Wines of Interest is an independent, family owned and run business just off the Handford Road in Ipswich. The Which? Wine Guide 2005 (one of the final issues produced) listed them in their top 70 wine merchants in the UK and recognizes them for excellent service and value. However, they are about as far away from the old, snooty image of elitist wine shops as it is possible to be, as co-owner, Jonathan Williamson, puts it, “We don’t do chinless-and-pinstripe!” The other half of this business partnership is Jonathan Hare who adds,” We do our best to counter the local misperception that Wines of Interest is a great place to buy a special bottle for a present, but is a bit high-falutin’ for simple day-to-day drinking.” A quick look at their website reveals a globetrotting selection that emphatically shoots that notion down in flames.
Since June 2000, when Jonathan & Sue Williamson teamed up with Jonathan & Karen Hare to take on the business, the selection has been steadily evolving. Wine enthusiasts can now choose from about 400 lines, covering all the major wine producing countries round the world, in a fascinating variety of styles at price levels to suit all pockets. They deliberately avoid all the high street brands. They say, “We’re not just being sniffy about it: fairly obviously all those big Aussie or Californian names are from the industrial end of the market and there are loads of more interesting alternatives out there if you know where to look. We buy from growers who make their wines with passion and dedication; most of them are family businesses too, and their methods are largely environmentally sympathetic and respect the modern customers’ desire to drink clean wines from fruit as pure as you can get it. That’s not a standard that you can apply, in all honesty, to some of the mass produced lines in the supermarkets.”
They have to taste thousands of different wines each year to maintain the interest and freshness of their lists and it’s not always as pleasurable as it sounds. Hare says, ”For every wine we list, we estimate that about 40 are rejected. Some of those are correct but dull, others can be undrinkable: a wine needs to impress before it comes up for consideration. We are confident that every bottle in the list is a good example of its type, in its league, at its price.” Williamson continues, “We have to be this picky if we are to make a quality conscious difference. Where’s the interest for our customers if we roll out all the usual suspects from the high street? That’s just lazy buying.”
They understand that so many unusual wines, many of them unique to Wines of Interest in East Anglia, might be daunting to all but the most determined customers and offer help in three ways. Most obviously, with their collective experience and unstuffy approach, they can dispense advice with a level of knowledge which leaves most of the competition dead in its tracks. They back this up by stating that, should you ever buy a wine that is not to your taste, you can return all unopened bottles (as long as they are in resalable condition) and swap them for something else. Then there is the Sampling Club – unique in wine retailing in this country – membership of which entitles you to two bottles at half price each month, plus information, plus offers, as well as other special deals all for a modest annual sub. It’s a terrific way to explore wines that you might not have chosen otherwise and, like so much else about Wines of Interest, refreshingly original.
This place is a real jewel for anybody who enjoys a glass or two of wine. The wine drinkers of Ipswich don’t have to look any further: you have one of the most respected names in the country right on your own doorstep.
Published in Ipswich Central Magazine, May 2005