There is no mistaking Joe Wang’s love of wine, New Zealand wine in particular.
The sommelier who has worked at some of the most respected restaurants in the country, is now seizing that passion and his knowledge of New Zealand’s high end boutique wines, with a unique venture in Auckland – The Wine Cave.
Opened in Newmarket in October, The Wine Cave is offering locals and tourists a wine experience like no other. For Wang, the end goal is to promote the very best of what this country has to offer, and passing that on to like-minded wine lovers.
“In 2013 I was working for Cape Kidnappers in Hawke’s Bay as a sommelier and I met many travelers from the US, UK and Europe. They had a real passion for wine and I was blown away that these people who had tasted a lot of expensive wines, were looking for the best of New Zealand Pinot Noir, or the best of New Zealand Bordeaux. That was an opportunity for me, I thought – there needs to be a shop in Auckland for these people.”
With the knowledge Wang had attained from working as a sommelier at places like Sky City Casino, The Northern Club, Bowmans and Cibo, he already had a profound knowledge of New Zealand’s boutique wineries. He also appreciated that many of these wines were not readily available to tourists, unless they were visiting cellar doors. The goal of bringing those wines together in a unique enclosure began to ferment. “I wanted to stay away from the current or traditional wine retailer system,” he says. “If a customer is coming here, whether as a tourist or a local, all they should be doing is paying to taste the wines, talking and consulting with us, rather than pushing a trolley around looking for wine.”
With 435 wines within the store, 315 of them are New Zealand. Those 315 wines represent 158 different boutique wineries and he says the range covers everything from Sparkling to Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir to Aromatics, Chardonnay to Bordeaux blends.
The Wine Cave has three separate rooms. One the tasting space, complete with television for sports fans, team building exercise or functions. The second is The Vault, an area where the store’s most premium wines will be kept. This area is only accessible by swipe card and customers, accompanied by staff can peruse and purchase the wines away from the more public tasting room. Then there is a warehouse that also doubles as a function space for larger groups.
Wine is not the only liquid refreshment on the menu, with The Wine Cave also offering 60 spirits and a small selection of craft beer. “We know that not everyone in a group is passionate about wine, so we cater for those people as well,” Wang says.
While he is keen to ensure the fine wines of New Zealand are targeted to the wine loving tourist and local, Wang says it is not so much about selling bottles .
“We want to share the story so hopefully they walk away after tasting many beautiful New Zealand wines and remember this place and the wines themselves. That is my intention.”