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Wine Tales brings a taste of the Basque country to Brussels

22:13 07/12/2018
Italian Filippo Marino on setting up his wine and food business in Brussels

A year ago, a friend and I set up a company that deals with purchase, import, distribution and advice on wine and food, and we opened Wine Tales, a wine bar and restaurant in the European quarter. It’s a ‘gastroteka’, a concept drawn from the Basque region of Spain, which has probably the finest gastronomy in the world. A gastroteka is not simply a bar or a restaurant; it’s a combination of excellent food made with the best local products, great service, amazing wines and, above all, a great atmosphere. Our aim is to reproduce and adapt this typical Basque concept and bring it to Brussels.

Everything revolves around food and wine. The food is mainly organic and is sourced locally and from importers of the best Spanish, Italian and French products. We serve ‘pintxos’, which are small bite-sized dishes made with meat, fish, cheese or vegetables, or any combination. What a pintxo is really depends on the creativity of the chef. The most important thing is that they are small plates that can be enjoyed on your own, in company, sitting down or standing up. We are also a proper restaurant, serving food based on the Basque gastronomy. This is the first of hopefully many bars around Belgium, Europe, and maybe the world.

I’m Italian and worked as an EU affairs consultant until 2013, and at the same time I was running my own event management company, organising events for companies and social activities aimed at expats. Fed up with EU politics and lobbying, I left Brussels to find a new path. I walked the Camino de Santiago and then started studying winemaking and the wine business. My associate, Frederic Soudain, is also an entrepreneur. I’m in charge of communication, marketing, branding, relations with suppliers and more or less everything creative linked to the management of the business. I don’t have a great work-life balance right now, as I work more than 12 hours a day. But it’s just the beginning and I know things will improve.

Setting the company up was easy, but you do need a good lawyer and an even better accountant. Company tax is not too high and it is being decreased. What is total madness are the human resources costs in this country. I don’t regret setting up my business here, but if I were doing it again I would hire a consultant who knows the industry; that would have helped us avoid some stupid mistakes. Do your homework first, but be sure to enjoy the ride... it’s worth it.

Written by ING Expat Time