Wellington independent alcohol retailer Regional Wines is celebrating a quarter of a century of selling top tipple this week.
Founded by Grant Jones in 1987 to supply restaurants, Regional Wines started selling to the public in 1990 from the Mt Victoria store it still occupies. Jones died in 2004, but his wife, Moira Gaffney, continues to run the business that now " sells more than 6000 wines, beers and spirits a year.
Anyone can grab a simple bottle of sauvignon blanc at the supermarket these days, but customers appreciate personalised service, Gaffney said.
The shop stocks wines from around the world to satisfy the most serious buffs, ranging in price from about $10 for a Marlborough white to $885.50 for a 2007 Drouhin Montrachet Laguiche from France.
Gaffney said supermarkets' cheap plonk had never been a threat.
"My husband was never particularly worried, I think he thought people at entry level [would] be introduced to wine at the supermarket and then, once they developed a palate, would come to the specialists like us."
Handwritten notes of staff favourites – such as "if you want a funky pinot, with a hint of macchiato and forest floor, this is your wine" – on the shelves help demystify the drink for newbies.
Buyer David Conway said that, in the 1980s, New Zealand wine was less popular because of the cultural cringe factor, but the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior and scorn of all things French turned Kiwis to domestic wines.
"It wasn't the done thing to have French wine on your lists and now I think it's come full circle. We've not exactly forgiven and forgotten but we're certainly finding more New Zealanders are drinking French wine and other European wines.
"Wellington is quite a cosmopolitan city, we have a lot of European and Latin Americans, and people who have travelled often come home with a taste for foreign wines."
This winter, rich Spanish red Tempranillo wines and rum have been the top sellers.
Regional Wines supported craft beers many years before microbreweries became as trendy as they are today.
The store's independence and loyal customers were part of what Gaffney put its staying power down to. "We've worked hard and having a good team of really passionate staff who love what they're doing."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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