Remember dinner parties? Everyone brought a bottle – favourites, new discoveries, ones with nice labels – and you’d explore them over a meal together. As restrictions ease, we’ll be back there soon, and online wine playground Sometimes Always is here to keep you stocked-up.
Pre-global pandemic, Alpha Box & Dice owner Dylan Fairweather spent time “travelling the world and drinking cool wine”. He always wanted to bring a little of that home, in one place: “Somewhere you can buy wine from all these weird and wonderful places.” If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s the value of variety – and home delivery. Fairweather’s new project, Sometimes Always, is here with both.
“We have wines from all across Europe, new stuff coming in from Japan [and] all around Australia,” Fairweather says. “Everything from The Barossa to Gundagai is on the list.
“We’re in an age of drinking at home again. Trying and experimenting, that’s what we’re all about.”
The online wine market is exploding. Once a binary of hip, premium wine at the top end, and the discount wine clubs our dads subscribe to at the other, Sometimes Always is a part of a growing movement that proves there’s a middle market for quality, smashable varieties too. It’s “Bringing all the different schools of thought together,” Fairweather says.
Bottles start from just $18 with Quealy Winemakers’ 2019 Fionula Pinot Grigio, from the Murray Darling Region (“focused on freshness rather than opulence”) and meander through all price points up to Frank Cornelisson’s 2017 Magma Nerello Mascalese; a “Godly” old-vine organic red from Sicily ($495). Aussie favourites include BK Wines, Dr Edge, Dilworth & Allain, Gentle Folk and Alpha Box & Dice, naturally, among hundreds more.
Each wine is accompanied by “visual tasting notes” depicting flavour and structure. But the first thing customers will notice when they log on, is the 70s-era still-life design (complete with plastic grapes) that saturates the site. “We were influenced by 70s Playboy stuff and car brochures,” Fairweather says. He and wife – and AB&D designer – Kirby Fairweather are working on a printed catalogue styled after a Holden Gemini handbook.
The 70s was peak dinner party time, and Sometimes Always seeks to bring that retro, potluck approach to drinking. Five mixed packs featuring “traditional”, “cult” and “progressive” styles are available. Or take your hands off the wheel and let a guest selector pick for you. First up is Dominique Lentz, owner of Adelaide wine bar La Buvette – who was given free reign over a portfolio of 250-plus products. There are also DIY subscription packages and a loyalty program sending secret rewards to regular customers.
If you’re heading into a Dry July, the site’s non-alcoholic selection is worth a look. It offers a selection of high-end sodas and softies, as well as category-less drinks from NON. Fairweather promises an expansion of this category in the very near future, as well as the addition of beers and spirits.
In addition to the cellar door amid the McLaren Vale vines, Alpha Box & Dice operates a city hub with an office, photographic studio, warehouse and dispatch. The brand was building towards an IRL bottle shop in the space, but, thanks to coronavirus, that’s since been put on ice in favour of launching Sometimes Always.
“Covid does make you think differently. That’s the upside of such a bad situation,” Fairweather says. “We’ve taken the opportunity to change things we’ve always wanted to change.”
“We’ve been wanting to create an online wine store for 10 years,” he continues. He says he’s made attempts in the past “that didn’t quite hit the point”. “There’s been a huge change in consumer behaviour towards online shopping. People are looking for trustworthy things delivered at a reasonable price.”