Tuesday, 20 February 2024 15:25

Wine to the People

Written by  Staff Reporters
Hannah Wells at Puffin. Hannah Wells at Puffin.

Puffin wine bar, tucked away in Wellington’s Ghuznee Street, champions some of New Zealand’s smallest biodynamic and organic winegrowers. In the lead up to its second Superwild event on 17 February, owner Hannah Wells tells us the how, why and who of Puffin.

How was Puffin hatched?

I got into hospitality through working at Golding’s Free Dive when I landed back in Wellington, after living in London for a few years. I got into organic and biodynamic wines through looking after the small wine list. From there I set off tasting through a lot of things and visiting and meeting people who could show me more. Then came the opportunity to put something in the space where Puffin currently is. My friends Sean and Alex offered the opportunity to develop something in the ground floor of their hotel – The Intrepid – and I took it nervously but very willingly. I had been following a lot of overseas wine bars and thought we could build something in that space that kept any gatekeeping out of drinking wine. Something that only showcases organic and biodynamic wines, and somewhere that everyone and anyone can come and feel comfortable discovering something new or find something they already love. Somewhere that focuses on the wines being good, served by good people, in a relaxing and beautiful space. Taste is hugely subjective, so we focus on finding something that people want to drink through as much or as little conversation as they want to have about it. It took a long time to actually get into the space to start building, but that gave us time to refine the idea and taste and research more, which is an ongoing process!

What's the ethos?

Overall, Puffin focuses on organic and biodynamic wines. This has naturally led us to build relationships with smaller producers who focus on the same things. There’s a mix of buying wine direct from producers or through portfolios that represent them. Because of the focus on organic and biodynamic, it already decreases the size of the pool you can purchase from, which I think pushes you into deeper connections with the people and producers we have built our relationships with.

Tell us about some of your events.

Puffin’s events focus on highlighting the producers and wines we love. I always think the events we do should feel  natural; they are an opportunity for us to host people, showcase these beautiful wines that some really talented people have made, and just generally have a great time. The events serve to deepen the relationships we have with produrers as well. Our largest event is Superwild, which we did for the first time in February last year. It’s a neighbourhood festival that involves Puffin, Golding’s, and our latest establishment, Humdinger. We invite food, wine, and beer producers to be involved. Again, it’s an opportunity to showcase these wonderful people and their products all in one place at one time. We will be doing Superwild again on 17 February (superwild.co.nz) and this time we’ve invited some New Zealand chefs and also some new people we’ve met along the way, to have conversations about that middle part of the Venn diagram, where food, wine, beer, art, science etc. collide.

You've been through some strange years in hospitality...

Covid-19 was definitely an interesting time. We had been open about six months before we went into our first lockdown. When we came back from lockdown it was amazing how many people came out to enjoy Puffin again. To look on the bright side of it all, it was an interesting experience going through the different levels and changing our service style to follow the rules in place. It’s not often you’re able to do that in hospitality, but in this case, we were forced to to get through. We’re very happy to be where we are now though, back in our regular service, having people come through the doors, having them all able to mingle and enjoy the space in the way we always wanted them to.

What's next for Puffin?

In terms of what’s next, that’s always up for discussion. Puffin has just had it’s fourth birthday so I’m looking forward to seeing it through its next four years, as it settles further into the Wellington hospitality landscape, and also see the team in Puffin continue to grow the bar and space with all their combined knowledge and experience. We have recently opened our other bar – Humdinger, a dive bar with cocktails, deep dish pizza, beers and a jukebox on freeplay; another place that we just want people to enjoy and relax in.

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