In loving memory of Nicholas Bielak

Nicholas James Bielak was born in London March 24, 1970, to an Irish mother and a Polish father. With such a mix of ethnicities, it is little wonder Nick suffered from wanderlust, spending a considerable proportion of his twenties travelling to places like Australia, New Zealand, the Far East and the USA. Indeed, the travel bug remained with him until the end, his last year being highlighted by a trek to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, despite already being ill. But our Nick was never one to shy away from a challenge, as anyone in the business of selling Italian fine wines will tell you…

I first met Nick at a tasting of Italian wines in London in 2006. I was impressed by the fluency of his Italian - indeed, Pugliese dialect: he had spent several years working in the Puglian wine trade before settling in London with his Pugliese wife, Rosa Genchi. I was also impressed with his enthusiasm for and knowledge of Italian wines. I liked him immediately, and I think it was mutual.

Shortly after this, my business partner of 45 years – Colin Loxley – was called to the great vineyard in the sky, and I went in search of the brilliant young man who had so impressed me at the London Wine Fair. I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, and the rest is Vinexus (to paraphrase).

On joining Vinexus, it soon became apparent that Nick was a natural for this kind of work, being ambitious (his word) and attracted to difficulty. To emphasise this, he got involved with the Master of Wine qualification, spending sizable amounts of money and effort in the process, but succeeding impressively after four or five years. Meanwhile he became evermore attracted to the great but challenging wines of Nebbiolo - Barolo - Barbaresco etc. In doing so, he came to be one of the few (outside of Northern Italy) to truly understand the complexities of the great wines of Northwest Italy. He followed this up with a determination to unearth other top-quality wines- Amarone, Brunello, Abruzzo to name but a few. Nick profited from this work to put together annual tastings of top Italians using the connections he had established with the institute of Masters of Wine. He became a highly respected expert of such wines, earning many contacts and friendships amongst the fine wines of Italy brethren. He took Vinexus under his wing and carried it from strength to strength. Indeed, despite the fact that Nick joined the company well after its conception, he has had everything to do with its success.

This is what Nick devoted the energies of his last years to, and he did it so very well. He will be sorely missed by all of us at Vinexus.

-  Nicolas Belfrage MW
My father represented many different characters in my life. First and foremost, he was a man with the kindest heart. Everything he did in his personal and professional life had the intention of benefitting those around him. From family and friends to the people at Vinexus. This remarkable aspect of his character was emphasised in my upbringing. He was my greatest teacher and friend, he educated me on all aspects of life, something he did even up until his last days. It is no doubt that even in the short time that I have had him around, he has filled me with the utmost confidence to tackle life.

It is only now that I can fully comprehend my father’s love for Italy. From the offset he wanted to immerse himself into the culture and people. He achieved this with such success that my mother’s side of the family consider him to be one of their own and his Italian accent and language were practically native. This true love for Italy converted extensively into his professional life where his passion for Italian wine is matched by few. Coupled with his driven and ambitious character, he reached the top of his game, becoming an MW in 2020.

Seeing him build Vinexus up to what it is today, and study tirelessly for the Masters of Wine exam simultaneously contextualised for me, at that time as a teenager, how high his ambitions were, achieving all with distinction. He never gave up on anything, working determinedly until his goal was achieved. Aside from this, as many of you know, he was a fun, loving, and kind person. His family and friends are grateful to have had this incredible individual in our lives.

At Vinexus we will carry on his legacy, taking forward his passion, ideas and hard work. I would be truly delighted to become even half the man that he was.

-  Jack Bielak