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Christmas Wine Down

December 4th, 2018 by

By Ciaran Meyler – Wine Manager 

I’m back, hope you missed me. The guys in the office thought it was a good idea to get a few new faces to write articles as I was always (wining) whining about having to put an article together with one days’ notice. Well I hope you enjoyed Matt, Chris, Mairead and Lorna; they will be back in 2019. 

Anyway now that we are well into the festive season it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to sip and savor over the holidays.

As you know I love to write about wine; however I can’t let 2018 go by without giving a mention to some other drinks taking the market by storm, so I’ll also be covering some interesting alternatives.

It’s also that time of year when people are worried about what they’ll eat and drink from 25th Dec -1st Jan, when we should really worried about what we eat & drink from 1st Jan-25th Dec, that’s when the real damage is done.


Anyway we can forget about it all for a short while and below is a guide to the perfect Christmas Day.




Breakfast in bed with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, served with a Bellini (2 teaspoons of Peach Puree toped up with Freixenet Prosecco or Italian Sparkling Rosé, a small glass of Bollinger Non-Vintage Rosé or Special Cuvee Champagne.


Off to church with a glow in your cheeks. Don’t forget to stick the Turkey in the oven!

Back to the house and invite the neighbours in for some mulled cider and mince pies.


Mulled Orchards Thieves Cider


2 litres x Orchard Thieves

3 x Mulled wine seasoning sachets

4 x teasps. Granulated Sugar

  • Orange & Cloves to garnish

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Bring the Orchard Thieves, sachets and sugar to the boil.
  2. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, remove the sachets if you wish
  3. Serve hot, straight from the pan garnished with sliced orange studded with cloves.


To help you with the veg prep, pours yourself a glass of Marques de Caceres Rueda Sauvignon Blanc 2017 £9.99 or Santa Rita 120 Sauvignon Blanc £7.99. The aromatic full vibrant flavours of the Sauvignon grape will refresh your palette and keep you going.

Whilst wine sales remain mainly static, premium Gins continue to grow at a phenomenal rate. Premium gins have taken the UK and Ireland by storm over the past 3-5 years and there is no sign of the bubble bursting. The fruit flavoured gins are driving the growth. A perfect way to start the day is a Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin (25ml, easy does it) with ice, a slice of orange and 100ml of Ginger Ale. To intensify the ginger, add some freshly grated ginger.

If you’re not partaking of alcohol we have a great range of non-alcoholic wines and beer.  Heineken 0.0% is a full flavoured crisp refreshing alcohol free beer. The Eisberg range of non-alcoholic wines includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Rosé plus the new Sparkling White and Rosé. Incredibly well constructed, they make for a superb alternative.

The Christmas Dinner.


Prawns or Salmon are best served with a full flavoured Chardonnay; the best example is Ropiteau Chablis or McGuigan Founder’s Chardonnay or if you prefer something different try Marques de Caceres Deusa Nai Albarino from Rias Baixas.

Soup is difficult to match, just continue with the first wine.

Main Course;

Turkey & Ham with all the trimmings. I know you’ll find loads of people telling you what to drink with the traditional Turkey & Ham, for me it can only be the best Pinot Noir you can afford. Pinot Noir has all the juicy cherry, raspberry and sometimes cranberry fruits with a touch of spicy, soft silky tannins allowing it to be a sublime wine for Christmas dinner. Push the boat out and go for The Crossings Pinot Noir or if you prefer the fruitier New Zealand style go for Santa Rita 120 Pinot Noir which is outrageously good value for money. If you prefer to drink white with the turkey try a rich full Chardonnay like Indomita Gran Reserva Chardonnay from Chile.

Roast Duck;

Big red such as Marques de Caceres Crianza from the Rioja or top new world red just as Chocolate Box Shiraz.

If you prefer white with Duck try an off dry Chenin Blanc from Drostdy-Hof .


Roast Beef;

Shiraz, Cabernet or Tempranillo will do the trick. McGuigan Single Batch Shiraz, launched earlier this year as part of McGuigan’s new Single Batch Project range, made from specific parcels of Chardonnay and Shiraz at vineyards across South Australia, or Vega Douro, this is a really interesting Portuguese red made from the same grapes used to produce port. So it’s really port with the sweetness, a big monster of a red which will cut thought the fat in the beef, yummy!


Red Cabernet or Merlot based wines work well with lamb; try Santa Rita National Gallery Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon or if you’re pushing the boat out try Sartori Amarone, both wines will be exceptional; If you’re on a budget try new McGuigan Black Label Malbec, it offers  you simple blackberry fruits at an outstanding value.

Nut Roast;

Medium priced red, Marques de la Concordia Tempranillo Rioja or Dona Paula Malbec will help this go down.


Any one of a superb range of 1/2bts of Dessert Wine. Nederburg Late Harvest from South Africa £8.99, Tempus Two Botrytis Semillon £10.99 from Australia the ultimate way to cleanse your palate at the end of a meal.


Retire to the sofa with a large glass Taylor’s LBV Port or if you’re pushing the boat out Taylor’s Vintage 2013 (Wine Spectator Top 100 wines for 2015)

St Stephens Day Repeat as per Christmas Day.

Heineken, the rugby occasion & the hospitality trade

December 4th, 2018 by

By Chris Mills – Business Development Manager

There is an old joke ‘I was watching a fight the other day and a game of rugby broke out’, and that is still some people’s perception of the game. However, the game has never been as professionally run or as popular in the province as it is today and presents the trade with a fantastic opportunity to drive footfall and move consumers away from at-home drinking.

The Heineken brand has been affiliated with rugby for over 30 years, from the 1st Rugby World Cup in 1987, to the original Heineken Cup in 1995 right through to the newly formed Heineken Champions Cup, which is club rugby’s number one competition in Europe.

In the province, we have been the pouring partner with Ulster Rugby for over seven years from the original Ravenhill ground with its one grandstand consisting of 1000s in capacity to the new state-of-the-art Kingspan stadium with its 18,000 capacity. Here Heineken managed the installation of its cold rooms, pythons and multi-sercs to service its four public bars, two members’ bars and its premier level hospitality areas. Our dedicated draught services engineers are on site for every game ensuring every pint served is to the highest possible standard.

As part of Heineken’s partnership with Ulster Rugby, Heineken Champions Cup & World Rugby, I have been fortunate enough to have presented man of the match at European games, witnessed the coin toss for the Women’s Rugby World Cup final, helped set up Ulster Rugby’s end of season awards dinner, and entertained customers and consumers at the premier level hospitality at the Kingspan. But the number one thing I love is enjoying a pint of Heineken whilst watching a game in one of our many on-trade draught outlets.

In 2016, we launched Heineken Ruby Club, an online platform open to everyone of legal drinking age to celebrate the game of rugby and reward real fans. Members receive special offers from a range of companies on their goods and services. It also provides information on places to eat and drink on match days around Ireland and Europe.

Rugby tourism is great for the hospitality trade in NI. The Kingspan welcomes clubs from all over Ireland, the UK, Italy and France to Belfast on at least 17 occasions throughout the season, with the highlight being the three European games played in October, December and January. This year, we can expect well over 10,000 rugby tourists from all over Europe to make the trip to the Kingspan.

Opportunities for the trade don’t just come from the visiting fans but also from home rugby fans and, with the end of free-to-view Pro 14 league games on the BBC, there is an even bigger opportunity for the trade as fans look for a quality out of home experience whilst watching the game.

Throughout the 2018/2019 season, you have Autumn Internationals in November, the Six Nations from February to March, 27 Ulster games including at least six Heineken Champions Cup Games and The Heineken Champions Cup Final on May 11, 2019. There is also the Rugby World cup beginning on September 20, culminating in its final on November 2.

To build a solid rugby following and make the most of the rugby occasion clubs and pubs can do a number of things:
• Partner with their local rugby club; there are 57 of them across the province. Or, if you are a rugby club, encourage players to make use of your bar facilities.
• Put on transport, pint and ticket deals to key Ulster Rugby games. Ulster Rugby offers a 10% discount on block booking of 10 or more tickets. By putting on a bus and pint after the game ,you are encouraging footfall back to your venue after the game.
• Put on meal deals during games. Nothing better than watching the game with a pint of Heineken whilst enjoying a burger, stew, steak or platter of chicken wings.
• Offer value in the form of pint loyalty cards, bucket deals or priced rounds to share with friends during games. I love meeting my friends in a pub watching a game and having a pint with them.
• Become involved in the Heineken Rugby Club programme. We partner with our draught customers, giving away Heineken Rugby Club merchandise, pints and tickets to Ulster Rugby games during key games throughout the year.

If you are looking to really maximise the rugby opportunity in your venue, contact your United Wines representative. We would love to talk to you.

Is it Summer yet?!

May 8th, 2019 by

Nina Doyle, Cider Brand Manager, United Wines

Imagine yourself sitting in your local beer garden, sun splitting the trees, laughing with friends and sipping a cold refreshing glass of cider. How amazing does that sound, especially in this dull weather? Well that dream isn’t too far away as, believe it or not, summer is only around the corner.

Whether you love the sweet taste of apples or a flavoured cider, we’ve got all bases covered.

Towards the end of 2016, we were getting requests from customers who had visited RoI and tasted Orchard Thieves Cider. They (of course) absolutely loved it but couldn’t get it in the North. So, in 2017, we gave the public what they wanted and officially brought Orchard Thieves to the NI market. Since launch, it has been a huge success and, if you’ve ever tasted it, you’ll know why. The crisp apple taste of Orchard Thieves is undoubtedly its unique selling point. It delivers a refreshingly smooth drinking experience that can be enjoyed from the first sip. With Orchard Thieves, we also like to have a bit of fun, from Thieving the Apple, Tortured Thieves (at Halloween), Mulled Cider (at Christmas) and Thieving back the Hour in the on trade, to Thieve a Glass and fun samplings within the off trade. The brand just strikes a cord with our 18-25-year-old drinkers who can’t seem to get enough of it. For those of us who are over 25 (myself included) try using Orchard Thieves to marinate your pork fillet on the BBQ this summer. Sip a wee Orchard Thieves with the pork and see how the flavour intensifies.

Then for the flavoured cider lovers, we have Old Mout, which began over 65 years ago and comes from the other cider the world (see what we did there, it comes from New Zealand). You may not have heard too much about Old Mout but within the next few months you certainly will. In the UK, it is the fastest growing premium flavoured cider already overtaking its leading competitors in convenience. We Northern Irish love sweet things and flavour trends show that exotic fruits are growing phenomenally fast. This has been driven by Old Mout with a delicious line up of flavours: Passionfruit & Apple, Kiwi & Lime, Strawberry & Pomegranate and Berries & Cherries.

We all know the growth in health consciousness, particularly among Millennials is increasing by the day, so it’s great news that Old Mout have reduced the sugar levels in their recipe but still maintain those award-winning flavours. There is also a Berries & Cherries alcohol-free varietal ticking the box for the ever growing low and no sector. I feel very excited about this brand and for one cannot wait to be sipping it over ice this weekend; of course I’ll just have to imagine I’m sitting in a sun filled beer garden for the moment.


If you would like to stock Orchard Thieves and/or Old Mout, please speak with your United Wines Account Manager or call 02838316555.

Follow us also at our below social platforms. All new likes over the next two weeks will go into a draw to win lots of Orchard Thieves and Old Mout products.

United Wines share the festive feeling

December 7th, 2018 by

Throughout the festive season, United Wines are supporting the on trade with Christmas activity in restaurants and bars across Northern Ireland, that will appeal to consumers whether they are driving or not: Orchard Thieves Cider offers a winter warmer of delicious mulled cider while a complimentary Heineken 0.0, is available to designated drivers when they present their car keys at the bar, ensuring they aren’t left out of the celebrations at this key time.

Crafted from the perfect mix of crisp and tart apples, Orchard Thieves offers an instant, fresh apple taste and this Christmas, on-trade businesses are excited to offer a warming winter serve of this popular product. Warm, sweet and spiced, this drink is garnished with a squeeze of orange and a clove studded orange slice. Orchard Thieves cider is mulled in a selected number of on trade accounts within an eye catching urn and served from branded cups.


Heineken 0.0, Heineken’s first non alcoholic addition to their portfolio, is twice brewed and fermented from natural ingredients, with gentle alcohol removal and blending, to achieve a fruity flavour and slight malty notes. This non alcoholic beer echo’s Heinekens focus on quality and premium taste and has been received extremely well across Europe, reviving the non alcoholic category.

Nina Doyle, Brand Manager at United Wines commented, “We are delighted to be delivering festive activity across the on trade. The Heineken 0.0 campaign, which is running in over 100 accounts, now means designated drivers can feel part of the Christmas festivities and enjoy that crisp refreshing beer taste that Heineken delivers. The mulled Orchard Thieves is a welcome concept as the weather turns colder and customers begin to look for warming seasonal flavours and smells. Even if you’re not a fan of mulled drinks this one is a must try and definitely gets you in the festive mood. You can also pick up an Orchard Thieves recipe card from participating off trade stores if you would like to experiment at home. As we say ‘Tis the season to be Bold’, so why not push the boundaries”

Customers will be able to experience these special seasonal campaigns at participating accounts across Northern Ireland.


Heineken and Orchard Thieves will also be running a heavy weight above the line campaign throughout December; across 48, 96, 192 sheet and bus. Keep an eye out for them and let us know what you think!

If you would like to stock Heineken and Orchard Thieves please speak with your United Wines rep or call the office on 028 38316555 and we will get you set up.

Winter Is Coming…

December 4th, 2018 by

By Matthew Fitzpatrick – Business Development Manager

Is it really almost winter again?! I don’t know about you but it feels like it was only last week I was sitting in my garden drinking an Orchard Thieves and complaining about how warm it was, how sad!

Thankfully winter has more to offer than just cold weather and going to work in the dark, much more in fact. For me, this time of year is all about being amongst friends with the fire lit, enjoying the craic along with some drinks whether that’s in my local pub or at home having a “quiet” night in. Which brings me to the purpose of my blog – to take you through my favourite winter drinks (sampling is strongly recommended).

Recently I have become a real gin enthusiast, and I can’t be the only one; over the past few years gin has taken the UK drinks market by storm, and is still the fastest growing spirit category. Recently this has been driven by an influx of flavoured gins with Whitley Neill accounting for 10% of all flavoured gins sold in the UK Off Trade (Nielson), and they are certainly not afraid to experiment. Their range includes rhubarb and ginger, blood orange and even quince, amongst others.

Personally, my favourite Friday night drink is a bitter sweet negroni, but with a contemporary twist. Take Whitley Neil Blood Orange gin; with its subtle liquorice and coriander notes that add a real balance to the citrus kick, and add it as the base to your mixed drink (25ml Whitley Neill Blood Orange Gin, 25ml sweet vermouth and 25ml Campari over ice.) Orange slice essential.

If you’re not in the mood for gin, then the winter months give us all the perfect excuse to reacquaint ourselves with some of our favourite red wines that perhaps have fallen by the way side in that long hot summer. In my role with United Wines I regularly find myself writing a wine list for my on trade customers. One red grape varietal I always ensure to include is the increasingly popular Malbec grape. It tends to be favoured amongst the more adventurous drinkers looking for a greater degree of choice. Offering wines such as Malbec will allow you to move more of your customers up the wine list, away from the more typical verities which tend to deliver a smaller cash margin.

For me, the best Malbec for the money is Cigar Box Old Vine, from Mendoza in Argentina. The wine displays aromas of ripe plum along with subtle hints of vanilla. It stands out for its meatiness and intense rich flavour while still having a really smooth finish. Drink with grilled meat…or alone in your room with the door locked…you’re the boss!

I hope you all agree that no collection of winter drinks would be complete without a mention of the festive season. That’s right; I’m talking about the Christmas period already! Specifically, Orchard Thieves Mulled Cider. Think taking all the classic flavours of Christmas and merging them with what is probably the best tasting cider on the market – what a perfect match.

From a trade perspective, statistics suggest that more than half of your customers switch to a category they don’t usually drink over the festive period. Orchard Thieves Mulled Cider offers you the chance to capitalise on this. In addition it also provides a unique opportunity to extend the sales period of the cider category, right through what we all know is the busiest time of year, by offering your customers an alternative festive drink to warm them up on a cold winter’s night.

We will be supplying a number of on trade Orchard Thieves customers with branded urns to help them keep their mulled cider at the perfect temperature. The urn also includes a starter pack of ingredients plus lots of branded heat-proof cardboard cups.  If you are interested in finding out more information, speak with your United Wines Sales Rep.

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