12/07/2005 - 22:00

Living well with Wine Liaisons

12/07/2005 - 22:00


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Dee and Malcolm Jones’ latest wine venture is a real family affair.

Living well with Wine Liaisons

Dee and Malcolm Jones’ latest wine venture is a real family affair.

With their children, Quentin and Liza, the former owners of Brookland Valley have opened Wine Liaisons in George Street, East Fremantle.

Wine Liaisons has all the vibrancy and warmth those familiar with the Jones’s style have come to expect. And early indications suggest the store will soon be to liquor shops what Brookland Valley was to wineries – a beacon of style and elegance.

Dee and Malcolm Jones started Brookland Valley in 1984 and, over the years, made it one of the region’s most successful wineries.

A partnership with Hardy Wines helped the company grow to become one of Margaret River’s most successful, and definitely its most picturesque vineyard. Success, however, took the business beyond the nature of the family enterprise Dee and Malcolm had envisioned.

They sold in 2004, intending to retire, but are instead part of another unique, wine-orientated family business.

Wine Liaisons seeks to embody what Dee Jones terms “living well with wine” – an uncomplicated approach to good food, wine and culture.

 “We wanted to create a place where people could come for everything wine related but without being intimidated,” Malcolm says.

“We wanted to get back to the grass roots of service and knowledge and value.”

Wine Liaisons is unique in that it forms a synergy between the best parts of food, wine, art and culture. It is at once a wine merchant, gourmet food provedore, bookshop, wine accessories purveyor, art gallery, function room, gift registry and corporate meeting venue.

Quentin controls the liquor store, which he has created to become “all things to the majority”. From a warehouse in O’Connor, he has built a formidable inventory of domestic and international wines. Tasting evenings run Thursday to Saturday to inform the growing clientele of new and exciting wines.

A ‘tasting bench’, complete with interactive display and a varietal cross section of tastings, provides an educational approach to wine selection, Quentin says.

Each month Quentin plans to hold a producers’ tasting evening, whereby winemakers will be invited to speak to a crowd in the cellar downstairs about their current releases and their back catalogue of vintages.

“Rather than just talk about wine, we can offer people free information about travel to the region, accommodation hints – ideas get a bigger and broader understanding of the region through the wine,” Malcolm says.

The soon-to-be-completed cellar is definitely the “romance of the business”, as Quentin puts it, yet it will form an integral part in his goal to create a cellar in the city.

Wine, however, is scarcely where this operation finishes.

 “With the food, the ambiance starts to develop,” Liza says.

Wine Liaisons markets food for people who enjoy wine – a range of meats, cheeses, pâté, desserts, olives and olive oil from Njoi, Simon Johnson and others – all designed to aid those wanting to eat well with wine.

The idea is to provide the opportunity for people to come in, grab some fresh pasta and sauce, walk three metres to the left and talk to Quentin about which cabernet would suit the meal best.

With the wine accessories, books and art that fill the remainder of the store, Dee Jones’ eye for detail is evident as it was at Brookland Valley’s cellar door.

More than half of the stock featured in Wine Liaisons is imported by the Jones themselves. Most have no distribution lines into Australia at all.

And products such as Riedel, Spiegelau and Zerrutti sit comfortably next to a collection of wine art and books of a quality and range that initially set Brookland Valley apart from the rest.

Yet in the increasingly polarised world of retail liquor stores, the Jones see only advantage in entering Australia’s liquor merchant duopoly.

“This is the ideal climate to enter the market provided you have the expertise,” Malcolm says.

“You need to understand the service side of the industry. That’s the advantage; those who survive on price alone will not survive forever.”

And as Quentin explains, the current climate is “a consumer’s oasis, a producer’s nightmare and retailers are in the middle.

“But now is a time to forge loyalties with the producers, not to take advantage of them.

“Because the climate will change, and when it does, those loyalties will be repaid.”


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