Tag Archives: food culture

The No-Bullshit Bottle Shop

Keeping with the whole Good Food Month, and food buying theme I thought instead of posting some interesting links that my friend Brendan Hilferty had sent me, it might be nice to profile him instead. Brendan owns and runs The Wine Point – a clean skin wine shop. (Clean skins are wine that are sold as “own label” wines, not branded by the winery, but rather the store that sells them.) The Wine Point has gained a reputation for stocking amazing, quality wine. They even bagged a mention in the 2008 Good Food Guide. His bottle store is a “no-bullshit bottle shop” (I wish I could find that quote on-line…it is a real quote from an article). Most of the wine sold is available for a taste, and the guys on the floor will talk you through them with passion, but none of the “wank-ery” that often goes along with the category. He is also a super-cook and a passionate food guy.  This week he sent me a link to Feather and Bone – who supply meat from sustainably raised animals whose range of products and attitude towards food and provenance is quite rare in Australia, and Bruny Island Cheese Co. – an artisan cheese maker from Tasmania that got us all so excited in my office we are signing up and forming a cheese club to receive a 1 – 1.5k order every 6 weeks. I asked Brendan a few questions this week via email about wine and food and stuff.

KT: Tell us a bit about The Wine Point. What it’s about?

BH: In essence its about getting high quality wines to the consumer via the most direct route, at the lowest cost. In most cases this is direct from winemaker or grower, through TWP to the final customer cutting out any number of margins on the way. In days of yore (before branding) in the UK wine trade the wine merchant would bottle their own “claret” or “burgundy and the consumer trust was with the wine retailer, not the producer. In a way I’m trying to do a similar thing and with our offerings increasingly either commissioned by or bottled exclusively for us we seem to be getting there. I’m also trying to create some value with my own brand. After 20 years in the industry as a buyer there’s no fun in just trying to undercut the next retailer with the same brands. The Aus wine retail trade is entirely price driven, unimaginative, unprofitable and increasingly dominated by the supermarkets. I don’t want to swim in that pond!

KT: Who is the Wine Point Customer? How do they compare with the $3 clean skin buyer?

BH: Much, much more involved than you might think. Without the reassurance of the brand they have to trust their own palates when making their purchasing decisions. All the wines we offer are from specific regions, and reflect the recognised characteristics of wines from those regions. With the increase in wine tourism and a greater awareness of food and wine in general, (Australia has a very high level of wine wine knowledge) our customers can see the high quality and value of what we are selling.  I think the satisfaction that the customer gets from “discovery” at TWP keeps them coming back, and means great word of mouth marketing for us.

KT: How did you first get into wine?

BH: By twisting the opener on a cask of Stanley Leasingham Moselle! More seriously, the 3 month overseas trip i took as a 19 year old ended with me working in restaurants and bars in the UK for 5 years before coming home to establish myself as a sommelier in Sydney. I knew i liked a drink and found an endless fascination in wine that led to a career.

KT: And although wine is your bag, you also love your grub!  What came first – food or wine?

BH: For a long time i looked at the wine list first, decided what to drink, then tried to find a match on the menu. Increasingly these days its the other way around. Wine is an accompaniment to food and should be good, but should not necessarily over shadow it.

KT: You’ve sent me links for Feather and Bone and Bruny Island. What other companies do you know of that are getting up to stuff like this?

BH: I think these are 2 examples of passionate people creating more value by themselves by going direct. There are plenty of good small wine producers, especially those using organic/biodynamics which I think deserve more recognition. A current favourite is http://www.ngeringa.com/

KT: Do you think Australia is really behind countries like the UK, with their interest in food miles, and provenance of produce? Or are we there, but just don’t talk about it as much as they do?

BH: Yes. The UK is much maligned when it comes to food quality. There is FANTASTIC produce there and it is possible for a small, specialist producer to create a niche business because they have the population to support it. I know of 1 supplier in London that just sells game birds. He shoots them himself and drives to London once a week to sell to a handfull of good restaurants.. They don’t have to run huge fleets of vans and warhouses to make a decent living. In Sydney there is a SINGLE supplier of game for the entire city. 
Part of that sustainability there is the food miles thing. With our distances that’s always going to be an issue. 

KT: What are your top places for food buying in Sydney?

BH: Betta Meats in Newtown for meat. Marrickville Organic markets for fruit and veg. Faros Brothers in Sydenham for seafoood (forget Sydney Fish markets).

KT: And finally – summer is approaching – what will we be all drinking this year? Feel free to shamelessly plug your wares, as they are all good!

BH: Barossa Valley “Vine Vale” Old Bush Vine Semillon 2008 from The Wine Point. What I think white wine should be about. Crisp, clean, citrussy, dry and perfect with so many summery foods. Move over sweaty sauvignon blanc and out of the way boring pinot gris. Semillon is the place to be!

Brendan has a page on facebook, and has also used images from flickr users to create wine labels. 


1 Comment

Filed under marketing

To market, to market

The next few posts will be dedicated to something I love – REALLY love, and that’s food.  And how we buy our food.  I love visiting food markets around the world to see how other people eat.  We have the luxury of having a good food market near our house but there is something a little more “real” about the way that other cultures deal with their food shopping. The most confronting market I have been to was the Athens meat market in the centre of town – cuts of meat and offal on big blocks, goat and pig heads, blood on the floor, butchers yelling at you selling their wares as you passed and a good deal of flies. You certainly felt pretty close to your food source! 

In Bangkok mm and I searched in vain for the “famous” flower markets.  I think we had come at the wrong time of day – we saw a few sad bunches of orchids, but the gushing description of blooms and plumes from around the world as promised by the guide book was nowhere to be seen. Instead we found a very cool wet market – big trays of chillies and turmeric, big tied up bunches of kaffir lime leaves, tuk tuks shifting lemon grass around and people running with trolleys from the river up to the stalls. It was alive and exciting. 

Cultres that have an exciting way to buy food – fresh, “real”, colurful, lots of variety, seasonal – also tend to be more connected to food in general. Food plays a big part in day to day living – meal time and eating is central to the day. It’s not something that you “make-do” – you really care about what you serve up, or sit down to.  It’s sad that we have lost that connection, and it’s probably a big part of why Australia is the most obese nation on earth. We are more comfortable buying things in plastic trays or out of the freezer. We buy food that is pre-processed as we have no idea to add flavour ourselves.  We are happier to buy a pasta sauce in a jar than use the basic ingredients of tomotoes, onion, garlic and some herbs.  It’s also cheaper to do it that way – and takes a about a minute longer to prepare.  

Next post; some handy local sites sent to me from Brendan at The Wine Point – a guy who is VERY passionate about his grub!


Filed under marketing