GreatVine was formed to re-educate the market in Ireland and the first step in doing that, is to import the finest selection of Prosecco and the various varieties of it from the best of the high quality and Artisan producers that we know intimately and work with in the Veneto Region of Italy.
Thomas is the founder of GreatVine wine import agency, with a 37 year International career in the hospitality industry from the Middle East to Europe. having moved to live in Northern Ireland after 20 years working in the hospitality industry in Venice, Italy. In 5 star hotels on the Grand Canal, he was famous for making the best Bellini cocktails in the city and was featured in Italy’s leading Hospitality publication ‘HD Magazine’ for his Bellini and Rossini cocktails where they also referred to him as a ‘Grande Professiontista’ – meaning a great professional.
In the Middle East:
Thomas was a manager in the iconic Palace Hotel in Egypt – the Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam Casino.
Thomas was always called upon to service VIP guests during his career that included the legend Mohamed Ali as well as Saudi Royalty who would stay regularly at the hotel in Cairo. He also organised major events and banquets at the American embassy in Cairo. Franz ‘The Kaiser’ Beckenbauer regarded as the greatest German footballer of all time and one of the greatest and most decorated footballers in the history of the game was also a guest at the Ciaro Mariott Hotel. Thomas’s family in Cairo had considerable experience of serving VIPs as his father was at a high level in the Egyptian Republic working for King Farouk, the last King of Egypt.
Celebrity Guests in Venice
Thomas first arrived in Venice Italy to work in the hospitality industry and pursue his passion for Italian food & wine in 1989. He served many rich & famous clients with an appetite for the finer things in life including Vivienne Westwood and the Corrs.
Thomas lived on Venice mainland in the heart of the finest Veneto vineyards which are famous around the world for their Prosecco production. Here, he got to know many top producers and artisan wineries in the area and he has even offered a helping hand at harvest time in neighbouring vineyards. He became intimate with the best Prosecco and wine producers in the Veneto region.
Wine appreciation is a passion for Thomas and he is most passionate about the Prosecco and wines of the Veneto region of Italy.
When he began to live in Northern Ireland, it soon became clear that the wonderful high quality Prosecco he was used to enjoying in Italy, simply was not available in the Irish market, so really GreatVine was born out of a frustration of not being able to buy the exquisite high quality Prosecco which he loved to drink while living in Italy .
The appetite for Prosecco in the Irish market was obvious, but supply appeared to be entirely price led meaning that the quality available was limited. Thomas felt that consumers in the market needed to be given the choice and the opportunity to try all of the high quality Prosecco DOC, DOCG, Cartizze, Dry, Extra Dry & Brut variations, that could be made available to them. The first step was showing restaurant owners that they needed to be offering a better range of quality Prosecco and if only they would do that, there are so many consumers who will come just because they offer it. Importantly, customers who experience and enjoy quality Prosecco at a restaurant will not be happy to put up with inferior Prosecco elsewhere afterwards. It will bring them back to our customers again and again.
Just as with Champagne, there are low, medium and high quality Prosecco. In terms of quality certification of Italian wines and Prosecco, IGT is the lowest level of Certification, followed by DOC and then the highest Certification level being DOCG although only DOC, DOCG and Cartizze are applicable to Prosecco. GreatVine was formed to re-educate the market in Ireland and the first step in doing that, is to import the finest selection of Prosecco and the various varieties of it from the best of the high quality and Artisan producers that we know intimately and work with in the Veneto Region of Italy.
These producers also have some superb Italian wines, including the signature red wine of the area called Raboso. Thomas was also surprised to find that Raboso was not available on wine menus in Ireland, whereas it is a huge seller in the American market. Raboso generally tends to be slightly frizzante (fizzy) and is often served slightly chilled in Italy, which may seem strange to red wine drinkers but once you’ve tasted it, you know it makes total sense. Refosco, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Pinot Nero are all wonderful reds from the region as well as many Premium wines that are blends of more than one grape variety. The Decano 2006 is a big red from Dogarina and has been deservedly likened to a very good Amarone.
We have found some wonderful Sauvignon Blanc examples in the area too, which are very similar in style to New Zealand Sauvignon, in fact in one particular example the Sauvignon from a leading supplier has been likened to Cloudy Bay Sauvignon, so that’s quite an achievement, although it does not have that clawing acidity. With the excise duty being much less for EU sourced wines than New world wines, this is a wonderful opportunity for restaurants in Ireland if they offer it as an alternative of equal quality and style.
Pinot Grigio, Tocai Friulano, Verduzzo Traminer (similar in style to Gewürztraminer), Chardonnay and the wonderful dessert wines known as Passito, in the style of the more famous ‘Vin Santo’ are the typical white wines of the area. Of course the most famous Italian dessert wines come from the Sicilian island ‘Isola di Pantelleria’ but anything from there is priced a lot more highly.
Thomas being such a leading connoisseur of the Bellini cocktail, was unable to find a anyone serving a decent one in Ireland. The first problem was the inferior quality of the Prosecco being used (with some operators even using Cava rather than Prosecco!) and the second was the quality of the white peach purée being used. The peach puree used in Venice, the home of Bellini cocktail was not available in the Irish market, so this was another ingredient needed to right the wrong being done to the famous Bellini cocktail outside of Italy.
So now GreatVine is introducing the correct white peach purée to Ireland in addition to high quality Prosecco, a wider range and type of Prosecco from Dry Extra Dry, Brut, Rosé and Dolce (sweet Prosecco) as well as a variety of really awesome artisan wines from Italy. If you want to stock Prosecco in your restaurant or Hotel, then look no further. GreatVine is the Prosecco specialist in the Irish market.
If you want a competitive edge by having some unusual, unique and exquisite Italian wines on your menu, then GreatVine can give your business that advantage. We are hands on with leading wineries and artisan vineyards in Italy. We don’t just meet the few who go along to the wine fairs. We visit the cantinas, we taste the wines and talk to the owners in Italian. In this way GreatVine can offer gems that you would never find from a major wholesaler or larger and less eclectic wine distributor. We know who makes the best Prosecco, where there are stand out reds and whites across a range of cantinas and where that awesome dessert wine is made.
Thomas has invented many of his own cocktails as a mixologist and was invited to open the high profile Tutankhamun Exhibition at the RDS Exhibition Centre in Dublin with his ‘Golden Tut’ cocktail which featured edible gold leaf.
He served the cocktail at the opening event for Ambassadors to Ireland from a variety of countries and to invited press and dignitaries. The German organisers Semmel Exhibitions subsequently flew him to other European openings of the event to serve his cocktail and he was featured in ‘Hospitality Review Northern Ireland’ Magazine where they published the story of his cocktail invention and the event.