One of the original and iconic independent wine shops of Wellington and New Zealand is closing down. Rumbles Wine Merchant and Liquor Emporium in Waring Taylor Street is to close its doors on Friday 24 February, after over a quarter of a century of business. Peter Rumble cites an expired lease and unagreed terms for renewal as the reason. And he “absolutely can’t be biffed relocating after 28 years”. This is a real loss for Wellington and indeed New Zealand’s wine scene.
Peter Rumble is a legend among wine lovers in the country, his shop being a ‘Mecca’ to visit to obtain good wine. I made the pilgrimage from Dunedin several times in the 1980s to buy rare, fine and exciting wines from his shop, wanting to be served only by the owner. Peter was and is a true enthusiast when it comes to wine. At a time when the classics were hard to get hold of, he had them, and could discuss their every detail with authority. I bought clarets and fine white burgundies from Rumbles, and they became benchmark examples in my learning.
As other shops got into the classics, Peter moved to the more obscure, and more cutting-edge wines, from up-and-coming regions. Your average retailer would not touch these, as they were not well-known and difficult to understand. Peter made it his business to know about such wines intimately. For the uninitiated, Rumbles was too ‘way out’ and full of unfamiliarity. For those who knew plenty, or those with an open mind, Rumbles was a treasure trove.
Over the years, as supermarkets eroded brands, categories and the market, Peter made his views and position clear. He despised the FMCG operators and how they made it increasingly difficult to run a shop with a difference. Understanding Peter’s position meant one could make allowances for his sometime gruff and hardened manner. However, if a customer showed any trace of interest in something different, Peter’s service was astounding. His impartation of knowledge and enthusiasm was beyond measure. His pragmatism kept him and his clients well-grounded and in touch with reality. In essence this is what wine retail service truly is and should be.
I always find Peter an engaging man who makes you think. I’ve always respected his experience, opinions and taste, and I’ve found that any dialogue leads to learning something new and an enhanced perspective. He has always given me the time of day, and supported my career in the wine industry. Along with the likes of his peer, the late Grant Jones who founded Regional Wines, Peter has a raw passion that is seldom seen in wine retail. That passion has driven Peter to operate Rumbles for 28 years, much of that time in a climate that would discourage and dishearten the strongest-willed shop owner. It is a passion that anyone who works with wine should have.
I encourage you to visit Rumbles, either in person or on-line over the next few weeks. There will be many wines on sale to clear stocks. Purchases will do this, and you will benefit with the acquisition of some pretty interesting bottles.
Peter, it’s a pity the shop is closing. I thank you for the good times and the good wines. I know you will still be around, continuing with your wine distribution operation. My best wishes for the future.