Orange, natural organic wines in every colour of the rainbow
Everything about Upstairs Wines could be perceived as pretentious; only for those into wine or who think they know about wine. When you enter and start to wander the shop you may not recognise a label, maybe struggle to pronounce the varietals and what in the wine-god’s name is a Pét-nat! In easy-to-understand terms, it is basically a lightly sparkling wine, often cloudy style of bubbly, called Pétillant-Naturel.
“You just make wine – any wine no rules, when it’s near the end of fermentation you bottle it so it’s still fermenting, and you put the cap on it and the last bit of fermentation happens in the bottle. The bi-product of fermentation is carbon dioxide gets trapped and you get natural bubbles,” Dave Kynaston simply explains.
It is he, with his partner in business and in life, Michelle Permentier, who have created the most sophisticated off-licence on the Central Coast that is approachable, relaxed, and enjoyable for everyone.
Michelle explains the intention for Upstairs Wines is, “A collection of all our favourite wines - 15 years in the making! We try to focus on minimal intervention, small-batch winemakers with a focus on organics and biodynamic, so nothing you will find in big chains. We also work with small NSW brewery’s – craft beers and spirits.”
“12 years ago - we quit our corporate jobs and moved to Argentina; we fell in love. We realised Malbec wasn’t in Australia at that time. We started to import Malbec – that’s how we started and then Dave went on to study winemaking.”
Michelle casually opens up about how they went from importing Malbec to creating a boutique wine company, that has created such a niche that people seek them out. We have spoken about these Captains of Trade as callouts in other articles, you see “Captains of Trade” is their wholesale company, they curate some of the Coast’s best wine lists.
Michelle and Dave have just opened their second boutique off-license in Long Jetty (the first is in Kincumber) called ‘Upstairs Wines’; with both venues at street level, it is a curious name…but we will get to that.
They do things a little differently here. Each shelf isn’t a varietal or region; instead, each shelf is unique & interesting or fresh & vibrant. The sections are ever-changing as they want to keep it fun and relevant.
Michelle starts to point out some current favourites in Adventurous Whites, “one I really love is this Grillo from Sicily. It’s an indigenous grape to Sicily – this winemaker is absolutely mad. He works with a bio-dynamic winery and produces beautiful natural wines from there.”
Then we ventured to Orange Wines – no, not the region. Orange Wine is having its moment in the sun, it is the style of wine and orange in colour. It is “funky skin contact wine, orange wines are what people are coming in at the moment to explore. We have some interesting ones like this Lansdowne Wines from Adelaide Hills – this area is producing some really interesting wines. We have a lot from around the world,” Michelle explains.
“We have been to over 90% of the vineyards we import from. They aren’t big companies, they have the same philosophy on wine as we do, they are small producers that want to make wine in a natural way. The only way to do business is to go there and try them, form a relationship and go from there.”
Dave studied Wine Science at Charles Sturt University after returning from their overseas travel and wine immersion tours, both had already trained as sommeliers and Dave wanted more.
“I really like the technical stuff and what you’re doing in the winery and what it actually does to the wine. However, you need to find the balance; the balance of being scientific and tactical whilst being an artist. With science, If you need to "fix" something you can – but that can often lead to boring, same same wine. Sometimes you need to have restraint and not “fix” the wine. There a million choices when making wine and that's what makes it so interesting,” Dave explained.
It is the way Dave speaks about the artistry of winemaking that makes you lean into trying something different. He takes away the pretentious aspect that you come to expect in a boutique wine shop, even creating his own wine.
A few of Dave’s wines are retailing in the store, I enquire about the label and he explains they don’t have just any one label as wine has its own personality.
Michelle and Dave notice a lot of people choose their wine based on the label, which is perfect for their shops as your eyes are continuously drawn to something new and interesting.
“We want to bring in wine that people can drink, not just put in a cellar as a collector’s piece. Wine should be drunk; 95% of wines are ready to drink. There are some special wines but as a winemaker you want people to enjoy wine.”
The concept here of natural and minimal invention wines really shows, “there is a whole rainbow of wines not just white and red. Don’t restrict yourself. For so long it has been white and red. There so many different types.
“Consumers have been conditioned to want really clear wine - but it’s not always a good thing – sometimes you’re stripping colour and flavour for no reason. This is how wines used to be produced before mass production started.”
To make the shop even more inviting every Friday afternoon they will host a tasting, so go on in have a chat and try something different. Oh, and you don’t have to worry about going Upstairs. You see both Kincumber and Long Jetty are street-level outlets, the name itself is a nod to their start-up days in Bondi when people would have to go upstairs to their office to get the wine… get it? Upstairs Wines.