When Mike Bennie hosted wine tastings at Best Cellars back in the day, he blasted music so loud that the Friday night events made the gig guide of Sydney's dance music street-press.
"They were such notoriously fun tastings that 3D World listed them as 'hip-hop nights'," says the wine writer and patron saint of smashing frizzante in footy shoots.
It's been more than a decade since Bennie has worked in a bottle shop, but the Rootstock festival co-founder is now back in the retail game, serving natural wine and TV dinners with the same energy, just at a lower volume.
P&V (that's Piss and Vinegar) opens this Saturday on Enmore Road. Bennie is running the show with Lou Dowling, longtime bar manager at Mary's Newtown and The Unicorn. (Marys' co-founders Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham have a stake in the venture, too.)
It's a new-breed of bottleshop for the people. For P&V to be approved by The Powers That Be, Bennie and Dowling had to provide definitions of natural wine, artisan spirits and craft beer to liquor licensing police, and agree that at least 90 per cent of their stock would meet that criteria.
"I've never seen licensing conditions like it," says Bennie. "It means we really have to keep on top of where our stock is coming from and who is making it."
"We're trying to do our own version of West Coast Cooler."
P&V will use the "other 10 per cent" to sell brands such as Resch's, Jack Daniel's and Tanqueray. "Just a couple of favourites we love," says Dowling.
"The only RTDs will be the ones we make ourselves," says Bennie. "We're trying to do our own version of West Coast Cooler with local bars, available by the litre in a returnable bottle."
P&V is a "booze-community incubator" as much as it's a bottle shop. Dowling is working closely with a hotbed of inner-west brewers so P&V can act as a satellite cellar door. A space above the store will function as a community hub that drink-makers can use freely for tasting events.
A tasting bar will operate in the bottle shop from 4pm to 8pm. You can have a yarn with Dowling over the majesty of skin-contact sauvignon blanc or sample Wildflower Amber Ale in the street-facing courtyard. That courtyard will also have a market stall for fruit and herbs you can take home for cocktails.
P&V's takeaway food goes well beyond biltong and beer nuts. The Mary's kitchen will supply ready-to-cook, microwavable and boil-in-a-bag TV dinners such as roast chook with herb butter, lemon-brined spatchcock and black lentil dahl inspired by Surjit's in Annandale. There are also nifty things on hand like chicken stock and compound butter (mint butter for your mint peas). Wapengo oysters by the dozen are coming soon.
Strolling to the bottle shop for a roast chook and a chinwag sounds way more appealing than a soggy UberEats delivery and leftover shiraz.
P&V Merchants, 64 Enmore Road, Newtown.
Open daily 10am-9pm
OTHER BOTTLE SHOP HEROES FOR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING
Best Cellars 91 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, 02 9361 3733, bestcellars.com.au
David Matters has been championing independent winemakers in Sydney since 1987. A wine-lovers' Disneyland staffed by absolute legends.
The Oak Barrel 152 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, 02 9264 3022, oakbarrel.com.au
If you can't find it here, it's probably not worth drinking. This family-owned business has a knock-out selection of Australian, French and Italian wines plus a formidable offering of whisky and beer.
Annandale Cellars 91 Booth Street, Annandale, 02 9660 1947, veno.com.au/annandale-cellars
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