Category: Latest News

A pint of Heineken at the 19th

June 11th, 2019 by

Matthew Fitzpatrick, On Trade Key Accounts Manager, United wines 

So…picture this; it’s two days before the deadline for this month’s blog and I receive a call from one of my colleagues in marketing saying “The blog you’ve written about that fantastic new product will have to wait…we need you to write a completely new blog…and we need it tomorrow!”

Now in any normal circumstances this would be an absolute nightmare…but the news I received after this had me so excited to dust off the old typewriter and get cracking… “We’ve just been confirmed as the official pouring partner of The Open, and we need you to shout about it!” And shout about it I will!

In case you don’t already know, The Open is probably the most prestigious Golf tournament in the world. This year marks the 148th year of the championship, which will see some of the sports best players come together at Royal Portrush for the first time since 1951. You can be sure that we are guaranteed four days of unforgettable craic alongside some world class golf not to be missed.

Even with all this excitement I’m still left with some serious questions; Will Tiger be able to win his first open for over 10 years? Will Rory do the home fans proud and win his 5th Major? Do I bet on the golfer who has the same name as me for the 56th time in a row even though he never wins? And finally, most importantly of all…what pint will be in my hand on Sunday at Royal Portrush?

During the tournament all those lucky enough to have gotten a ticket (they sold out in record time!) will have three on course draught options, Heineken; the iconic Dutch lager and official sponsor of Uefa Champions League, Champions Cup and Formula 1 – in essence, sport epitomises Heineken and Heineken epitomises sport. Orchard Thieves Cider; the fastest growing cider brand in Northern Ireland, perfect for a hot summers day on the North Coast! And Murphy’s Stout; Every now and then I think it’s good to remind people that there is more than one stout brewed on the island of Ireland, so have a pint of pure cork, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

There is an expected 250,000 spectators across the week…that’s a quarter of a million people! This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the Heineken portfolio to a huge local and international audience – not only on the course, but also in your on trade outlet. We plan on running a number of activations relating to The Open across bars, and golf clubs who will be screening the tournament in the immediate vicinity of Royal Portrush, but also right across the country. This will enable you to maximise rate of sale by capitalising on the association Heineken will have with The Open as well as the popularity of the brand that already exists amongst the cosmopolitan golf fans that will be descending on our island.

With that many spectators expected at Royal Portrush, and the likelihood being that after travelling from far and wide they will be craving a pint or two of Heineken we knew that our standard 50L Keg would not be a practical solution to this level of demand; imagine how many times the poor bar staff would have to change a keg! Luckily this isn’t Heineken’s first rodeo; but for the first time in Northern Ireland we will be rolling out Heineken Event Tankers, the same ones that get used at some of the biggest summer festivals in Ireland, each holding almost 50,000 pints…and we have 4 of them!

So if you’re at Royal Portrush between 14th – 21st of July, drink in the atmosphere…and do us a favour…drink a couple of pints too – I don’t think those event tankers were bought on sale or return.

Adding Heineken to the wine list

April 19th, 2017 by

It was a massive announcement from the licensed wholesale company and a ‘positive step’, Martin told HRNI when it was announced that UWM were integrating HEINEKEN Northern Ireland into their business – a move that gives UWM responsibility for developing the HEINEKEN portfolio across Northern Ireland.

“Taking on the HEINEKEN brands is real positive move for UWM., It means that HEINEKEN has the belief in UWM wholesale and that we can develop their brands in this market. The beer and cider brands complement our wine portfolio and allow us to provide a premium offering to customers across all three sectors. This is great for our business and will
enhance our reputation with the trade”.

As well as the familiar brands in HEINEKEN’s portfolio (Heineken®, Desperados, Tiger and Sol), Martin and his team will work with the new apple cider brand, Orchard Thieves, which is launching mid-May into the NI market both in the on and off trade. Having launched into the ROI two years ago, Orchard Thieves cider reinvigorated the cider category at a time when the market had shown a slight decline year on year.

“The success of Orchard Thieves in the ROI market has been fantastic over the last two years,” Martin continued. “We are just coming to the end of Year 2 and the brand has already achieved great success.” he added. “It will be a soft launch at this stage but we know already that there is a big interest in the product, especially in border towns as people who head across to the south on a regular basis to socialise have become familiar with it.”

“Our plan is to seed it into the on and off trade initially, supporting the brand with a sampling campaign and quality POS to give the brand real standout on shelf.”

Orchard Thieves is a refreshingly crisp cider that delivers an instant apple hit. The new cider offering will go head-to-head with other premium brands such as Magners, Kopparberg and Rekorderlig. Orchard Thieves will come in 4 SKUs – 30 litre keg and 568ml pint bottle for the on trade and a 660ml bottle and 500ml can for the off trade.

And Martin believes the future of the NI market is looking good, despite the political uncertainty both locally and in Europe: “I’ve just started my tenth year in UWM as the Managing Director and finish my 32nd year in the business at the end of this month. In general, there is a great buzz about the place and on the whole people are confident about how the market is going. It is tough though, it’s a very competitive market and we have worked hard to ensure we have strong brands and loyal customers who have given us support over the last 30 years. We aim always to repay that loyalty by adding new products with supportive marketing.”

Despite the apprehension surrounding Brexit, Martin anticipates a bright future for UWM thanks to the hard work and dedication of his 49 strong team; “I believe we have the best team of people who know the trade and have a passion for it. I feel today that we are in a very strong position – we have talented and bright staff who are all committed to UWM.”

For more information on Orchard Thieves or any other queries please contact your local United Wine Merchants sales representative or on 02838316555.

Cheers to 2018

January 28th, 2019 by

It’s always a sign of getting old when you say things like ‘Can you believe it’s nearly Christmas again, where has 2018 gone’. Well I’m not going to say that, I know exactly where it has gone and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. So start living and do loads with your life, travel more, meet new people. If you’re not happy at work, change career! ‘Doing the same thing every year for 70 years isn’t living.’ Now that’s the philosophy message out of the way, we can get on with talking about wine.

Major talking points from 2017 were:


• Surprisingly Donald Trump is still in charge of the USA.
• Northern Ireland is causing all sorts of issues with Brexit negotiations.

So hardly anything has changed, there was little point in worrying about it. At least the Ireland Rugby Team are conquering the world, roll on Japan.
Whilst I attended and conducted lots of tastings in 2018, I really only want to write about my ultimate highlights.

Firstly this has to be The Arsenal Foundation Dinner sponsored by Santa Rita Wine Estates. As a lifelong Arsenal fan, it was an amazing occasion. Held in London in May this year, it was Arsene Wenger’s last official event at The Emirates Stadium. As you can see from the photo, I had a brief conversation with Arsene over a glass of bubbly. As well as the unique opportunity to meet all the players, the food, prepared by Raymond Blanc, and wines supplied by Santa Rita were exceptional. Medalla Real with Herb Crusted Beef was divine.


Unusual for me, I didn’t get to visit any suppliers this year. However, my wife and I did get a wee trip to Bordeaux to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary; ah, isn’t that lovely, queue the jokes. We had a mind-blowing experience at La Cite Du Vin, the interactive wine museum in Bordeaux. If you’re a wine geek like me, it’s a must visit – www.laciteduvin.com.

The iconic building is a feat of modern architecture. Inside you can travel back in time with the interactive journey on the history and culture of wine. Enjoy the touchscreen maps of the world that take you directly into the world’s most famous vineyards where you meet the wine makers. The sensory section brings to life all the aromas associated with the world’s most famous wines. Situated over 10 floors with a 360-degree view of Bordeaux and the Gironde River at the top, the website says it takes approx. 2 ½ hours to complete. I was there for 4 ½ and didn’t see everything. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy this truly remarkable place.

Back at home, we had our old friend’s John Torode and Neil McGuigan back again for a wonderful night of gastronomic delights and fine Australian Wines at the Titanic Hotel, launching the new Single Batch range. With a full flavoured creamy tropical Chardonnay and a medium bodied black fruit laden spicy Shiraz, they are a perfect addition to Northern Ireland’s favourite wines.

This year also saw the launch of the fabulously fizztastic Freixenet Prosecco. The bubbles were flowing in The Loft Bar @ Ten Square. What a range of sparkling wines, with Cordon Negro, Ice Cava, Prosecco and the all new Pink Italian Bubbly. No self-respecting Christmas dinner table should be without one. They have also just launched arguably the best tasting 0.0% alcohol-free bubbly ever made. Beautiful soft creamy citrus fruits with a medium dry finish. No sore head in the morning, yummy!

Anyway signing off after another superb year, raise a glass to everyone you love and give them a big hug.


February 20th, 2016 by

To celebrate Crabbie’s headline sponsorship of the Grand National 2016, United Wine Merchants – who distribute the iconic brand throughout Northern Ireland – has announced an on pack offer with a range of prize incentives.

The on pack promotion will give consumers the chance to win a £50,000 cash prize with a range of other prizes are also up for grabs, including Give It Some Ginger bags, Crabbie’s branded sunglasses, flip flops and t-shirts along with bottles and cans of Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Point-of-Sale kits including Crabbie’s Grand National branded free standing display units will be distributed throughout the On Trade.

The marketing campaign is themed around the line ‘Give it Some Ginger’- a play on Crabbie’s Ginger Beer’s name. Consumers will be encouraged to enter the competition by peeling back the inside flap of the bottle label on promotional bottles to reveal a unique code. Consumers then enter the code on www.crabbiesgingerbeer.co.uk/grand-national-competition .The consumer then gets to pick a horse out of three which will then race through famous landmarks in Liverpool – if they get to Aintree they win a prize.
The offer will run across all 500ml and 330ml bottles of Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer throughout the Off and On Trades and competition stock will be available until October.

Emma Haughian, Brand Manager at United Wine Merchants said: “The 2015 Crabbie’s Grand National was attended by over 150,000 spectators and watched by over 6m worldwide. The sponsorship is the perfect brand visibility opportunity, and the promotion will allow fans of Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer in Northern Ireland to join in with the excitement of The Crabbie’s Grand National, even if they’re not able to attend the race itself.”

Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer is made from a unique recipe that has four secret ingredients, which coupled with the steeped ginger, give the drink its sparkle, crispness and its uniquely ginger and refreshing difference.

Culinary Skills Put to the test at S.Pellegrino Young Chef Competition

January 20th, 2016 by

Northern Ireland’s young professional chefs are invited to compete in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016.

The renowned Nestlé Waters brand which is distributed in Northern Ireland by United Wine Merchants, has announced the return of the competition which in its inaugural year drew more than 3,600 entries from across the globe with Ireland’s Mark Moriarty triumphing as the overall winner. “It was an unforgettable trip and an experience I will never forget,” said Mark Moriarty. “I met so many amazing chefs and to win such an esteemed award really made a difference to my career.”

This year 20 young chefs from many different geographic areas will compete for the coveted title of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016 and UWM brand manager, Emma Haughian, is hoping for success for Northern Ireland chefs. “We have some very talented young chefs working here in Northern Ireland and as a result our culinary scene is developing rapidly. I would encourage those professionals under 30 to get their applications in before the 31st March deadline and take their place on the world stage,” said Emma.

The results of the competition will be based on the judgement of the Seven Sages of world cuisine. The panel of top international chefs will be composed of: Carlo Cracco, Mauro Colagreco, David Higgs, Gaggan Anand, Elena Arzak, Wylie Dufresne and Roberta Sudbrack. They will taste the dishes of the challengers and decide who deserves to become the best young chef in 2016.

Acclaimed chef Peter Gilmore will also help mentor participants this year, with young chefs from around the world invited to submit their entries alongside their signature dish. Chefs must be no older than 30 and are required to have at least one year of experience working in a restaurant as a chef, sous chef or chef de partie. The candidates will be divided into 20 regions and their submissions will be evaluated by the ALMA College in Italy, a leading international education and training centre for Italian cuisine. Ten finalists from each region will then be selected in accordance with the competition’s five ‘Golden Rules’: ingredients, skill, genius, beauty and message.

The finalists will participate in live competitions held in each region from 1 May to 15 August 2016, where the chefs will have to cook their signature dishes for a regional jury comprising independent chefs who will taste the dishes and select one winner. On 13 October, the Young Chef finalists will meet in Milan for two days of competition in front of the international panel of judges, who will ultimately crown the Young Chef for 2016.

For more information on the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016 competition, visit www.finedininglovers.com or follow #SPYoungChef online.

Discover Something New

May 20th, 2017 by

Sitting in Gatwick Airport writing this article, surrounded by multiple nationalities makes me think, with all the amazing wines produced all over the world, why are we such creatures of habit? Are we simply subjected to great marketing, conformity or is it just laziness? With all the interesting wines out there why do we continually revert back to Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz? I believe that with these easy, uncomplicated, fruit driven wines we may know exactly what we’re getting, but are we missing out on so much more?

I am returning from the London Wine Fair where I’ve just picked up some stunning new and above all interesting wines that are exploding with soft, rich, ripe fruit and all a complete joy to drink.

Vega Douro 2013, Portugal

This amazing Portuguese red is made from the traditional port grapes of Touriga National, Tinto Roriz and Tinto Franca. These are big, ripe, dark grapes which produce a lush, rich, full bodied but very smooth wine.

“Delicious intense fruit with a complex and elegant finish,” João Paulo Martins; Vinhos de Portugal 2016; this wine will really liven up your summer BBQ’s.

Passo Sardo Vino Rosso, Sardinia, Italy

Passo Sardo is crafted according to the deepest wine tradition of Sardinia, using Cannonau, Carignano, Bovale Sardo grapes (bet you haven’t heard of them before), cultivated on this fascinating and mysterious island where vines have grown for centuries. Here, the best part of the crop from the foremost vineyards is selected to dry naturally on the plant. It is then harvested and fermented separately, and then blended with the rest of the wine. This “secret” of the tradition, handed down from generation to generation in Sardinia, allows for a complex, fine wine with a long lifespan.

Tempus Regit Monastrell, Spain

This is another huge wine from Southern Spain. As regular readers you’ll know that Monastrell is also Mourvedre in France, responsible for the robust, long lived yet wildly fruit driven wines from Southern France. In Spain the results are equally as impressive. Dark coloured with lots of black forest fruits on the nose, so full on and chewy you’ll need a knife and fork. Get the T-Bone on the BBQ.

So do me a favour, I’ve endured hours of tasting to bring you these wines, get outside your comfort zone and give them all a try. I know you won’t be disappointed, trust me, I’m The Wine Wizard.

Quote of the month

“Any man that could lay under these vines with his family all around him and not feel total contentment, is incapable of happiness” James Busby

Don’t Cry For Me Argentina

May 20th, 2017 by

Not a lot of people know the name Julie Covington, however it was Julie and not Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice who first recorded this famous song. You will thank me for that someday when it comes up in a pub quiz.

Why did I lead with that title I hear you ask? Well it’s probably something that’s be synonymous with Argentina for years, however the country is now more synonymous with the French grape Malbec.

The vine growers and wine makers of Argentina have made this grape their own. It cultivates so well in the Mendoza region at the foot of The Andes. Vineyards 1300 mts above sea level are producing some of the finest young wines I’ve ever tasted. Wines which are great now, but destine to become world class. They have all the qualities to produce wines of great depth and complexity which could evolve and age gracefully for many years to come.

I was very fortunate to been there just last month during harvest time and I spend a full day in the vineyard with Chief Viticulturist Martin Kiesier and in the winery with Head Winemaker Marcos Fernandez. For an anorak like me this was a week-long orgy of Viticultural, Vinification and Gastronomic delights.

The passion these guys have for the wines they produce is second to none. They are investing in state of the art equipment and studying the science of wine making to produce amazing wines. The single vineyard Malbec’s from Alluvia, Los Indios and El Alto will someday be classified the way the first growths of Bordeaux are today. Buy up these wines before it’s too late. At only £50 per bottle retail they are incredible value for money.

However if £50 is beyond your budget have no fear the entry point Malbec’s delivery great bang for your buck. Try Dona Paula “Los Cardos” Malbec, ripe juicy fruits with a medium bodied finish, the Dona Paula Estate Malbec is a very elegant yet concentrated wines, or try the new On Trade exclusive Cigar Box “Old Vine” Malbec, slightly smokey touch on the nose coming from the charred oak barrels the wine is aged in, with an abundance of mulberries and blackberries.

It’s a superb wine to match with food. Given dramatic change in our eating habits over the past few decades Malbec works well with full on spicy Asian foods crispy beef and duck dishes and red meats with very concentrated rich sauces. It has spice-affinity to handle a stunning array of food combinations and ethnic cuisines.

Quote of the month “Either give me more wine or leave me alone.”
― Rumi

Exclusive Australian wine range launches in NI

October 20th, 2016 by

United Wine Merchants Ltd is delighted to announce the Northern Ireland launch of a new range of Australian wines from Peter Lehmann. Octogenarian Lehmann is arguably the most famous man in the Australian wine business producing wines of exceptional quality in the Barossa Valley for decades. Now three award winning labels from his winery, Wildcard, Art’n’ Soul and Portrait will be distributed in Northern Ireland by United Wine Merchants Ltd.

Martin McAuley, Managing Director of United Merchants commented:
“Peter Lehmann, the man, has an unrivalled reputation in Australian wine production; he was the first Australian wine industry figure to be recognised in the inaugural list of Australian Honours for his contribution to Australian wine and is widely held in high esteem amongst his peers, acknowledged with an International Wine Challenge Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

“We are delighted to partner with Liberty Wines, Peter Lehmann’s UK distributor, to bring new wines to the Northern Ireland marketplace. The labels we are introducing will appeal across a number of palates, price points and meet current market demands. The relaunch of Wildcard complete with new label represents Peter Lehmann and the gamble of his life to establish the winery in 1979 – a Wildcard that paid off. These wines of consistent quality are sourced from the breadth of South Australia with varietal flavour – and unbeatable value – in mind. The Art ‘n’ Soul wines are produced with everyday drinking in mind. Each wine offers value, balance and accessibility, all three of which are the foundation stones upon which the winery was built, while the Portrait wines, which embody the original promise Peter Lehmann made to the growers to make wines that show the true character of the Barossa Valley, present a portrait of the region with a selection of the traditional varietals that made it famous.”

Peter Lehmann started his own winery in 1979, partly as a means of helping with the glut of grapes then afflicting the Barossa. “I’ll take your grapes and turn them into wine,” he told the desperate growers, many of them conservative farmers of Silesian descent who regarded their old vines as part of their patrimony. “But I’ll only be able to pay you when I sell the wine.” They gratefully accepted and without this deal, it is widely thought that the Barossa would have lost a large swathe of its old vines. The crisis passed, in large part thanks to Peter’s energy and vision, and the Lehmann winery became one of the Barossa’s – and Australia’s – outstanding wineries. Comprising a fascinating mosaic of vineyard sites, the Barossa Valley has many different sub-regions, each of these having distinct soils and microclimates and producing wines reflective of the particular terroirs.

Commenting on the launch of the new range, Jon Worsley, Commercial Director at Liberty Wines said, “It is exciting to see new wines from such a respected brand coming into the Northern Ireland marketplace and there is no doubt that Peter Lehmann is held in high regard within the industry. Enthusiasts will now be able to enjoy award winning wines from one of the oldest winemaking communities in Australia which is home to some of the oldest vineyards in the world, many still flourishing on their original pre-Phylloxera roots.”

The new range of Australian wines will be available exclusively from United Wine Merchants from mid-October.

From Hola to Ciao!

September 24th, 2018 by

Adding to their impressive portfolio, United Wine Merchants has announced that they are now distributing Freixenet, a range of international sparkling wines into the licenced trade sector in Northern Ireland.

An event held at Ten Square Hotel Belfast yesterday, celebrated the product’s introduction to trade customers and media and also launched Freixenet’s new Italian DOC prosecco.

Martin McAuley, Managing Director at United Wine Merchants commented, “We are delighted to launch Freixenet to Northern Ireland’s licenced trade. The brand offers a wide range of sparkling wines and is Spain’s leading exporter of Cava Freixenet. The launch of their new Prosecco is especially exciting at a time when the Northern Irish market is seeing great demand for the product.”

Adrian Morgan, National Account Manager at Freixenet UK commented, “With a range of sparkling wines in our collection, Freixenet offer a product for every taste. The move into the rapidly growing Italian wine sector reflects not only the huge consumer appetite for this popular wine, but also the company vision to become the world’s leading producer of celebratory sparkling wine.  Presented in a striking cut-glass bottle, the new Italian range blends superior quality with stunning beauty. With more than 150 years of expertise, Freixenet has created these stand-out, high quality wines to appeal to a growing audience.”

Other products in the range include Cordon and Ice. Cordon is undoubtedly Freixenet’s core and leading range, having the most iconic and recognisable products for the brand. From the all-world famous black Cordon Negro to the beautiful and fruity Cordon Rosado; this range is made to celebrate all life’s moments and encompasses high-quality sparklers which are versatile to suit every occasion. Freixenet Ice, with an enigmatic bottle design and innovative serve over ice, brings an exciting new dimension to cava.

For more information please contact your United Wine Merchants Sales Representative or call 02838 316555.




January 7th, 2020 by
Halloween or Hallowe’en, also known as All Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, is a celebration observed in several countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It begins the three-day observance of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs, and all the faithful departed. Hence all the spooky tales of all the dead people walking around and the scary tales.

I for one don’t believe in ghosts even though I thought I saw one many years ago in Omagh on my way home from work late one night (no drink taken). There was always a story of The White Nun at the local convent and as I passed one night about midnight I could see what I believed to be a faceless white gown walking towards me. Well Usain Bolt wouldn’t have caught me that night. I eventually convinced myself that someone was just playing a joke on me.

What has all that got to do with wine I hear you ask? Well, Halloween isn’t just the season for candy and pumpkin flavoured beer, it’s also an opportunity for vino-lovers to uncork some interesting wines.

So, whether you are stocking up for an adult Halloween party or refilling your own wine rack in preparation for All Hallows’ Eve, here are some spook-tacular Halloween-themed wines to sip this autumn.

Vega Douro Tinto (The Bloody Red)

Vega emanates from the steep-terraced vineyards of the Douro Valley (home to the great port houses) and is a sturdy, deep blood-like coloured wine blended from three of the region’s best varieties, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. It is rich with plum, cherry and mineral elements and complex with a firm grip of tannins, typical of the region. Try it with spicy roasted ribs; it’s Fangtastic.

Tosca Chianti Riserva (Hannibal Lecter’s Favourite)

In the roaming hills of Tucany, the Chianti region is not clearly defined but in general it extends over the provinces of Florence and Siena. It’s a truly magical place and worth a visit. This Chianti is just screaming out for you to get stuck into it. Loaded with cherries and raspberries and a slight touch of spice. As we know, it goes well with liver and fava beans.

Sardine Submarine Vinho Branco

Portuguese whites are gaining in popularity, probably on the back of so many of us holidaying there. And this lively, fragranced easy white with peach and lime fruits will leave you thirsting for more. Try with any freshly caught fish.

If you’re not looking for wine, try the Skull Hanging Whitley Neill Gin Cocktail

Your guests will lose their heads over this daiquiri-inspired frozen strawberry and gin slushie!


  • 250g strawberries, hulled
    • 100g crushed ice, plus more if you like a thicker blended drink
    • 50ml Whitley Neill Gin
    • Juice of half a lime


Combine all ingredients in a blender and whizz (mind your fingers), pour over crushed ice into a skull glass and garnish with any blood red fruit.

I know it’ll be difficult deciding witch one to choose. Whatever you do, drink responsibly and don’t be too petrified.

Quote of the Month

“I’ll bet living in a nudist colony takes all the fun out of Halloween.”

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