Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"Belfast Telegraph": Friends bring taste of Georgian wine to Northern Ireland's top restaurants

by John Mulgrew

17.11.2015. Two young Co Down [County Down is one of six counties that form Northern Ireland - HN] friends are bringing the tastes and smells of the Georgian wine industry to some of Northern Ireland's top restaurants.

Adam McCullough and Simon Bryans, both 22, from Holywood, are now selling some of the Baltic [J yes, that's the way the original Irish newspaper reads - HN] state's top red and white tipples on to top tables, including the now Michelin-starred Deanes Eipic restaurant in Belfast.

The pair have combined both their love of wine, and a gap in the market, to introduce Northern Ireland and the Republic to something entirely new, with their business Harland Wines.

"We have only just started, and we were friends for years, going to Sullivan Upper together, before graduating from university," said Adam.

"I tried the Georgian wines in London, and they were fantastic, but I hadn't been able to find them here.

"We are both very into wine, and we are continuing to learn as we go, meeting sommeliers and wine experts, and are beginning to develop a really wide range of knowledge."

Their wines have already been sold in Belfast restaurants Eipic, Shu and Graze.

Georgian wines can be traced back almost 7,000 years, and it's now thought the region was the birthplace of the fermented grape.

Adam said the wines hadn't had the recognition or widespread supply they deserve, down to the harsh restrictions while Georgia remained part of the former Soviet Union.

"They never had the chance to export to the West. And they are some of the oldest wines, much older than French varieties," he said.

"They are around £25 a bottle in restaurants, and in off-licences between £11 and £15.

"For the quality, it's really good and exceptional value. We do our own wholesaling too, and we sell a taster case of six wines for £60."

The business has an office Holywood, along with a bonded warehouse in Belfast.

Adam said with a booming restaurant scene in Belfast, he expected strong demand.

"The hospitality industry is booming in Belfast, with a high standard of restaurants, that are getting really good," he said.

"We approach them and we bring along the wines, and it really speaks for itself. We haven't had a meeting where someone hasn't bought wine."

As for the flavour, Adam says Georgian wines are similar to a full-bodied French Burgundy, with a big, bold taste.

He said whites were more difficult to pigeonhole, but were "exceptional" dry wines.

And the pair are hoping to add other neighbouring wine regions from the Black Sea region, including those from Moldova and Macedonia, to their portfolio.

But although their business has just begun, Adam said they are ready to throw themselves in to it.

"It has been a daunting and a steep learning curve," he said.

"But customers are reordering every week, with other people ordering off us frequently. We are also supplying some companies with corporate gifts, and people are really grasping the idea."


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