The Village Quaffers is – “probably” smiles John “Mac” Macpherson - the largest wine club in New Zealand. “Well, it’s the biggest I’ve heard of,” he allows. The gregarious founder and owner of the Advintage wine store in Havelock North is also the instigator of the Quaffers, who meet monthly at the Havelock North Function Centre for a simple cheese board, several delicious wines and a whole lot of fun.
At $10 a head, it represents excellent value, and the banter is as good as the Beaujolais – which is why it regularly attracts up to 180 happy quaffers at each event.
“Most people are absolutely shit scared of going to wine tastings,” says Mac, who hosts the club, “because they’re worried they’ll say the wrong thing, or be put on the spot. Ours is nothing like that – it’s really approachable. What we do is to give the Quaffers a little of the wine’s back story so that if you’re going to a dinner party or sitting down with the girls and they say ‘that wine’s nice’ you have some knowledge about it. Nobody at the Quaffers is going to be telling you that your pinot gris would pair wonderfully with rabbit, roasted with anise and juniper.”
Mac and his team handpick the wines for each club night – the only requirements are that they must be “absolutely delish” says Mac, and retail for under $20. On the night Dish visits, the team are pouring a variety from Chile, called Carmenere, which according to Mac, is an obscure French grape that made its way to South America “and took off like a robber’s dog.” There’s a lovely local montepulciano, and an oaky American chardonnay that has our table buzzing.
And buying. Each table is well-stocked with pens and order forms, and the one-night-only specials (alongside raconteur Mac’s relentless sales pitches) mean that Advintage sells thousands of dollars worth of beautiful wine during each event. The formula works, says Mac, because the approach is comfy and casual – not haughty and high-brow. “The club, like the shop, is very much about sharing good wine with everyone. It’s affordable, and aimed at people who aren’t caught up in that fine wine bubble.”
Advintage has been in business close to 20 years, and is a local institution with adoring customers the length and breadth of the country. Now, says Mac, The Village Quaffers is building a reputation to rival it. He’s off to Ashburton in a few days’ time, by invitation, to run a Village Quaffers night down there.
“It’s taken on a life of its own,” he marvels. “Soon, there could be Quaffers all over New Zealand!”
To learn more about The Village Quaffers, check out their upcoming event schedule or get in touch, simply visit their Facebook page right here.