Everyday Kiwis may soon be enjoying the fruits of artisan winegrowers’ labours with their evening meals, thanks in large part to a grape loving trio leading the democratisation of independently produced wine across New Zealand.
At the epicentre of this wine making revolution is retailer Cult Wine, owned by Jules and Lauren van Costello and Asher Boote. The store is still new – it will celebrate its first birthday on 6 September – but in its first 12 months it has already grown to become New Zealand’s leading stockist of experimental and natural wines.
“Wine is coming back in a big way” says Mr van Costello. “New Zealand has a small but hugely passionate community of independent growers creating exciting new tastes, and wine drinkers are really starting to take notice.”
There are around 30 natural wine makers in New Zealand, and a handful of independent producers making wines in lots as small as 100 bottles, he says. The community is small compared to the craft beer scene but it is growing quickly.
Mr van Costello says the scarcity of independently produced wines appeals to many people, as does the fact that a lot of smaller growers are making wine naturally, with less intervention such as fining, filtration or added preservatives.
“One of the other things about a lot of natural and lo-fi wines is that they are less polished, but also more vibrant and full of texture and flavour.
“New Zealand pétillant-naturels are some of the most exciting wines we have. They are so crazily different to traditional sparkling wine – so textured, and packed with bright fruit. Some of our orange wines are totally mind blowing. Growers are also blending varieties and using red and white grapes together. Some of these wines are almost totally unclassifiable.”
Mr van Costello says independently produced wines have been available in some high-end restaurants for a while, but they have been almost impossible to find or buy in stores.
“The idea of Cult Wine is to make these wines a little more accessible. We wanted to democratise wine for the growers and the buyers.”
Cult Wine now stocks around 200 independently produced wines and runs regular tasting events for people who want to experience them first hand. The response from consumers has been “hugely positive”, and sales through Cult Wine’s online store have been strong.
Mr van Costello isn’t planning to make a big fuss about Cult Wine’s first birthday, but acknowledges there is plenty to celebrate. The business got off to a flying start in September 2016 with the help of a PledgeMe crowdfunding campaign before overcoming a hurdle in November 2016 when a large amount of stock was lost in the Kaikoura earthquake.
“It’s been a big year, but we’ve pulled through. There’s no one like us in the country, and people come to us because they want something different.”
Photo: Wellingtonians enjoying independently produced New Zealand wines during a pop-up art exhibition at Cult Wine in August.