by Markus Stolz

the niche

byMarkus Stolz
February 7, 2012, 6 Comments

Greek wines are stronger positioned in the U.S. market than ever before. Growing curiosity for them over the last few years now seems to have turned into serious buying interest.

These are my impressions after having returned from my two week business trip to California and New York. The first leg of my journey to California was a real eye-opener. My week began with WineWise’s annual tasting event for German and Austrian wines. The importer very kindly added their New Greek portfolio to the occasion and I was busy pouring the wines. This was a taste of things to come, as the interest and sheer level of engagement from their clients was astonishing. Meeting legends Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard and Terry Theise were just the icing on the cake.

The following days were thoroughly organised: I was on the road with a different sales person, morning to evening, hitting one appointment after the other. Tuesday we worked in San Francisco, Wednesday in the East Bay, and Thursday on the Peninsula. The average day was made up of 6 to 8 appointments, plus evening entertainment. Thursday night I flew to Los Angeles, arrived at my hotel at 2am and had another busy day starting 6 hours later. After seeing a number of clients during the day, I presented Greek wines to end consumers at Woodland Hills Wine Company. Forty enthusiastic wine lovers came to the event and left with an average purchase of 2 bottles. That is certainly much better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick :)

What really stood out for me during the week was the sophistication of the professional buyers: When people get excited about tasting a quality Assyrtiko outside of Santorini because it is “off the beaten track”, it says a lot!

It is also noteworthy that the vast majority of the clientele I met with were American, not Greek, buyers. The portfolio received a lot of praise in terms of quality/price ratio and diversity and the wines are now to be found in some of the most established, vibrant or hip wine places SF and LA have to offer. A gratifying number of customers placed orders on the spot. Greek wines are there to stay!

I could not have possibly found a better partner in CA than WineWise. Kudos to them, they run a super professional business, and are a joy to work with. All the sales persons I spent time with share important common traits: They are passionate, totally knowledgeable and very loyal. I treasure their support. Thank you, Matthew, Marc, Davoe and Amanda. You guys deserve a lot of respect!

I will be following up with a post of the NY trip soon.

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  1. RobertFebruary 9, 2012, 3:17 am

    Bravo Markus! I must say, I enjoy doing business with Americans.
    They have less complexes than us Europeans ;) They are also open to more things and seem genuinely intrested when presented with something ‘different’ This news sounds wonderful!!

  2. MichaelFebruary 10, 2012, 12:19 pm

    We have a problem in Australia with quality Greek wines almost impossible to find. At most wine stores you can only find retsina and the more commercial Greek wines. We need someone like Markus to come here and open the eyes of wine distributors/wine stores, and more importantly, consumers of wine.

  3. elloinosFebruary 10, 2012, 12:30 pm

    Michael, I’d be happy to assist if there is interest from an importer. Australia is an important market – actually Douglas Lamb Wines in Sydney are importing a very solid selection of Greek wines.

  4. NicolasFebruary 11, 2012, 10:45 pm

    Congrats Markus !

    I’m wondering, what’s the growth potential of the quality wineries in Greece. Let’s says that these quality Greek wines would keep gaining interest abroad, how much additional supply could we expect from Greece overall? In these days of hardship in Greece, it’s important to identify industries with some growth potential. Is the wine making “industry” one of them? Could some of the existing agricultural land be converted to vineyards if the export potential was confirmed?

    Another question related to the pricing of the Greek wines. It’s obvious that the small Greek wineries cannot compete with the low prices that you can get from many new world wines. This greatly reduces the number of potential customers, especially when they only know the few mass produced wines from Greece. Have the Greek wine makers ever considered offering 0,5 l bottles to position themselves in a slightly more favorable price band? For single people or even for couples, 0,5 liter of wine can be plenty enough to drink with a meal and a lower shelf price might convince more of them to give the Greek wines a try.

  5. elloinosFebruary 11, 2012, 11:04 pm

    Thank you, Nicolas. There is no doubt that Greek wines can only ever be a niche market player, giving that so many small family wineries exist. At the same time, this niche is growing in terms of demand. If we can succeed taking the number one spot within the niche, the potential for Greek wineries would be enormous. The last years have seen the number of wineries expanding in numbers, now of course the problem is that the local market has collapsed.

    In terms of pricing, I agree that this is still the biggest challenge. The number of wineries that can deliver consistant quality at the the entry price level is limited. But I don’t think that a 0,5 litre offering would work around the problem. In the EU, it is law to show the price per litre in addition to the bottle price. One of the results I see happening because of the current Greek crisis is that many wineries start lowering prices. Some of the quality that was only available in the medium price segment is now falling into the entry level segment. This might seem tough at this moment, but might prove to be a blessing going forward.

  6. NicolasFebruary 11, 2012, 11:42 pm

    Hi Markus,

    Thank you for this quick reaction !

    My question about the smaller size bottles relates to what has happened in the recent years with other food stuffs, like for example mineral waters, cereals, etc. With the food prices inflation in 2008, there has been a sudden trend, carrying on nowadays, to go to smaller size packaging.
    Indeed, there is this EU law, but at the end of the day, a fair share of people are sensitive to the price of the item itself. Furthermore, wine is a product for which you don’t always want to buy a big volume. Why buying 0,75 litre if 0,5 is enough?
    Let me stress the fact that in western countries, single person households form a growing part of the population (
    To speak about my personal experience, which I know is not an isolated case, it happens quite often that a 0,75 l bottle is too much to drink (for me and my wife), especially on a weekday. We are thus reluctant to open a good bottle of wine because we know we won’t finish it the same day. This reduces our overall consumption of wine.

    In any case, it’s always a great moment to read your posts !

    Nicolas from Brussels