On the flip side of wine production, wine buyers source vino from all walks of the wine scene into retailers, independent or otherwise, and help sell to consumers through personal interactions.
Wine buyers are a go-to link between the producer and the consumer, especially at independent stores. In Perth’s Leederville, wine buyer Nick Odell, a Kiwi drummer and wine enthusiast, is responsible for keeping tabs on what’s hot in Australian wine at WA institution, The Re Store.
Living with a cohort of bohemian, ragtag musos, it wasn’t long before Nick started to enjoy Australia’s wine culture.
Nick became involved with wine because he knew nothing about it, and inquisitively wanted to learn.
“I first got involved with wine simply because I didn’t know anything about wine and I wanted to learn more,” he said, “but I had no real aspirations to work in the trade, I was working in tourism at the time”.
“I had moved into a house not far from the shop and was walking past one day; it was a real party house. There were musicians and degenerates everywhere. It was a really great time.
“We drank anything, but I did start to really take a liking to wine around this time.
“I didn’t have a clue what The Re Store was – I thought it sold furniture. I walked in and came back out with a bottle of wine and a new job!”
The job advertised at The Re Store was for a storeman, which Nick had experience doing in the past.
He says he picked up a bottle of Glaetzer The Wallace Shiraz Grenache, “mainly because I had never tried Grenache before and, as I was leaving the shop, I noticed the job notice at the door”.
His interest with wine grew as he worked in the store’s cellar, keeping it in order.
“I walked back in and spoke with Moreno (owner-manager of The Re Store) and after talking about my previous experience, he asked why I had bought that particular wine. I told him I didn’t know what Grenache was and wanted to try it, which got him curious enough to hire me,” he said.
“My first role there was to tidy up the cellar. So, as I unloaded pallets and stacked boxes, I was looking at labels and listening to people talking about wine.
“I started joining in tastings with Moreno and the winemakers and brand reps and quickly realised I didn’t want to stack boxes anymore. I started off running the beer section as craft beer was really starting to fly in WA.
“Then, as I was tasting more and more wines, learning more about them, I started dealing directly with the winemakers and the reps a lot more. This led to me taking some of the pressure off Moreno and ordering wines for the store myself.
“We make it our business to taste a LOT, so that’s where a lot of my wine knowledge has come from – just tasting lots of wines from everywhere, of all levels.
“I am very lucky to work for a business that has one of the greatest selections of wines in Australia. It’s a privileged position to be in.”
The Re Store is known to have a large and varied wine selection, making it a local institution in a sense.
When Nick began working there, the store’s range comprised of more classic Australian wines: lots of Shiraz, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Riesling wines, as well as a huge range of international wines, particularly Italian.
However, Nick, being the more experimental wine buyer, has expanded the store’s range to include wines and styles from all walks of life.
“Since I started doing a lot more of the ordering, I have expanded the range to include a lot of other varieties and styles, as well as those from different parts of the world,” he said.
“I am open to a lot of different styles of winemaking and the range at The Re Store has changed a lot over the years, without losing the classics of course. We’ve just evolved somewhat.”
Keeping on top of what’s hot in Australian wine is a pillar of Nick’s role at The Re Store, he says, as he manages to keep the store stocked with what is popular.
“I certainly try to keep on top of trends as much as possible,” he explained, “for example, the natural wine movement was kicking off in a big way here”.
“These are wines that I am very interested in drinking myself! We’ve always had them here but I started to look locally, as well as overseas, to expand the range in the shop. Now we have one of the best selections of natural wine in town.”
“Community is EXTREMELY important to us,” said Nick.
As a locally owned and operated business, The Re Store relies quite heavily on the community to support it and, in turn, give back as much as it can by supporting local producers as much as possible.</p.
“We are a family owned and operated business that has been around since 1936,” he continued.
“There aren’t too many businesses left these days that are still being run by the same family after almost 90 years. So we know a thing or two about looking after people and giving our customers the best knowledge and service possible.
“I’m sure that’s the motto for any decent independent store, but when you have three generations of the same family shopping with you weekly, they become a part of your family. Kids come into the store with their grandparents, who were shopping here in the 70s.
“I think that’s why we are seen as an institution here in WA. Yes, we sell an incredible range of wines, beers, spirits and liqueurs, but that is only a third of the shop,” he revealed, “The Re Store is an experience, not some bland, liquor barn. It’s a real family atmosphere here”.
With that level of service and local trust, Nick says The Re Store’s customers have become friends, “which is why it’s easy to get people to try new wines”.
“Often I will get contacted by one of my regulars who wants me to pick out a random dozen of wines they haven’t tried before, because I’ve been looking after them for so long, they trust me to know their palate and are willing to take a punt on something different. That’s easily one of the highlights of my job.”