Melanie Brown: Founder of the New Zealand Cellar and the Australian Cellar
You are very successfully bringing Australian and New Zealand wines to a London-based audience. Where does your passion for this work come from?
I'm hugely passionate about people, provenance and quality - and all of these factors resonated even more deeply when I arrived in London from New Zealand 16 years ago. My passion is driven by the integrity and quality of the wines and the people of Australasia and, I love all wine, but somehow these producers make my heart tick!
The Australian Cellar was launched last summer on the back of the huge popularity of The New Zealand Cellar. How do you curate wines for a British audience?
It's really very simple. We search for wines that have character, balance and quality. There has to be a sense of sincerity about a wine to get listed with us or else we won't be passionate about telling the story. We always try to understand value and offer the best we can to our customers, on every step of their journey. Whether it be via our social channels or our website. The UK is hugely excitable when it comes to Australia and New Zealand
Tell us about your clients - do you feel there has been any change in the way people learn about and interact with wine?
There has been an incredible shift in the entire world of wine conversation - we find our demographic are becoming smarter, more intuitive and are keen to spend their cash on wine experiences. We focus a lot on applying good attention to building a brand and a story via our social accounts, and the engagement we see is truly amazing. Our customers are ready and eager to explore via this medium.
You have a broad cellar of wines which includes well-known names, rare wines and wines with fantastic names! Does this mean a lot of travelling to and from Australia and New Zealand? How do you keep up networks and developments in the wine industry?
I travel a lot to and from New Zealand and Australia, as I believe it is extremely important to solidify relationships and gain a good grasp on regions and the offerings within them. I couldn't call myself a New Zealand/Australia specialist if I didn't travel there frequently!
You offer events and wine tasting. Tell us about them. They look like great fun!
Our events are SHAMAZING! We pride ourselves on hosting a great selection of NZ and Australian winemakers and regularly have more than 50+ guests turn up to enjoy tastings we host at our shop and bar in Pop Brixton. These tastings are informal and appealing as we take steps to ensure everyone is engaged and has the opportunity to talk to the visiting winemakers. We believe we take the pretentious nature away from understanding wine, and do so in a fun social environment.
Setting up a business can mean jumping over a number of hurdles. What structures give you the support you need to move forward?
Being self-motivated is key, however in the last few years I've been really lucky to be given guidance from several people both within the industry and outside the industry. Having people you trust to bounce ideas around with your heart and your head to ensure you are making financially viable business decisions is hugely beneficial. Hurdles are a daily struggle, but learning how to process and solve with clarity allows you to achieve your business aspirations and goals.
What are your favourite places to drink wine in London?