Q&A with Kavita Devi Faiella
We recently sat down with Press Room Group’s new wine director, Kavita Devi Faiella, to talk about the all new, all-French wine list she designed for The Press Room, the wine and cocktail list that will be debuting at The News Room and what wines she is really not into.
Asia Tatler Dining: Tell us a little about yourself and your background in wine.
Kavita Devi Faiella: I’m Australian but I don’t come from a wine family. I studied medicine at university and took a break and went to Italy, where I fell in love with the world of wine. When I came back to Australia, I worked full-time with Steve Manfredi for two months before going back to university. When I did, I found that I preferred being at work and Manfredi offered me a scholarship to study to be a sommelier.
ATD: There are not many female sommeliers, does that affect your wine choices in any way?
KDF: Female sommeliers think about the concept of the wine list as a whole, a lot more than the individual wines that make up the wine list. I think men focus more on particular wines that they want to have on the wine list.
ATD: And what is your opinion of the so-called “female palate”, does that really exist?
KDF: I think the “female palate” does exist but I don’t think that all females have a female palate. It should be more thought of as a beginner’s palate and I think most male sommeliers cheekily associate the learner’s palate to the female palate. That being said, one of my favourite things to do is to equate grape varieties to characters. Pinot Noir is like the perfect man, because it’s mysterious and doesn’t give away everything at the beginning whereas Shiraz is the typical Aussie bloke, all out there and all over the glass and more of an obvious grape variety.
ATD: As an Australian, do you have a preference for new world wines, or old world wines where you received your wine education?
KDF: A lot of people expect Australian wines on my wine lists and although obviously I have my favourite producers in Australia such as Giaconda; Charles Milton (his wines are on the new list at The News Room); Ocean Eight and Mac Forbes, I think Australia makes far too many big, jammy fruit bombs and that’s not really the style I like. I have a preference for the unknown, at the moment countries like Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Switzerland and Greece excite me.
ATD: And yet for The Press Room, you’ve created an all-French wine list.
KDF: One of the things I’ve picked up in since arriving in HK is the focus on Bordeaux and I thought that by creating a French wine list I’d be able to show the diversity of France outside of Bordeaux and Burgundy. My favourite sections on the new Press Room list are regions such as the Jura and the Savoie.
ATD: What are some of your favourite hidden finds from The Press Room’s new wine list?
KDF: One of my favourites is the Cremant de Jura by the glass. The wines of Jura have oxidative characteristics and they’re not necessarily packed with fruit. People that are just beginning in wine don’t really understand them or enjoy them, and this rosé is great because it’s an example of a wine from Jura that everyone will like.
There are also some beautiful reds from Cahors, made from Malbec grapes. Everyone equates Malbec to Argentina but its home is Bordeaux and the south of France. They have truffle and earthy notes and are great value, especially the Madiran, which is made from Tannat, another less well-known grape native to France.
ATD: As The Press Room Group’s beverage director, presumably you are responsible for constructing The Pawn’s wine list, too?
KDF: The wine list at The Pawn is actually my next project and I’m featuring natural, organic and biodynamic wines. There will be a feature on English wines, especially sparkling wines, as they are the best things coming out of England at the moment. I think with global warming, England is definitely a region to watch.
ATD: What about The News Room? It is supposed to be more casual than The Press Room: how is that reflected in the way you pick the wine list?
KDF: The News Room’s list is an A-Z list of varieties, so in the whites section, you’ll start with Albarino, then Chardonnay, then Furmint. I was conscious of price point at The News Room because I think there will be a strong lunch crowd and the only way to encourage people to drink wine at lunch is to have a lot of options under HK$500. We also have Enomatic machines there and a strong by-the-glass programme.
ATD: Do cocktails fall under your watch, too?
KDF: Cocktails are becoming by default part of my job. At The Press Room, we focused on a classic style of cocktails such as the Negroni, the Manhattan and the Cuba Libre. I also wanted to bring the focus back to France and so you have Saint Germain, the elderflower liquer, absinthe, brandy and Kir Royal.
The concept for The News Room is famous journalists of the past century. There is a cocktail called the Nixon Sour, named after the two journalists who exposed Watergate. There is another one called the East India highball, after Doctor Prannoy Roy, the founder of Indian television journalism. There is a Hemingway dacquiri and a Gaston gimlet, based on Gaston Leroux, a correspondent for Le Matin and author of The Phantom of the Opera.