Sam Winfield likes to keep busy. And he likes to follow his heart. At a point when his career as a surgeon (yes, it’s Dr Winfield, thank you very much) was blossoming, Winfield threw his energy into an empty Federation Art Nouveau shopfront at the top of William Street, Northbridge, with the aim of creating Perth’s first dedicated natural wine bar. Overcoming onerous licensing conditions, Winfield finally opened the doors for customers in late 2018. With a license for 50, Winfield had hoped to generate some interest in his deeply held passion for natural wine, but from day one, Wines of While was firmly adopted as one of the city’s favourite venues.
Wines of While is both instantly recognisable and thoroughly individual. The old shop, with its recessed entry, chalky white walls, worn floorboards, hulking blonde wood communal table/bar, chalked menu and industrial steel racking speaks to both its intent and its inspiration, with shades of some like-minded establishments embedded in its DNA. But this is definitively Winfield’s vision, with every facet reflective of his deeply personal and passionate approach, from the uncompromising selection of wines to menu that he and a young and enthusiastic kitchen team write and cook, right down to the 24-hour-ferment sourdough bread.
The principles of natural wine are sometimes entwined and confused with matters of style. No so for Winfield. “We’re focused on selling natural wine, which to us is organic or biodynamically grown. …Indigenous yeast only, no fine/filter, less than 30ppm SO2 added, though we have about 40 per cent zero sulphur.” The simplicity of this, which mirrors the original charter for natural wine producers, strips away any artifice, which knits neatly into the affable, pretence-free vibe.
“I think the juxtaposition is key, and it works in a few ways. First the comparison between Swan Draught being on only one of two taps since day one, pride of place, a simple workers beer versus avant-garde, experimental beers like Two Metre Tall’s Soured Wild Plum Ale. Second, the chance to drink a half pint of Swan then a Ploussard from Jura. I like the dichotomy.”
And while Perth is no longer seen as trailing far behind the twin metropolises of Melbourne and Sydney, its physical isolation has often meant that sourcing a wide variety of wines has been somewhat difficult. The 500-strong offering at Wines of While, however, mocks the tyranny of distance, with a raft of compelling listings that rigidly adheres to Winfield’s definition of natural wine. The list is heavily canted towards European listings, another function of fitting Winfield’s criteria, with ‘unicorn’ wines aplenty. The by-the-glass list runs to 10 or so offerings, and is refreshed on a daily basis. This is another major feature of Wines of While, with 36 bottles being their maximum purchase, making it one of this country’s most dynamic lists.
COVID-19 conditions: During the national lockdown, Wines of While pivoted to be a grocer, with all their wine also listed for online sales. Now, with temporarily trimmed hours and days, they’ve been welcoming capacity crowds once again.