The National Wine Centre of Australi

Kara Maisano

Sommelier and Wine Director
Masani Italian Dining & Terrace, Melbourne

Every sommelier has that ‘ah-ha’ bottle that sparks a career in wine; for Kara Maisano it was a bottle of Warrenmang Black Puma Shiraz. She met winemaker Luigi Bazzani at a wine show and was captivated by the shiraz. After suggesting it to a customer at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress, she was asked to elaborate on its features. It was her first experience grappling with the complexities of a wine’s character – and she was hooked.

Maisano describes her wine list as a “global collection”, with a strong emphasis on both benchmark and upcoming producers from France, Italy and Australia.

“I usually think of the region where the dish originates and then its respective varietals when pairing,” says Maisano. “Etna Rosso is a wine predominately made from nerello mascalese, which has pinot-like qualities and such fine aromatics, so I always suggest it with fish and seafood dishes.”

Maisano has been taking her senses (if not her person) on holiday, drinking wines from South America and France.

“I love anything exotic, that has a spark, and makes you stop and ponder. Like juicy tannat from Uruguay and the French white wine St Chinian – an intriguing blend of white grenache, roussanne, vermentino and viognier.”

She says she’s not as comfortable in the kitchen as she is front-of-house. “I’m not a good cook! But I do love following my dad around the Queen Victoria Markets. I drift off into delis and grab my favourites for antipasto and hot sourdough,” she says. “I pair them with something like a NV Laherte Frères Rosé de Meunier Extra Brut or the 2020 Stargazer Riesling and in the winter I do love sherry or sherry-like Vernaccia di Oristano from Sardinia, or northern Italian alpine reds like lagrein or dolcetto.”