Meet The Trader: Kirsty Tinkler doing what comes naturally with wine….

A graffiti of a bear holding a wine glass next to Weino BIB. Pic: Sharon Kam.

Turning into Ball Ponds Road from the busy A10 Kingsland Road in Dalston, you will see a wall mural of a large bear holding a pink wine glass.

It is not a Banksy or just random graffiti, but the iconic bear of Weino BIB, a place where you can buy and refill natural wine in sustainable packaging, or sit down for a drink and enjoy a meal.

The next thing puzzling customers is this – is it pronounced as “Wei-no B-I-B” or “Wei-no Bi-b”? They are both wrong. ”Wein” is, in fact, a German which means wine and is pronounced as “vain”, as Kirsty Tinkler, founder of Weino BIB told ELL: “To be honest, I used to say ‘Vai-no’ because if you spell wine in German, it is ‘wein’ […] so ‘Weino’ is a made-up word. ‘BIB’ (pronounced as ‘bi-b’) stands for bag-in-box, it is the (wine) industry’s abbreviation.”

Kirsty Tinkler, founder of Weino BIB. Pic: Sharon Kam.

It was over 30 years ago when this 51-year-old Australian first had the opportunity to learn about wine: “I’m always with wine ever since I was 18. I worked in an amazing restaurant called Rockpool in Sydney […] where you got trained for an hour every week about wine. And then from there, I am just always around wine and working with wine.”

Then, the natural wine movement which advocates natural fermentation and bars the use of chemicals and additives in wine grew in the early 2000s, and this changed Tinkler’s life: “I fell in love with natural wine, for all its flavour and the crazy ways that people are looking after the soil and the planet, and making these wines that were so full of life and energy.”

Natural wine is gaining more popularity across the globe in recent years but harks back to how wine was made in ancient, pre-industrial times. Human intervention is minimised in the whole natural wine winemaking process, such as usually allowing grapes to grow in organic and biodynamic environments. Natural wine makers allow grapes to ferment naturally and avoid the addition of chemicals and additives and filtering during the wine making process to preserve the natural taste of the wine. Natural wines tend to be made by small, artisan producers rather than larger commercial concerns.

But Tinkler did not start her natural wine business straightaway. Instead, she completed her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees at the National Art School in Australia and at the Royal College of Art in London respectively and became a sculptor after graduation.

It was until 2015 that she finally started retailing natural wine and launched a highly successful BIB pop-up store, BIB Taproom in Dalston Kingsland. BIB, which stands for ‘Bag in Box, is a sustainable packaging method in which wine will be stored in a recyclable sealed plastic bag within a box. According to Tinkler, using BIB can cut down the cost by 30%.

“I started seeing bag-in-box natural wine coming through and I just immediately felt like it is a much better way to have wine. It has a much more reasonable price for people and it obviously is much more sustainable as well,”

“Then I did a pop-up […] and that was a little bit crazy […] I actually felt like I was doing something that mattered, so then I did more pop-ups.” Tinkler recalled. The success of the pop-up stores and the encouragement she gained pushed her to set up a permanent store selling natural wine in BIB.

She spent another year looking for the best location until she found the Dalston site, which later became Weino BIB’s home: “As soon as I came in and stood here, and saw the light coming through the windows […] I knew this is it. To be honest, I didn’t want to be in Dalston even though I’ve lived in Dalston for 15 years. I felt like it was a little bit saturated and I was worried that I won’t be able to find my own way.”

Tinkler opened Weino BIB in November 2017 and combined a natural wine shop, a bar and a deli together in one store. However, the success did not come immediately like in her previous pop-up stores. It took her over two years to eventually get the business on track.

With the help of Tinkler’s partner, Zee De Gersigny, they designed an online store right before the first lockdown started, and this just boosted the sale a lot during COVID times – to a point where the business can be considered as  “doing good” despite the outbreak of the pandemic.

Tinkler particularly thanked Gersigny for all her contribution to the business: “It was amazing with Zee’s help […] and (she is) in fact, one of the reasons why we have sort of been buffered in the last years.”

Over the past five years since Weino BIB opened, both Tinkler and Gersigny and their dachshund, Hazel, have built a tight-knit relationship with the Dalston community and the business become well established among local wine lovers. As well as buying wine in bags and boxes, customers can get refills on wine bought in bottles. There is a deli counter which serves plates of cheese and charcuterie during the day and an evening dinner menu from Wednesday to Saturday.

They have expanded the business further and founded Weino Imports in 2020, which collaborates with various winemakers from Italy, Spain and France and focuses on wine wholesale: “My main ambition was to go into importing and have our own range, and we’ve done that.” said Tinkler.

After gaining all the success in arts and retailing, Tinkler is now focusing on educating people about using sustainable packaging. She is organising and hosting a vessel wine fair in London in April, where 14 wine traders are invited to join: “It’s my next evolution of trying to get the message out there about more sustainable packaging […] I’d like to become more and more of an advocate.”

Weino BIB is located at 39 Balls Pond Rd, N1 4BW. Opening hours: Tuesday to Thursday 12 pm – 10 pm; Friday 12 pm – 11 pm; Saturday: 11 am – 11 pm; Sunday: 11 am – 7 pm. Monday: Closed.; Dinner menu available from Tuesday to Saturday.

More information can be found on their Instagram.

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