McLaren Vale winery Alpha Box & Dice has launched its '70s-aesthetic "exclusively inclusive" online bottle shop and it just might be the best online shopping experience we've ever had.
Alpha Box & Dice’s CBD bottle shop Sometimes Always is now delivering
Sometimes Always – the local bottle shop set up by McLaren Vale favourites Alpha Box & Dice – has launched its online store this week, offering an international range of booze spanning lo-fi cult favourites through to much-loved traditional producers.
The website is a beautiful pastiche of 1970s references, created by Adelaide firm Frame Creative in collaboration with AB&D’s graphic designer, Kirby Fairweather.
Burnt orange and a soft, pale yellow background images of the eclectic range of personal wine selections from each of the Sometimes Always team.
A few days before launch, CityMag catches Sarah Marrocco, Alpha Box & Dice assistant winemaker and now “Jill of All Trades” with Sometimes Always, in the two companies’ shared CBD warehouse on Grey Street.
“It’s a busy morning,” she says, in a chipper tone.
“I’m processing a lot of Alpha Box & Dice orders. A lot of our guys headed out in the Adelaide CBD and surrounds this morning, and we’ll have a courier come and pick up broader South Australia, so I’m packing those boxes.
“[And] I’m receiving some stock for Sometimes Always. We’ve had a few courier drop-offs of some local and international bottles, which is fun.”
One of Sarah’s many roles in the new business is tasting through the wines and writing up flavour and structure profiles, based on her years of winemaking experience jumping between Northern and Southern hemisphere vintages.
“My role’s been looking at all of those wines and writing up profiles that we can put online, so that consumers who are looking at these wines for the first time, who maybe unsure of what a particular varietal or a particular producer is, can have a look at the profiles,” she says.
“We’re pretty lucky with Sometimes Always, we’ve got on board so many beautiful wines from around the world, and quite a diversity from traditional producers through to progressive producers, and then the far end of really natty guys.”
Each bottle of wine has a profile page with a short description, as well as a few icons to denote its flavour profile (Frame was tasked with creating 120 different flavour illustrations).
Sarah relates the charting of each bottle to the communicative relationship she often builds with visitors to the Alpha Box & Dice cellar door.
“I know from working the cellar door, we have a number of people who have never engaged with wine before, or who have never been to a winery before,” she says.
“They can come to Sometimes Always and speak to our diverse team here and we can advise them and minimise that risk of engaging with the wine world.”
For founder Dylan Fairweather, also owner of Alpha Box & Dice, a strength of the bottle shop is in the collective knowledge of the Sometimes Always team.
“It really comes down to that personal recommendation thing,” Dylan says.
“I think the team got sick of me referencing it, but I love the Seinfeld episode where they go into the video rental store and they go like, ‘Oh, you’re a Gene guy. You like Gene picks.’ It’s sort of like that.
“It’d be nice if one day people are like, ‘I really like Kirby’s picks, I’m really into what she drinks,’ or ‘I’m really into what Justin always picks for me.’”
In the Seinfeld episode Dylan’s referencing (The Comeback – season 8), Elaine develops a relationship over the phone with a video store clerk based on his movie recommendations – and a similar connection is available to Sometimes Always customers.
The chat icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen will connect you directly to a Sometimes Always selector.
“Jared [Brown], being the head of digital, has built an amazing tech stack of communication tools, which is pretty amazing to see, in terms of how we can communicate with people and all different avenues that you can get in touch with us,” Dylan says.
Its only limitation is the human resources available to chat.
“Unfortunately, there’s not a call centre somewhere,” Dylan laughs. “You’re likely to get myself or Justin [Fairweather, Sometimes Always director] or Kirby at this point.”
The Sometimes Always range covers “traditional producers,” “more progressive winemaking,” and “the far end, the natural producers,” and there are even some non-alcoholic options. All of this falls under the business’ ‘exclusively inclusive’ tagline.
Each bottle has been chosen by a passionate crew of people who love their work in the wine industry, and their aim is for you to bring your chosen drink to a dinner party with pride – and with a story.
“I often think about, if you’re bringing a bottle of wine to a friend’s house for a dinner party or something like that, that you have a story,” Kirby says.
“You want to explain why you purchased it, and perhaps the story is about the winemaker, and that he makes his wines on the side of a hill in Sicily, and there’s kind of a romance to that.”
The same concept applies to the entire Sometimes Always range.
“That was the fun thing of writing the descriptions, it makes us question why we bought something,” Dylan says.
“If I can’t tell a good story about it, we probably shouldn’t be buying it.”
When CityMag broke news of Sometimes Always coming to the CBD earlier this year, the plan had been to open as a physical store. This is still on the cards, but the advent of COVID-19 has realigned priorities for the business.
“The change in the way Alpha Box has had to operate due to COVID has really opened up our eyes for Sometimes Always,” Dylan says.
“We had all the construction gear ready to rock and roll, but we’re lucky that we hadn’t quite started, because the way that you lay something out right now would be completely different to what you would have four months ago.”
When the space does eventuate – though at least not within the first 12 months – visitors can expect the same ‘70s aesthetic visible now on the website, but in a wholly more tactile form.
“We worked closely with Simon [Pearce, Frame Creative] on the interior design, and we’re absolutely stoked with it,” Dylan says.
“There’s carpet everywhere there shouldn’t be carpet. Even the ceiling is made out of, do you remember the stuff you used to have on the classroom ceilings? You’ll have to wait and see.”
In the meantime, you can visit the Sometimes Always website to browse the selection, marvel at the cute illustrations and beautiful design, and end up with fun bottle of wine to take to your next post-iso catch up.