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Could halal French wines open doors for the British Muslim professional?
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Could halal French wines open doors for the British Muslim professional?

Could halal French wines open doors for the British Muslim professional?
Health & Fitness
Azhar Paul with Halal Hangouts. Image: Azanti

 

For Azhar Paul, wine is more than just a beverage; in the business world, it is often a major cultural hurdle for Muslim professionals: “I often see Muslim banking graduates struggling to negotiate a world where fine wines and champagne is the norm.”

When Azhar, who runs his own banking consultancy firm, discovered Domaines Pierre Chavin (DPC), through his accountant, spotted a massive opportunity for the latter in Britain. An established wine producer from Beziers in the south of France, DPC produces halal-certified and halal-audited wine.

Today, Azhar is the managing director of Azanti Non-Alcoholic Wines, the exclusive UK distributor for DPC. Azanti offers DPC’s Pierre Zero range of Merlot, Rose and Chardonnay wines as well as the more celebratory sparkling Perle France range and even a luxury ‘champagne’ called Gold Arabesque, which contains 24 carat gold ‘food’ flakes.

The wines are guaranteed “100 per cent halal” and have three levels of Islamic approval. DPC have halal certification from France, and their plant in the south of France has been audited by Halal Consulting, a halal auditor from Spain. Finally, Azanti has acquired an official fatwa from the London Central Mosque Trust and Islamic Cultural Centre confirming that the range of wines are permissible for Muslim consumption.

Pierre Zero

Image provided by Azanti

 

Azanti’s halal wine range is produced using the spinning-cone-column (SCC) method of extraction, which “de-alcoholises” wine. SCC uses steam stripping to extract and recover volatile compounds in vacuum conditions.

The method is one of the reasons DPC ranks number one in France’s non-alcoholic wine market.

“This method manages to retain as much of the original wine’s body, flavour and taste as possible by gently removing the alcohol, unlike alternative methods, which can often leave the wine tasting very different to the original,” Azhar explained.

Azhar accepts that some Muslims will wonder if such a product is needed at all in a community with no tradition of alcohol, let alone fine wines. “Just watch cricketers Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid. Every time England are celebrating a win they are desperately trying to avoid being sprayed by alcohol. Using one of our products for such occasions would mean he wouldn’t have to, and most importantly it wouldn’t be a cheap imitation because these are high-quality wines produced by experts in the field, and that is apparent in the taste.”

He continued: “Not everyone will like the taste. But those who may have tried wine and have had to give it up, especially [converts], will appreciate the quality. Also, many Muslims who love to cook often have no suitable alternative to wine in a recipe, and this can make a huge difference in the results.”

Indeed, the culinary potential of Azanti’s halal wines is already being appreciated by some of London’s hippest chefs.

Gold Arabesque

 Image provided by Azanti.

 

“Many other non-alcoholic wines are very sweet, like grape juice, making them difficult to cook with,” said Rafael Cordoso, a former chef at Harrods and currently Head Chef at London’s “most Instagrammed spot”, the Elan Cafe in Knightsbridge. “Azanti’s blends are some of the best I’ve tried. I’ve already used them as ingredients for my cooking.”

The quality of the wine has also been well received by Muslims heralding from a culture of wine. “It is amazingly close to the real thing,” said Nabila Fowles-Gutierezz, an Argentinian-Venezuelan convert to Islam. Nabila, who comes from a rich Argentinian wine culture and used to be a wine waitress, said that the Pierre Zero range is a high-quality alternative to the real thing. “With any non-alcoholic wine, the ‘heat’ and the ‘body’ will always be missed, but this is easily the best-tasting non-alcoholic wine I have had.”

Azanti have spent their first 12 months ‘testing’ the market, with sales hitting around £22,000. Their target over the next year is to sell around 2,000 bottles per month. At the moment, they supply mainly fine-dining restaurants, both halal and mainstream, as well as niche mocktail bars and sheesha lounges. However, individual orders can also be made via their website.

The company is now actively exploring partners and investors to help bring their halal French wine range to more Muslim markets. Azanti is already eyeing international Muslim markets and has acquired licenses to trade in India, Pakistan and most GCC countries, including Dubai.

 

(Writing by Tharik Hussein; Editing by Seban Scaria seban.scaria@thomsonreuters.com)

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