An interview with Ainslie Kenny, part owner of Merchants Wine Store
Ainslie and David never thought they would end up running a co-operative model wine store in Singapore when they started their jobs in the corporate world years ago. After almost 20 years in corporate, they decided to try their hand at their own business. Their concept, Merchants Wine Store, began with the goal of supporting small, artisanal wine makers in Australia while at the same time providing a great drinking experience for Singapore. They started by scouring the Australian market, filled with big players, but intent on sourcing from small, top-class wine producers in different regions. Together they found the hidden gems. Small and family-owned and run vineyards with lower production but unyielding expectations of quality. Now with 3 bistro/retail sites under their belt and a list of award-winning labels from 40 over exclusive wineries from 26 regions in Australia, the couple have created an authentic experience where you have access to a truly unique store of wines. To add to the experience, they organise frequent visits from winery owners and winemakers so consumers can interact with the actual makers of the drop they are drinking.
I spent a lazy evening at their Joo Chiat location when they first opened. It was just the place to unwind and escape for a little bit and Ordinary People were more than happy to find out a bit more about Ainslie, part owner and her concept, Merchants.
What was your background?
My background was corporate – with two decades in marketing and project management roles. The great thing about being a marketer is the exposure to different industries, and all of my different past experiences have added value to this project. I was first introduced to the business of wine during a two-year stint with a brand experience agency in London, 15 years ago.
How did you come up with the idea for Merchants and how did you get it all going?
Dave and I recognised a gap (and opportunity) in Asia for small, boutique wine brands as the market was dominated by big producers. We did some research and soon realised that small winemakers are so busy making wine, they don’t have time to market internationally, so we created Merchants to help them build their own footprint in Asia. During this first stage we visited small wineries all over Australia – driving tens of thousands of kilometres to remote areas. It was a lot of driving – but it was amazing discovering tiny off-the-grid wine regions producing exceptional wine!
What do you love most about what you do?
I love connecting small winemakers directly with people who love wine. Building awareness of the tiny, artisanal producers who lovingly handcraft their wine, and witnessing our guests’ delight when they discover a superb wine by a boutique producer who they’d never heard of before.
What advice would you give to anyone who would like to start something within the wine industry?
The old saying applies – if you want to make a small fortune in the wine industry – start with a large one!
Merchants is holding their first Sip & Paint event on the 11th of April. What a great way to taste some exquisite wine while letting loose on your creativity.
Fittingly, the owners of Artwine, a boutique South Australian winery that produces estate grown, single vineyard varieties with a strong focus on new-emerging varieties will be there to talk to all of us creative wine drinkers.
More details can be found here or scan the QR code.