Alice - Head Sommelier and Restaurant Manager

Alice - Head Sommelier and Restaurant Manager

Alice Massaria

1. How did you get your start in wine?

I have always been involved in wine because where I am from, Vicenza ITA, it’s part of the culture. When I began working in hospitality, my interest in wine kept growing day by day.

When I reached management level, I wanted to learn more so I decided to study through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). After completing levels two and three WSET, I felt confident with my knowledge and a thirst to learn more so I reached out to Franck Moreau MS for a job as a full time sommelier for Merivale. I will be always grateful to Franck for letting me be part of the best Somm team in Australia, I have learnt so much and I felt always challenged which made me grow a lot.

 My wine career officially started at Merivale  working at Mr Wong and Uccello. I worked on the floor as Sommelier before being promoted to head sommelier role, then embarking on a trip overseas to learn more about the production of wine.

In 2015 I sat the exam for the Court of Master Sommelier passing the introductory and certified level.

I flew to Sicily to work for Cos winery. When back in 2016, I have started to work at Saint Peter for the wonderful Josh Niland. After few months, I missed the contact with vineyards and wineries so I flew back to Europe, Priorat (Spain) this time, to work at Terroir al Limit winery.

I returned to Sydney in November to start my own consulting business, Wine Concept, which focuses on private and corporate tastings and wine events in addition to consulting to develop wine lists for bars and restaurants. Bistecca’s wine list is my first project.

2. What led you to Bistecca?

I have been friends with Pip (Head Chef) for a few years so I was introduced to Liquid & Larder (parent company) when Bistecca’s was being created.

Pip told me about Bistecca and the team wanted to sit down to see how I could be part of it. I went to the meeting with an open mind, knowing I wasn’t looking for a full time job on the floor but I wanted to listen their idea and try to understand what I could do for them.

I met Warren Burns (co-owner) and we got along straight away: we knew we were going to work together. So I accepted to write the wine list for them and stay few months to help them going. After the second week I told them that I was falling in love with hospitality again: great company, great bosses, great team and Bistecca is just an amazing venue.

It makes me feel proud to be part of it. So it looks like I won’t leave anytime soon!


3. Can you describe the wine offering? Are there any challenges involved with having such a big overseas wine program?

We think that Bistecca as a whole is a challenging venue, from the booking system, to the one only cut of meat, to few interesting serving points (I won’t reveal them). I have tried to apply the same principals to the wine list. Warren and Jimmy (owners) are showcasing a Venetian style cocktail bar adjoining a Tuscan style restaurant, so I decided to write a 100% Italian list.

I am aware that nowadays there are many Australian upcoming winemakers making great wine from Italian grape varieties so these are also well represented. There are two main challenges that I am facing with the decision to feature only Italian wine and Italian grape varieties from Australia: CBD customers have a straightforward palate (Big oakey Chardonnay, Central Otago Pinot Noir, Barossa Valley Shiraz, etc..). When they don’t see these wines on the list they might feel not confident, so it is up to me suggest similar styles they can still enjoy.

For those not familiar with Italian wines, it might be quite intimidating. Therefore, I have organized the list by weight so customers can feel more confident in ordering. The list can sometimes be overwhelming. I can invite customers to my wine room and show exactly what is on the list. I find that the visual approach is more effective and also more interactive, especially when many of the labels are difficult to read.

Photo Credit: Haverick Meats

Photo Credit: Haverick Meats

4. How do Italian wines compare to Australian varieties?

As a general rule, Australian wine (like all the New World Wines) tend to be fruit forward, richer and oakier than the Old World. Italian wines tend to be drier, earthier and mineral and at times have dry and firm tannins. This poses another challenge for me. Australian palate perceives tannins as a big wine (see Nebbiolo or Sangiovese for example) while Italians look at Nebbiolo as a medium wine with high tannins but light body.

For example, there are very few wines in Italy that can be compared to a big Barossa Shiraz: Amarone, Aglianico, Sagrantino (and very few more). While it is challenging - it’s also incredibly fun! Bistecca customers are quite adventurous and happy to be led into unknown territories.

Sometimes I ask 1000 questions at the table, just because I want to make sure I am delivering a wine that the customer will be happy with. The most rewarding part is seeing customers happy with a wine they have never tried!