A vital anchor in the life of a wine lover is their favourite wine shop. Wine passion involves a quite complex fabric of gastronomy, academic investigation, tasting and sampling as well as social sharing. But the wine shop is the source. It’s the place all of the planning and anticipation crystallizes into an experience for right now. Wine drinkers are mesmerized and drawn to the sight of a wine shop the way Mowgli gets trapped in Kaa the python’s spiralling hypnotic gaze. Any decent wine shop will have that effect on the passing wino. Even the wine aisle of a supermarket has a siren song for the grape disciple.
Now if the wine shop is a personal favourite of that particular wine lover, then the fermented tractor beam takes on a truly soulful allure. In this case, where the wine lover feels at home and has lingered over the bottles many times, stepping inside is like finding refuge from bad weather. Or like coming in the door of the family home on the holidays. That warm glow starts before you even enter. Inside, the world’s worries recede.
The Magic of The Best Wine Shop
What is the magic that transforms a regular, decent wine shop into a really transcendent wine shop? What combination of factors transports the place from being a humble corner shop to a haven for the wine obsessed? There are some simple and obvious criteria, of course, like the knowledge and friendliness of the staff. Or the quality and range of the wine selection. Or the ambience of music and lighting. But even these factors are highly subjective and individual to each of us. There is, no doubt, something very personal about each wine drinker’s favourite wine shop. If you think about it, even the very best wine shop (based on some objective technical scoring), whether in Milan or New York or São Paulo or London is unlikely to be your favourite wine shop.
Finding Something About Ourselves in Finding The Best Wine Shop.
I’ve got my own personal favourite wine shop. To me it’s the best wine shop in the world. I’ve been thinking about the things that make it my own favourite wine shop. Maybe they expose a deeper truth about why people love wine and wine shops. There are elements of sharing, friendship, discovery and learning all held together by the common threads of wine and a warm place. So I’ve decided to write them down:
There is an intoxicating range of wines…
… with familiar bottles but also mysterious bottles. You feel surrounded by secrets and compelled to know what is inside these bottles.
The owner is a host who pours the wine as a friend…
… and the wine buying trip turns into the wine store equivalent of a kitchen party.
The wine flows, stories are told…
… and adventures and experiences are shared. There are tales from wine roads and wineries and from the individual moments of life.
Music charges the atmosphere…
… and fills the background with an extra layer of texture. Subtle and sexy, it enhances the ambience of the lighting, the shelves, the shadows and the marching lines of bottles.
Customers come inside with friendly, familiar words…
… and you share what is happening that night in their lives and talk about what bottle or bottles will best lubricate the family event.
There are boxes and crates piled in the middle…
… telling the story of commerce, traffic, movement, customers and the constant re-stocking of shelves.
Restaurants are recommended and calls are made..
… allowing you to continue the evening’s adventure and to be greeted as friends at the taverna door by a waiting chef.
Connections to wineries are made, more emails sent…
… and new plans are fixed in the itinerary for visits with winemakers along the road ahead.
The city itself is changed and becomes more familiar…
… so that the next time you arrive it seems more like coming home and less like you are an anonymous passer-by.
This is Botilia Volos
Botilia Volos is my favourite wine shop. It’s at 47 Rozou in the fantastic seaside city of Volos in Magnisia, central Greece. I’m lucky to count the owner, Panagiotis Gavesis, as a friend. But Botilia Volos is not without stiff competition! After all, you have to have favourites in other cities as well. Cask & Barrel in West Kelowna is a tremendous wine store in western Canada. Shanyn Ward is a friendly, helpful host and an amazing wine professional. Elsewhere in Greece, My Cava in Thessaloniki is an incredible wine learning experience and will make arrangements to deliver wine to your holiday destination.
Lessons Learned and Wines Loved
Of course there is no universal “Best Wine Shop in The World”. We will each have a wine shop that makes us feel at home. But what better way to learn about wine and wine makers than lingering in a welcoming wine shop? Going over the bottles one by one and hearing the story behind the variety, the region and the winemaker.
I’ve learned a lot about wine from Panagiotis and I’ve learned a lot about hospitality! It’s been a journey learning about the Greek Wine Renaissance and the spell-binding array of amazing wines from a dizzying number of wine regions in Greece. I want to share some of this. I think a good way might be to share examples of art that Botilia Volos has created. These posters were designed to advertise wine events that Botilia has hosted with different winemakers. This is a small sample representing winemakers whose work I respect and whose wines I love.
The Wines Help Make the Shop
Besides the wines featured below I want to make special mention of some other favourites including Papagiannakos Winery, Ktima Gerovassiliou and Domaine Karanika. This only scratches the surface – if I have missed one of your personal favourites please send a Comment by clicking below. And if you have a nomination for Best Wine Shop in the World please let us know. Leave a comment or send an email to [email protected]!!
Chatzivaritis Winery (Goumenissa Region)
Tselepos Winery (Santorini and the Peleponnese)
Dalamaras Estate (Naoussa region)
Vriniotis Winery (Evia Island)
Ktima Katsaros (Mount Olympia region)
Dougos Estate (Rapsani region)
Listen to these Greek wine podcasts from the Wine Beat:
Vasillis Papagiannakos from Papagiannakos Estate
The Greek Wine History Podcast with Anna Dimitriadis
An Interview at Gerovassiliou Estate
And check out these articles:
The Wines of Santorini by Moshé Cohen
The Attica Wine Region
Santorini on 1001 Wine Routes
The Naoussa Wine Region
The Nemea Wine Region
In the era of digital commerce, internet shopping and faceless merchants, it’s so good to read about the things that matter to us, wine lovers. A good wine shop is a magical place.
Moshé, I couldn’t agree more. You can buy wine on-line but you can’t pick up the bottle, turn it over and discuss it with a knowledgable and friendly wine merchant. That part is priceless. Thanks for commenting my friend!
Jonny, thanks very much for your comment. I’m really glad you liked the post. By coincidence I was at Botilia Volos last night while passing through. It is a terrific town – and Botilia is still my favourite wine shop in the world! Best, Craig.