throughout my career from the Maldives to Bhutan and everywhere in between. It always amazed me, that we could be drinking the very same wine, so far away from the place it was made. My fondest memory of this realisation, was when I was visiting Piedmont for the first time, I had an appointment with one of my favourite producers, Elio Altare - it was the first time I had met him and his daughter Silvia. At the time I was working in the Maldives and always brought a brochure of the resort so that winemakers could see exactly where their wines had travelled to. As we flicked through the pages, I could see that Elio was getting quite emotional and was wiping away tears, Silvia asked if he was ok, he responded that he was fantastico, and explained that as first generation winemaker from a small town in Northern Italy he had only ever hoped that his wines would be popular in his own country and to see them being enjoyed in countries all around the world, some that he would never visit himself, was very special. I have always taken great pride that as a sommelier, one of our fundamental roles is to be the conduit of so many wineries around the world, where we are able to introduce people to not just the wines, but even more so, the stories of those who make them and the places they come from. 

Today I get to do that with Shaw + Smith, as I travel around the country and the world, telling people about the Adelaide Hills and our amazing team that make them.

What mistakes do people most often make when pairing wines with food?

They overcomplicate it. If there is a food you love and wine you love, even if they are technically not well matched, you will still enjoy eating and drinking them together. A simple tip that works well for pairing is to pay attention to the colour of both the wine and dish. Take chicken for example, if its poached and light in colour it will more than likely pair best with a light white such as young Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc, once it has been roasted or fried, and takes on a deeper colour, a more full bodied white like Chardonnay would work better, and if you add a darker sauce such as a gravy, then a light red becomes a great partner. I love drinking Pinot Noir with raw tuna as an example of a perfect match both in colour and on the palate. 

Which Shaw + Smith wines will you be enjoying during the festive season?

Given that come Christmas this year, I'll be 8 months pregnant, it might be slightly less vinous this year. We’re lucky at our house though, my cousin is also a sommelier, so there is always lots of delicious wine being splashed around the table. That being said, I will be sure to open up some of the newly released Lenswood Pinot Noir for everyone, it's in such a great drinking window at the moment, perfect for summer and cold Christmas ham straight out of the fridge!


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