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Christchurch Wine Enthusiasts Well-Served

By May 18, 2012No Comments
The citizens of Christchurch have endured much over the past year and as the rebuilding proceeds, life is returning to normal, albeit a new normal. Wine bottles and wine enthusiasts were also victims with bottles smashing and wine lovers not easily replacing them! It was a warming experience to call into two wine retail operations in Christchurch run by my former colleagues back in Wilson Neill days. Rex Ormandy and David Graham have a long history of working together and figure among the most experienced wine suppliers in the city. Judging from what I saw, I can say that Christchurch wine lovers are well-served between the two of them. Rex and David have taken slightly different directions now, but they are very complementary in their way they conduct business and their portfolio offerings, and the depth and breadth of style coverage makes Christchurch a place to be to obtain, share, learn about and enjoy good wine.
David Graham and Juliet Edwards follow a formula that is proving to be a success around the country at Decant in Mandeville Street, Riccarton. The business is a wine shop and café, David looking after the wine side and Juliet in charge of the food. I like the similarities with the likes of Maison Vauron in Auckland and Scenic Cellars in Taupo, the Decant business more compact, but clearly as busy. The complete wine and food experience in a casual setting has taken off. Juliet runs a café with good food and coffee, open for morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. Lunchtime is usually frantic, and Juliet says the café has “become a monster”! The delicatessen section always features a wonderful range of interesting cheeses, pates, preserves, oils and chocolate.

Wine accessories can be purchased at Decant. But for most visitors, it is all about wine. The wines are quite eclectic and David’s point of difference is his focus on European wines, from affordable to grand cru. There’s a particularly good choice in white and red burgundies, Rhone reds, Spanish and Italian classics and contemporaries and interesting pickings in aromatics with Gruner Veltliners, Alsatian wines and German Rieslings. As can be expected, David runs regular wine tastings on the premises, these being an excellent opportunity of keeping up with the fine wine scene.

The earthquakes have only affected Decant in a minor way, and it seems business is growing steadily. When we visited late afternoon, there was a steady stream of wine buyers and people enjoying food and coffee. The counter food was being rapidly depleted…

Decant, 61 Mandeville Street, Riccarton, Christchurch. Tel: 03 343-1945 www.decantwine.co.nz
Vino Fino
Rex Ormandy and his team are very glad to be back in business. The February 2011 earthquake closed the shop and they reopened just two days over the one year anniversary. During that time Rex ran Vino Fino as an on-line operation. While it ticked over well, he reports “it just wasn’t the same”. His customers love coming into the shop, talking and discussing the wines and holding the bottles. While internet wine sales is an important path now and predicted to grow even more in the future, I can’t see good retail shops ever disappearing, especially one as iconic as Vino Fino in Christchurch. Vino Fino is one of those all-purpose wine merchants that does everything well. It has its equivalent in Regional Wines in Wellington where I was for 15 years. Such shops are a bit of a rarity, and are well-loved by all wine drinkers and lovers.

The renovations have made Vino Fino a brighter and fresher place, but it remains pretty much the same as it was. Three levels, the ground level and entrance showing wine memorabilia and the area where the regular wine tastings are held. The second level of the retail and point of sale area packed with specials and bargains of promoted wines, then up to the third level, a treasure trove of wines from around the country and the world. It’s the breadth of wines that makes Vino Fino indispensable for the wine shopper, as there really is something for everyone. Rex, Paul and Andrew are mines and minds of information where advice can easily be found. And there’s the full support in function supply and associated services.

Business is different after the quake. For a while, they were right on the edge of the ‘Red Zone’. It was a close call indeed. The area was one to keep away from. After re-opening, Rex has found there are fewer office workers coming in during the day, at lunchtime and after work. But Vino Fino has always been a destination store, so people still come from afar to shop. A stack of orders made up, ready for collection and delivery was proof that business is returning and strong.

Vino Fino, 188 Durham Street, Christchurch. Tel: 03 365-5134 www.vinofino.co.nz


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