Home' Hospitality Business : HB AUG 2016 Contents It’s Ãrahi, that’s what. And look out for it, because the Ãrahi brand of
non-alcoholic beverages is starting to get traction in top New Zealand
hotels, event venues and with gourmet food shops. Increasingly,
designated drivers, pregnant women, people on medications and people
who simply don’t want to drink alcohol are reaching for an Ãrahi tipple.
The product’s halal certification is attracting Muslim travellers here
and, with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) backing, an export
following in largely Muslim countries such as Malaysia.
Noted Hawke’s Bay winemaker, Rod McDonald, supplies the premium
wine grapes for Ãrahi and has become a shareholder in the fledgling
company, which was established in 2013 by Wellington couple Jo-Anne
Short and David Wilson.
“Initially we only needed three tonnes of grapes and most wineries
don’t bother with such small amounts, however Rod has been
supportive from the start,” says Wilson. “He said he thought we were a
bit crazy, at first. By the second year he had bought into the company,”
Wilson explains what’s driven Ãrahi’s development. “Jo-Anne doesn’t
drink alcohol and I got sick of going out for dinner and watching her
being served diet Coke with a straw, or a juice with a cocktail umbrella
rolling around, like an afterthought, while I was enjoying the aromas of a
rich pinot, presented in beautiful glassware.
“So I started trying to make an alternative. I was a chef and
understand how to infuse flavours. Our home kitchen became a
laboratory. Initially we faced negativity, people were thinking of the
usual grape juices; flat flavours made with surplus table grapes.
“Our grapes are premium wine grapes, hand-picked by Rod’s team,
then crushed at his Hawke’s Bay Winery. Then I work with an oenologist
and food technologist to improve the flavour profiles.”
“We are using wine-making techniques to add sophistication and give
the beverage a beautiful palate and evolution of flavour,” says Short.
“Adults have sophisticated palates and enjoy the layers of flavours on
their tongue as they drink,” adds Wilson.
He points out that Ãrahi beverages also merit being served in quality
glassware and flutes. That’s important for Wilson, who had always felt
upset, watching Jo-Anne receiving what he describes as inferior service
for her non-alcohol beverage.
Currently, Ãrahi beverages include Sparkling Karera (with sauvignon
grapes), a still Karera (also with sauvignon grapes) and a merlot, Kuratea.
Short’s Mäori heritage has been influential in the branding and
product names. “I wanted to do this properly, so sought the advice
and approval of several iwi leaders,” she says. “Ãrahi means ‘to lead’,
reflecting the market-leading status the couple aspire to. Karera (light
green) refers to the sauvignon grape and Kuratea, regal red, is a nod to
the merlot grape.
To date, the sparkling has been the most popular, but Wilson feels
the real future is with the stills. “Sparkling is for celebration; the
serious Kiwi wine drinkers are interested in stills.”
Just three years on, the wines are in demand in several four and five
star hotels throughout New Zealand. Having official halal certification
helps, says Wilson. “These hotels cater for international guests who
don’t drink alcohol, they offer some in the mini bars and some in their
restaurants. A major Auckland function centre ordered them for the
school ball season; that was a hit. Retailers Ontrays in Petone and
Moore Wilson have taken us on in Wellington, and we are gradually
spreading around the country. We are also a supplier through NZTE to
Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
“When we made our second vintage we thought we had plenty of
stock so went to the media for some promotion, and we sold out!”
Looking ahead, Wilson is confident of meeting demand. “If we can get
the orders, we can get the grapes. There’s no problem with supply.” n
It’s made from premium wine grapes. It has the full
vertical flavour profile of a premium wine. It isn’t alcoholic.
So what is it exactly, asks writer Kathy Ombler
Jo-Anne Short and David Wilson
Hospitality BUSINESS | August 2016 | 65
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