Luvians: fine wine, community outreach and Obi Hen Kenobi

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Photo: Lorelei Pfeffer
Photo: Lorelei Pfeffer
Photo: Lorelei Pfeffer

Luvians Bottle Shop, a time-tested source for drinkers of all ages and tastes, lives up to its mission: to avoid being ordinary. That’s what Vincenzo Fusaro decided in the mid-1990s, when Luvians was based in Cupar and run by the three Scottish-Italian brothers: Vincenzo, Luigi and Antonio Fusaro. With a reputation for being Scotland’s destination for fine wine and a specialist in single malt whiskey, Luvians decided not to stock the supermarket big brands.

One St Andrews student, Andy Cook, used to visit Luvians’ Cupar store (which was founded in 1981) each week and fill a rucksack. Cook advocated for another shop in St Andrews, but the opportunity would not present itself for some time. In 1996, after Cook graduated, an old butcher’s shop became available, and the brothers called their best customer to come run the new store.

Luvians opened while five other wine shops were operating in St Andrews. Now, its only competition is a wine shop founded by a former manager of Luvians.

Current manager Archie McDiarmid points to the store’s individuality and ability to respond quickly to change as reasons for its success. He has managed the shop for three years with his wife, who was once a student at the University.

“St Andrews is the most cosmopolitan small town in Britain,” McDiarmid said. “There’s a professional local population of lawyers and professors. They’re relatively wealthy and form the local backbone. The student population is unlike any other. They’re more involved.”

Within the store, the atmosphere is casual and inviting. Two dogs and multiple children visit often (owner Vince has five daughters and three grandchildren).

Few customers ever see the space behind the shop, which boasts a vegetable garden, hedgehogs, and rescued hens. By the decree of McDiarmid’s children, the hens carry names like Kylo Hen and Obi Hen Kenobi. Some are named after lower-quality wines (McCall Hen).

The store donates the profits from selling apples and “bits of fruit and veg” to Water Aid and also gives some eggs to its employees. But what characterizes a Luvians employee?

“We prize enthusiasm and a will- ingness to learn and provide customer service over knowledge,” McDiarmid said. “We can teach you about the products, but we can’t teach you enthusiasm and how to serve the customers.”

The eleven sales associates don’t need to be connoisseurs in all three as- pects of the business (wine, beer and spirits), but McDiarmid doesn’t hire anyone who dismisses a certain area. Also, many staff members have their WSET, a certification of knowledge and achievement in wines and spirits.

The amount of golf tourism in St Andrews brings change to Luvians between summer and term time. During the year, the store sells mostly craft beer, spirits and lower to mid-priced wines. In the summer, the most popular products are single malt whiskeys and mid to high-priced wines.

McDiarmid highlights several products for prospective buyers. For gin lovers, the store stocks 1897 Quinine Gin, named for the year the link between mosquitoes and malaria was proven. Five pounds from the purchase of every bottle is donated to Malaria No More, which will buy mosquito nets for malaria-affected areas. For wine lovers, Félicette (more often known as the “space cat wine”) is named after the first cat in space. The wine is popular with students in town.

In terms of community outreach, Luvians is highly involved with student organizations. It offers discounts to twelve student societies, including the Quake Society (St Andrew’s whiskey society). Additionally, Luvians fundraises with the Quake Society for a charity that builds aquifers in Africa. Each year, the alliance raises thousands of pounds for the foundation.

Sometimes Luvians will team up with local restaurants for its events, but the store also hosts independent tastings. Official in-shop tastings occur a minimum of twice per month, and the store opens bottles for customers to taste several times per week.

Within the store, a chalkboard tells of upcoming events. Typically, the first Wednesday of each month is a “Tasting for a Tenner,” which features any product group except wine. On the third Wednesday of each month, wine society events draw sommeliers and laymen alike.

Beside the counter, Luvians offers customers draft beer to take home from their Kegenator, the first one in Fife. Customers can bring their own vessels or use the ones that Luvians provides. The Kegenator is a joint effort with Eden Mill in Guardbridge and also offers one guest beer, which rotates frequently.

Whether you live and breathe fine wines or cannot fathom a night out without reliable whiskey, go see what Luvians has to offer.

Author: Maya Moritz

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