‘There is no such thing as strangers, just friends we have not had a glass of wine with yet.’ This is the motto brothers Myles and Lance Buxton live and work by while they mingle, walking from table to table, topping up glasses and making friends over a glass (or three) of wine.
Their love affair with the ‘good grapes’ started many years ago during a holiday to the quaint Chablis region in France. Myles clearly remembers the taste that woke his passion for wine.
“I tasted a Chablis and it was the first wine that really made sense to me. I was fascinated and fell in love,” says Myles who, together with his brother Lance, recently opened the new Buxton’s Wine Store in Umhlanga.
The Buxton brothers have been leading role players in the KZN wine retail industry since the early 80’s. They were one of the first grocers to get a wine licence in the province in 1981 at their Spar stores and then took it a notch further with Buxton’s La Cave Liquors in 1997. The La Lucia Mall branch even won Best Retail Outlet for its size in the country at the South African Council of Shopping Centres awards in 2009.
Aiming to create an intimate wine experience where they could share their knowledge and encourage people to experiment and have fun with wine, they started hosting monthly wine tasting evenings, even bringing this interactive experience into their store with the tasting table.
“There is nothing worse than ‘bull dusting’ customers and, for that reason, we both attained diplomas in wine, ensuring we could feel confident and knowledgeable when talking about it. It’s a never-ending learning curve and we love the challenge of matching each individual’s palate and pocket to the right wine.”
Matchmaking is a process the brothers take seriously as, they believe, the wrong wine can completely ruin an event. “It’s quite nerve-wracking, because it is such a massive responsibility. It might sound silly, but it’s such a personal decision and getting it wrong can ruin that person’s special occasion. If the wine is good, the evening is good. That is why we are so invested in the process of building relationships with people and their wine.”
Their customers also enjoy keeping the brothers on their toes. “People come back with notes about the wines we recommended and we go from there – it is an exciting journey. We recently had a customer tell us she wants to ‘vomit with excitement’ when she comes in because she finds the experience so thrilling. I love that!”
Myles says the process usually starts with them trying to find out what style of wine people enjoy. “If you like a Sauvignon Blanc, we start by deciding if you prefer the wines from cooler or more tropical climates, as the climate plays a huge role in the taste of the grape. If you prefer red, we can go the fruity route or drier, more complex red. It all sounds complicated, but we try to keep it light-hearted.”
That’s what makes the brothers so endearing – they truly have fun with wine. “To me, each style of wine has a different type of personality. I imagine a Sauvignon, for example, as a hot, blonde surfer-boy who loves being out in the sun and the ocean! Pinotage reminds me of Toks van der Linde – a real South African man standing at the braai with his mates cooking a fat boerie. Then you have Chardonnay . . . a bit prickly at times, like the old aunt who sits in the corner at the wedding. Cabernet Sauvignon is the James Bond of wines – confident and charming.”
HOW TO REALLY DRINK WINE…
1. Temperature is crucial. Put reds in the fridge half an hour before serving. Be careful of over cooling big, structured reds as it brings out the tannins making the wine taste bitter. Other styles should be in the fridge for half an hour to an hour.
2. Start with your nose. Wine is all about texture and mouth feel. When you drink wine, the sense of taste is first experienced through the nose. The palate follows the nose, so the nose creates an expectation of what you are going to taste.
3. Taste before you swallow. Myles always says ‘make a cat’s bottom with your lips’. Purse your lips while you hold the wine in your mouth and swirl it around to really get the full flavour. Let the flavour develop and build in your mouth and explode and only then you swallow. Now, you have had an experience.
Text: Elana Wagner