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Wine guru Shaun Maher has embarked on a new venture designed to produce wine lists and on-the-job training for staff, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.

TALENTED sommelier Shaun Maher has embarked on a new business venture aimed at operators who want a good wine list and/or staff training but do not want to employ a full-time wine buff to do it.

His new company Liquid Library will concentrate on producing wine lists for small-to-medium-sized businesses and provide staff training, but will also include wine wholesaling.

The former Altos (now Altos Bistro) sommelier Mr Maher said that after finishing the vintage season with Millbrook Winery and, after five years at Altos, it was now time to launch his long dreamt of venture.

“I am concentrating on staff training and wine list construction. There is nobody in Perth doing it and there is a good market for this service,” he said.

“There are people who want a wine list that is customised and personalised but that also achieves good margins.”

Mr Maher said he believed consumers had become more discerning about wine and that has placed greater emphasis on operators to supply good wine lists as well as knowledgeable staff.

“People have a greater understanding of wines and people are becoming more adventurous,” he said.

However, when it comes to wine list construction more often than not it is left up to a wine distribution company.

“Bigger places, such as Fraser’s or Friends, usually have someone to build and maintain the wine list,” Mr Maher said.

“But most people will just ask a wine company to provide the wines and that’s great if they have an encompassing list.”

And while Mr Maher is interested in distributing wines for boutique wineries not represented in WA (such as South Australian wine producer Torbreck) he said Liquid Library was interested in creating good, encompassing, quality wine lists.

“My interest is to show the wines that look best at publication time,” he said. “My focus is not to pump my own products.”

Mr Maher said having well-educated floor staff helped drive wine sales, however, while there were plenty of opportunities for staff to learn about wine there were minimal opportunities for employees to get training on the job.

“There are so many avenues for staff to increase their knowledge but they have to go out of their way to do it. This way it puts the onus on the proprietor to provide good training and their business will benefit from it,” he said.

Mr Maher is already working with clients, both existing businesses such as Altos Bistro and a new business that will open this year and anticipates strong growth.

He said that as time passed Liquid Library would grow its wine service offerings to possibly include designing and implementing wine cellars for the home.

“The business will extend to home cellaring and I’ve had a lot of interest from friends and associations for that,” Mr Maher said.

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