Switzerland has it good with Paul Liversedge MW and his “Real Wines” Online Wine Shop
Isn’t it the dream of most wine lovers to open their own wine shop, stocked with the best and most interesting bottles from the producers and regions that represent their own tastes? Unfortunately, unless they are also wealthy and not in need of income from that shop, an important implication of that widespread fantasy is that there must be enough people with similar tastes to support the business.
And, as a wine lover, isn’t it wonderful to stumble across a wine shop with an interesting, diverse and unusual selection of wines, run by a sympathetic, knowledgeable and passionate wine lover? Especially when the prices are reasonable.
Well, in the case of Real Wines, founded and run by Englishman Paul Liversedge MW (Master of Wine), we see a fine example of what can result from that wine-lover’s shop fantasy when it is made into reality by a person with international experience, a first-rate wine education and a willingness to throw caution to the wind.
Paul Liversedge MW
When Paul got into the wine businesses back in 1994, he was coming from a background in finance. In accounting, to be more precise. But, seduced by the world of wine, he joined a wine firm as a Operations Accountant, moving into purchasing and becoming responsible for the portfolio of Australian and New Zealand wines – a specialty, by the way, that continues to inform the selection at Real Wines. It wasn’t long before he joined Watson’s Wine Cellar in Hong Kong, working there as the general manager for some time.
After his employer bought a fine wine business in Switzerland in 2005, Paul made the move to Zurich – and has been there ever since. In 2006 he began studies for the prestigious Master of Wine program, and he soon decided it was time to put his experience, knowledge and contacts to use by going into business for himself. Real Wines was born in 2009, the Master of Wine title following in 2011.
The selection is a look into Paul’s tastes; biodynamic and organic producers are the norm, instead of the exception. The wines are carefully-made and precise, expressive of their origins (wherever that may happen to be) and often offering high quality for the price asked. In fact, that is one of Paul’s most important considerations when choosing the wines for Real Wines. It is no small feat that the prices for so many of his wines are even attractive to me, living, as I do, in Germany, where the average price for a bottle of wine is two-thirds what it is in Switzerland.
But perhaps the most exciting part is the simple fact that the shop offers a large number of wines from producers that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Paul is a specialist for New Zealand and Australian wines, and he has an excellent selection of them. Finding high-quality Burgundy for a price that isn’t eye-watering could be considered the Holy Grail of the wine world. Paul has managed that as well. And there are many underappreciated regions of France represented by excellent producers just waiting to be discovered in his webshop.
Just a few examples:
- Gusbourne Estate – producing superb sparkling wines in Kent, England
- Binet Jacquet – creators of beautiful, expressive, mineral wines from the schist of Faugères in the French south
- Clonakilla – lovely cool-climate Australian Shiraz
- Domaine d’Orfeuilles – exquisite, elegant and fresh Chenin Blanc made in Vouvray
- Tawse Winery – fine Canadian wines (from Ontario) made available in Switzerland. Who would have thought?
With a permanent staff of just two, including Paul himself, Real Wines isn’t exactly the largest wine shop around. In fact, it isn’t really a traditional shop at all; there is no bricks-and-mortar business, all sales are online. Of course, this ceased being unusual years ago – and there are some benefits to operating this way, including the lower overheads which help to keep prices down. Paul says having an actual shop was certainly an important goal for quite a long time, but over the past ten years the perceived need for one has changed. Besides, finding a location in Zurich for a price that wouldn’t endanger his fledgling business if it didn’t take off immediately was more than a little challenging.
But, of course, the big downside to the online shop is that you can’t just swing by and pick up a bottle, nor can you taste something before purchase. Since the selection at Real Wines is made up of so many small producers that are not (yet) big names, there is a significant amount of trust involved when buying something that you haven’t had.
Which is what makes the tasting events that Real Wines holds all the more interesting. Once a year or so an evening is set aside, a restaurant is booked, and corks are pulled. This year it is happening on October 26. There will be more than 80 wines opened, with several of the producers themselves on hand to talk about their wines. It’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed, and you can find the details for it here: