REAL LIFE: My life in wine – from the tropics to a quaint English village

Janine Pert, director of Discover Wine, in Denmead Picture:   Malcolm Wells (180321-1448)
Janine Pert, director of Discover Wine, in Denmead Picture: Malcolm Wells (180321-1448)
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From tearing around the Australian outback on a motorbike as a jillaroo, to the glamour of being an air hostess criss-crossing between Australia and New Zealand.

From tearing around the Australian outback on a motorbike as a jillaroo, to the glamour of being an air hostess criss-crossing between Australia and New Zealand.

As soon as I could drive we’d all go down to New South Wales and camp out on the beach, drinking cold lager to quench our thirst. Nobody in the tropics drank wine, it was unheard of!

Great-grandmother Janine Pert has certainly led an exciting life.

But readers of The News will be more familiar with seeing the 62-year-old with a bottle of fine wine or locally-distilled gin in hand at one of her hugely successful drinks festivals.

She is such a part of village life, having set up her shop Discover Wine in Denmead four years ago, that many would be surprised that she’d spent her happy younger days sleeping on the beaches of New South Wales, drinking cold beers to cool down, and didn’t even have her first glass of wine until she was 22.

Janine’s life has certainly taken some exciting twists and turns over the years.

So how did the mother-of-six end up in Denmead?

She says: ‘I was born in Brisbane, Queensland, and lived a typical life in the tropics.

‘I was always outside, running around barefoot.

‘As soon as I could drive we’d all go down to New South Wales and camp out on the beach, drinking cold lager to quench our thirst.

‘Nobody in the tropics drank wine, it was unheard of!’

As a teenager Janine headed deep into the outback to a mining town where she took up a job as a governess-come-jillaroo, rounding up cattle on a motorbike when she wasn’t teaching the ranch owners’ children how to read.

‘At first I was absolutely terrified,’ she says. ‘It was extremely isolated and when I wasn’t teaching the children I’d be mustering cattle on a motorbike, feeding the chickens, looking after 40 dogs.

‘There was no electricity but I stuck it for a year and loved it.’

Next stop for adventurous Janine was Melbourne where she took a job with Australian Airlines.

Working at first as ground crew, then as an air hostess and then in management, it was where Janine tasted wine for the first time.

‘I can remember the very first time I bought a bottle of wine’, says Janine with a smile.

‘I was 22 and walked into a bottle shop (off licence) and said to the man behind the counter, “I’ve never bought a bottle of wine before and I’m going to a dinner party, help!”

‘He recommended Brown Brothers Riesling. I felt terribly sophisticated. And I’m proud to say I sell that wine now.’

A promotion saw Janine take on the job of designing the Australian wine list for the airline and meant touring the region’s beautiful wineries in the Barossa Valley was part of her job.

It’s where she developed her palate and fell in love.

In 1985 she met her husband Eric, who was on a secondment in Melbourne from his home in Portsmouth.

Despite her exciting life Down Under, he persuaded Janine to return to Portsmouth with him where they started their family.

Although she had visited the UK her arrival in 1987, in snowy London, came as quite a shock.

She says: ‘My goodness, it was tough leaving Australia.

‘The saving grace for me was my wonderful mum had already passed away. It would have been even worse leaving her.

‘I have to admit that it took years for me to feel “this is home”.

‘I would look out the window and feel like I was on holiday. Even now I catch myself thinking, “My God, I live overseas.” And I’ve been here 31 years exactly this month.’

Janine spent many years working for a wine wholesaler in Waterlooville before taking the plunge and setting up her own events company, focussing on wine tasting for private parties, team-building events and hen parties.

She opened Discover Wine, in Hambledon Road, Denmead, as a pop-up shop over Christmas 2013 in the old Natwest Bank.

It was such a success she opened her shop a few doors down and, although it has not always been easy, she has never looked back.

Does she have any regrets about swapping Down Under for Denmead?

‘Absolutely not. I have a wonderful family, fantastic friends, and Denmead has been the making of me.

‘But I still celebrate Australia Day on January 26 each year and raise a glass. We open a bottle of bubbly – and it’s always Australian.

‘We have actually had an Aussie barbecue in January in the freezing cold. It makes you realise what a small place the world is now.’

Janine Pert’s business began in 2010 when she decided to use her considerable knowledge of drinks to set up an events company specialising in wine tastings for private parties, corporate events and hen dos.

She opened her shop, Discover Wine, in Hambledon Road, in 2014 and champions local winemakers and gin distillers.

Discover Wine, pictured right, stocks some of the finest sparkling wine in the country, most of which is made locally by Hambledon Vineyard, Raimes, and Coates and Seely. And the shop sells dozens of different gins.

In 2016 she spread her wings a little further with a gin festival in her beloved village of Denmead.

It was an enormous success and she plans to hold a third, in June, which will see 500 gin lovers gather in the grounds of Denmead War Memorial Hall field for live music, food and gin.

Go to discoverwine.uk.com