As Canberra moves from virtual workspaces and Zoom calls back into the real world, an online project launched during lockdown is growing into a bricks-and-mortar store.
“Nick and I had been looking at doing a wine bar for a few years now. I think it was something we were always eventually going to do in one form or another,” Sean told Region Media.
But it was the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 that brought the idea for their new business to life. Intra got a licence to sell takeaway wines, the team launched the Waxtop Wines website, and the concept just took off.
“We ended up moving so much wine during lockdown … we couldn’t believe how much wine we were selling,” Sean says.
With same-day delivery and a unique selection of wines, Waxtop quickly became a rare success story of a hospitality business thriving in the pandemic. Now with an established clientele and an eye to the future, the team has set up shop in Kingston.
“We just thought the time was right to move into a physical store,” says Sean.
“Our first choice was definitely Kingston. We really like what the area has become with the new development. It’s got a really great nightlife now as well with the additions of Messina and Louis Couttoupes’ restaurant Onzieme and great daytime venues like Lava. It’s become quite a hub.”
What sets Waxtop apart from other specialty wine shops is their focus on natural wines, which are emerging as a sustainable and innovative area of the wine industry.
“We really love the idea of the ‘zero zero’ form of winemaking where it’s only grapes in the wine, so you’re not taking anything out and you’re not putting anything in.”
As well as appreciating the environmental benefits of pesticide and chemical-free wines, Sean says he also just prefers the taste of natural wines, describing them as “a bit more exciting, a bit more wild, and more interesting to drink”.
And drink them he does.
Nick and Sean take their roles very seriously and only sell wines they have personally tasted. It’s important to them that they can vouch for the stock they sell, especially as some of their imported wines are on the expensive side, so they need to be confident that people are paying for a product they’ll enjoy.
The shop in Kingston is simple but fun in design, with bulbous shapes in bright orange detailing on the windows. The design concept came from local graphic designers Good Times who also built the website that started Waxtop’s journey. It’s eye-catching and immediately sets them apart from the leafy green surrounds.
The centrepiece of the store is what Sean describes as a ‘feature table’ which they plan to use to showcase one particular producer at a time. For opening week, the team is showcasing wines from the Gut Oggau winery in Austria, which Sean describes as being at the forefront of the global natural wine movement.
While their physical store is just a wine shop for now, the team has plans to expand into tastings and special events. They’re hoping to invite local natural winemakers to host events and showcase their bottles on the feature table.
The online store is still available, but a visit to Kingston is well worth the trip for the personalised service. They helped me pick out a beautiful bottle of rosé which I’m planning to open with friends this week.
If you’re looking for a bottle of wine that goes beyond the ordinary, check out Waxtop Wines and let the experts find you something a little more wild, exciting and interesting to drink.
Waxtop Wines is open Wednesday to Sunday at 28a Jardine St, Kingston.