ROBIN BOOKER/BRANDON SUN
Long a fixture on the Brandon dining scene, Paul Spiropoulos owned and operated the popular Olivier’s Bistro on Rosser Avenue for many years. But in 2007, he sold the building, and created Olivier’s Catering, which he and his wife, Susan, run during the months of the year they don’t spend in his native Greece. But an adjunct opportunity presented itself — or rather, Spiropoulos sought it out. So now in addition to being a chef and a caterer, he’s a marketing representative for an array of Greek wineries. And he’s keen to share his enthusiasm about his new-to-the-province products with the people in Brandon and beyond.
What prompted you to want to get involved in becoming a wine representative? I know Greece is your homeland and you go back every year, but are you particularly partial to the wines you’re promoting? Or did you just wanted to bring something new to the market?
Well, there were two reasons really. Number one, I was almost ashamed of the Greek wine that was being released here. And when I had the Bistro, I tried some of those wines and they just weren’t measuring up.
So we do catering, and we do a lot of Greek food quite often. And I wanted to match the food with good Greek wines. So once we started the catering, on our first trip back to Greece, I went in and visited a few of the wineries that I knew. And we found some very good wines that we were interested in bringing in. It took a little time with the Liquor Commission, with the rules and stuff, but a friend gave me some advice to become an agent to ease up and speed up the process, if you will.
So that’s what I did. I became an agent.
So which Greek wines are currently available?
There are two at the 10th and Victoria liquor store right now — the Pagonas Cabernet/Merlot, and the Pagonas Ugni Blanc/Sauvignon Blanc. The Cab Merlot is $14.80 and the Ugni Sauvignon is $13.24.
But this past year when we went back to Greece, I visited the same wineries, we tasted the wines, and they were awesome. So we emailed the application forms to get it through the Liquor Commission and made the deal as to what price range this should be at. And we agreed upon that, and now we’re waiting. There can only be two shipments a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. So now we’re waiting, and in October, we should have more variety by then.
And there are plans for products from seven or more wineries next year, if the Liquor Commission will allow. It’s got to be their call.
Are you hopeful the MLCC will say yes to the products you want to bring in?
I think they were fairly impressed with the tasting we had — it went very well. So hopefully that will open the door for us.
Why are you so excited about bringing these wines to Manitoba?
The region that these wines are produced in — the climate is so perfect. And I think people will be very impressed to try these wines out. The price range, we will keep it very reasonable. So surely I will encourage my friends to go out and try some of it. Each to his own taste, I guess, but I do believe they will be fairly impressed.
And these products will be in Liquor Marts throughout the province?
Yes, they will be. And we are looking at doing a show in Winnipeg. We were going to do it now, but the quantity of the wines that came in, there were not that many, and I didn’t want to get caught short. So we’ll try to just promote them in Brandon right now. And in the fall we’ll definitely do a tasting in Winnipeg and perhaps somewhere else.
Do you think you’ll be part of the Westman Wine Festival? It’s usually a Friday in late October ...
If the wines are in, we’ll certainly consider it.
Will you be using the Greek wines exclusively in your catering?
Well, we are working for clients, so if they have a preference for something else, we will definitely do what it is they want. But I think we will recommend the Greek wine.
You’re a chef. Many of know of your wonderful prime rib. But is this a whole new chapter — Paul Spiropoulos, Wine Rep? Because this is kind of an exciting venture, I think.
Really, what I want to do is I want to have a good quality Greek wine with the catering — that’s Number One. Number Two, I wanted to kind of prove to the people out there that we do have an exceptional quality of wines back home. Otherwise, I don’t know where this is taking us, really. But I hope it will be nice.
As a chef, I was fairly knowledgeable about wines because I’ve been a chef for 39 years. So I wanted to make sure that we had good quality wines to pair with the foods that we are serving. And that’s probably one of the things that made me interested in getting into this. I have a little bit of a passion toward that, and so it will work out fairly well, I think.
The only thing that I would ask is for people to give it a try. And if they like it, they would go out and buy it. And I want to point out, too, that the white variety of it — I don’t drink a lot of white wines, but these are very exceptional wines. Especially the Chardonnay, and this new grape that we hope will be coming in — the aroma, the fruity taste, the crispiness of it — they’re unbelievable. I truly believe that my friends will be impressed with this line of wines that are coming in.
And hopefully some strangers, too, then!
Hopefully. They can become new friends! It’s for everybody.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 28, 2012