New wine venue a natural choice
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A local natural wine aficionado is hoping he can educate and develop the palates of Perth with his new bar-cum-liquor store Wines of While.
For many, first-time travel to Europe can be eye-opening for any number of reasons.
For Sam Winfield, who visited the continent in his mid 20s, it was the huge variety of natural wines that really impressed.
Having not been much of a fan of wine before he went overseas, Dr Winfield returned to Perth eager to find local suppliers, and wanting to learn more about the niche product.
Disappointed by a dearth of avenues providing natural wines in Western Australia, he resorted to mail order before taking the plunge in 2016, dedicating himself to the wine business and attempting to fill what he saw was a gap in the local hospitality market.
In the 18 months since, Dr Winfield has spent his time learning about and tasting hundreds of natural wines in the lead-up to the opening of Wines of While at 458 William Street in Northbridge.
And it seems he has done his homework, with his essay on natural wines winning Dr Winfield the London-based Wine and Spirit Education Trust’s Laithwaite Prize earlier this year.
An assistant surgeon by profession, Dr Winfield said he wasn’t really a wine drinker in his early 20s.
“I found wines targeted to people my age all tasted the same and seemed to give you a pretty rotten hangover mainly because they were high in alcohol,” he said.
“Travelling, I came across natural wines and found them more lively; the taste range is far broader and I found that more exciting and adventurous.
“At the same time I was having a bit of a quarter life crisis looking deep into the philosophy of ‘what am I going to do with my life’?
“Growing up on a farm in Narrogin I was certainly concerned about natural stuff.
“I thought ‘why don’t I be the one that brings this type of wine to Perth, become the most knowledgeable person (on it) and create the place where everyone goes to get it’?”
Following a long liquor licensing process and undertaking substantial fitout works, Dr Winfield’s vision has finally come to fruition, with Wines of While to officially open on August 3.
“There’s contention about the phrase ‘natural wine’ because it doesn’t really have an international definition,” Dr Winfield told Business News.
“Natural wine is a wine made with organic or biodynamic grapes and in the cellar nothing is added or taken away – no fine filtering, no acids or tannins or colours – and you’re only allowed a small amount of sulphur on bottling.
“So I have focused on the idea of creating an Enoteca, an Italian wine shop-cum-bar, which is pretty common in London and increasingly over east as well.
“It has that dual capability of having dine-in and selling takeaway, being able to guide people through the process of tasting something they’re not used to.”
Dr Winfield said all natural wines on Wines of While’s list (about 160 on a rotating basis) would be available to take away or drink on the premises, with varieties paired with food for those wishing to dine in.
Due to the product’s prevalence overseas, about 60 per cent of the wine list is of international origin – from France, Italy, Spain, Austria and Chile.
Dr Winfield said natural wines were generally more expensive, largely due to the extra vineyard labour as well as the risk by not adding lots of sulphur, with barrels easily spoilt.
“The list will change frequently because a lot of these wines are made by small producers, family vineyards, so you get six to 12 bottles for the year,” he said.
“There is an increasing number of Western Australian wine producers experimenting with using less, which is really exciting.”
Dr Winfield said natural winemakers didn’t typically have cellar doors, and so Wines of While was available as a place to launch vintages, as well as run events with distributors and visiting interstate and international winemakers to hold education sessions.
Wines of While is located in a building built in 1914, with the 50-capacity venue featuring natural finishes, such as Italian slate and a jarrah floor, and a long communal table to encourage more conversation with staff.
“It can be concerning to have a product that’s new and more expensive,” Dr Winfield said.
“But I think it’s either with age or just a more mature drinking culture in Perth … more people are drinking things that are good for the environment and good for them.
“I really hope this becomes my day job, that I learn fast enough about what it means to run a business efficiently so I get to do it every day.”