When the first lockdown hit Australia in March 2020 and the initial shock of a life-altering virus wore off (but has it already?), many of us started planning our lives in isolation that we didn’t have an end date, while also figuring out how to support local businesses in the process if we had the means. Enter: Winona Wine – one of the first natural wine shops in the Sydney area (Manly, to be precise) that delivered packs of delicious natural wines straight to your door.
At the start of 2020, natural wine was still a new and exciting concept for most of us outside the wine world, so we could engage in a service that both supported the local and enjoyed special and unique wines as the weekend treat in the process was a no-brainer. My girlfriend and I have been ordering weekly packs for months and in doing so have expanded our knowledge of natural wine and the many different forms it comes in. Now that the world is back to a little sense of normalcy, a visit to the shop is a fun weekend activity, or we’ll order online if we’re short on time. There’s still so much out there that the average punter doesn’t know about natural wine and all of its unique qualities, which is why we sat down with Cameron Walsh of Winona Wine to talk a bit about how Winona was born, the collective movement towards natural wine options, and where to start if the whole conversation/drinking experience is still alien.
Tell us a bit about the genesis of Winona Wine…
Winona was founded by three friends: Elli and Cam Walsh and Luke Miller. We all come from quite different backgrounds. Elli is a writer and arts editor, Cam has always worked in music (currently at indie label Inertia) and Luke is in the foodie scene – he owns three great local restaurants (Chica Bonita, Busta and Sunset Sabi). Our collective love of art, music and food – and wine, of course – has shaped Winona. In addition to good booze, we specialize in artisan foods, handmade items, and cool things in general!
Winona’s Seed was a small project that Elli and Cam ran many years ago called The Funky Bunch, where we used social media as a platform to profile the natural wines we drank and hosted local events . We saw a strong thirst for this type of wine on the beaches at a time when it was completely inaccessible (this was the days before the Sydney natural wine bottle shops you are probably familiar with now). Cue Winona.
Because it’s devilishly yum! But more than that, wine brings people together. Wine is community. Communion. It’s friendship. Wine engenders joy. It’s social. The clink of wine glasses is the anthem of the party. These are birthdays, weddings, parties. It’s summer, fall, spring and winter. Wine is sensual, sensory. It seduces, and soothes. What’s a meal without a glass of wine? The wine is ancient, timeless, loved for a long time. We have been making and enjoying wine for millennia and we will continue to do so. Wine is human.
What attracted you to natural wine in the beginning?
When we first tried this type of wine, we were immediately drawn to its vitality, freshness and nuance. It seemed three-dimensional, and the wine we drank suddenly tasted flat. Someone once compared natural wine to conventional wine as experiencing music on vinyl versus a compressed digital format. It’s perfect. There’s a lot more expressiveness, warmth, so many tones. In terms of art, it’s Kandinsky not Kaws, you know? That aside, the philosophy behind so much of this type of wine is so important – sustainability, regenerative farming, organic; measures taken to help and not harm the earth.
For people new to natural wine, which Winona is best known for, where would you advise them to start?
From funk to finesse, there is a huge range of ‘natural’ wines and it can be difficult to find the right ones for your personal palate. Winona actually runs a monthly wine club where we deliver a truly ‘drinkable’ selection of natural wines to you – nothing too difficult or else. It’s a great place to find your bearings and build confidence around the styles, strains, and regions that resonate with you.
Do you remember the first time you tasted natural wine?
Sure! It was revealing. Many years ago, a sommelier friend of ours ordered a red wine when a restaurant opened in Sydney. It was light, edgy and bubbly – our minds were blown. Weren’t all the reds sumptuous, round and boozy? !
How do you think your individual creative journeys lend themselves to Winona’s philosophy?
Although Winona is seemingly just a bottle shop, we like to think of it as a creative space – where our musical, artistic and culinary experiences come together. Whether it’s through our collection of objects, handmade by local and international artists, or our epic selection of rare and wonderful artisan foods (we are essentially an artisan chocolate factory), or our rotating calendar of delicious dinners, tastings and masterclasses, or the collaborations we’re done with visual artists like Jason Phu and Elliott Routledge, or the constantly spinning music – stop us, we could go on. Basically there is so much more to Winona.
Can you talk about the surge in demand/desire for natural wine in Sydney and around the world, and why do you think it has taken off so well in recent years?
We’ll just answer this intuitively – without any data or statistics – but there seems to be a movement towards better consumption, whether it’s organic food, slow fashion, natural wines, etc. People seek authenticity and individuality, expressiveness, while recognizing the importance of caring for our planet. Supporting small producers doing their part to feed the earth – through regenerative farming, organic/biodynamic farming, sustainability measures, etc. as valid – anything that supports an evolution towards better consumption (for our body and the planet) is a good thing!
What do you like best about the new popularity of natural wine?
Small producers working in natural wine are taking steps to give back to the land they take from. It is important. It should be noted that “natural wine” is a loose term, and we refer to it as: grapes sourced from organically/biodynamically managed land and turned into wine with minimal intervention (hands on machinery, no chemicals, etc).
What’s next for Winona?
I hope, a little sister! We’re constantly changing, changing, growing – sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events and more.