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by Markus Stolz

Greek wine presentation

byMarkus Stolz
November 5, 2009, 12 Comments

Last weekend marked the start of a new important phase in my quest to promote Greek wines abroad. Up until then, I had presented wines solely to wine merchants and wine critics. The feedback received so far on the quality has been extremely positive. The time had come to do the same for the public – after all, feedback from the consumer is the most important indication one can gauge.

I am very much indebted to Dirk Wuertz, a well-known German vintner located in the heart of the wine region of Rheinhessen in Germany.  Dirk not only offered to host the event at his winery, the Koenigsmuehle, he also actively promoted it. I also wish to thank his wife Gabi, her twin sister and actually the whole Wuertz family for all their hard work and effort; you are truly wonderful people who make things happen!

We had invited wine lovers for Saturday noon. I had organised to show a representative range of about 20 different Greek wines, many of which are currently not available at all in Germany. In addition, I had a pallet of 4 different wines from one vintner delivered from Greece, so that people would be able to make purchases. In true Greek precision, the wines arrived just 90 minutes before the event. Gabi and the family had prepared a variety of Greek “finger food” dishes, and the entrance fee was set at 15 Euros.

About 25 to 30 people made their way to the Koenigsmuehle, 2 of them even travelled all the way from Hamburg (a 5 hours drive) to attend. Over the next 4 hours I presented the wines, the main challenge being to give out non-boring information about the grape varieties, growers, areas etc. The atmosphere was very relaxing, I would introduce a wine, then people would sip it, make conversation, help themselves to some delicious food, exchange thoughts, until I would move on to the next wine.

I made several key observations:

In general, the reds were favoured. Given the cold season of the year, this was not a surprise. It takes some imagination to enjoy complex exotic fruit flavours when all trees have lost their leaves and the wind is blowing cold outside.

The interest from the participants was real – very real. Every person tried every wine that was presented. Most asked me to fill their glass with very small quantities, as they wished to experience the wine to the full by swallowing.

The biggest surprise for me was that the most excitement – by a large margin – came from wines made from the Xinomavro grape variety. Xinomavro is a personal favourite of mine, but these wines are usually no crowd pleasers. Please take a look at my guest post at Snooth where I explore the differences between Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro. While I presented two of the top wines I know, I would not have imagined beforehand that they would be so polarising to so many different people. In addition, they were at the more expensive end of the price spectrum, nevertheless my (to be fair relatively small) stock was sold out quickly and I continue receiving orders.

About 50% of the participants purchased wines (there were quite a few couples so the real percentage number is probably above 75%), and on average a purchase consisted of 9 bottles.

Not a single wine disappointed. Of course everyone has a different taste, but in general there was a very consistent level of quality in all price segments. This did not come as a surprise to me, but obviously the participants did not expect this.

The only – but large – disappointment for me was the number of participants. This event was promoted via Blog, Facebook, Email and twitter, and many more people were aware of it. I bet if this had been an Italian wine tasting, 4 or even 5 times as many people would have shown up. This clearly shows how deeply rooted the negative image of Greek wines still is in the public eye. From the twitter world, @GazzettadelVino @jbbrana , @Burzuko and @mgmall all showed their support by attending.

Most people left by 4 pm, but at 6pm about 10 more people arrived and I repeated the exercise. From 10 pm onwards, the wine was flowing and a party with music and dancing started. I went to bed about 1 am. At 1130 am on the Sunday a group of 6 wine lovers arrived for a 5 course menu accompanied by the finest Greek wines, some of which I had carried in my suitcase for this occasion. Gabi served truly inspiring and very authentic Greek dishes (I had mailed her a Greek cookery book written in German a few weeks before). I had a lot of time to talk through the 9 wines I presented and the wine and food pairings were very successful. These guests knew Greek wines, but I was told several times that none of them had come across such a fantastic quality offering before. This was a very nice compliment to receive, as it shows that I am able to source really exciting and special wines. I was even invited to present Greek wines to 50 or so wine friends in February – of course I gladly accepted.

To sum it up, I believe strongly that a market for good quality Greek wines exists in Germany. The consumer knows how to value quality, and is also willing to look at premium offerings. There is still a lot of prejudice out there, and a lot of patience and hard work is needed to overcome this. I will continue to push as hard as I can to make these well-deserved changes happen.

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About Markus Stolz

Over the last years, I have come to really appreciate Greek wines. There are many grape varieties that exist only in Greece and I have the good fortune of being able to try them all. I wish to share my enthusiasm with wine lovers around the world, who often limit themselves to maybe four red and four white grape varieties for most of their life.

  1. ClaudiaNovember 5, 2009, 11:26 pm

    I wish I could have attended. I knew about it (through Twitter – I’m Calwinegal) but already had plans that weekend.
    Do not be discouraged by the attendance. It is more important to reach 30 very interested people than double that with half of them marginally interested (or only interested in getting the most wine and food for 15 €). I know what it is like: I’ve had much experience in trying to promote interesting, small, family-run wineries in Germany for the past 15 years and sometimes events attract a much smaller crowd than yours, or events even have had to be cancelled for lack of interest. Your event sounds very successful and you’ve educated 30+ Multipliers! And it sounds like you made a big coup to be invited back for a presentation to 50 people!

    Hope I can have the opportunity to participate in one of your future tastings.

    (By the way – I thoroughly enjoyed tasting Greek wines at the 2008 London Wine & Spirits Fair under the guidance of the first-and-only Greek MW.)

  2. elloinosNovember 5, 2009, 11:41 pm

    Claudia, thanks for your support. Given the announcements throught twitter etc. I had hoped to reach a larger crowd. Then again, everyone who attented the event showed a genuine interest, which is encouraging. I am grateful for the experience and the valueable feedback received. Hope you can make it to one of the upcoming events, would love to meet you in person!

  3. ClaudiaNovember 6, 2009, 12:17 am

    I tried to find a way to send you a direct e-mail but was unsuccessful…. So another post here will do the trick, I guess.

    I just had a thought – and it depends on what you’ve already tried in Germany, what your goals and the producers’ goals are – so this is just my 2 cents:

    I am a member of the Sommelier Union (SU) @su_de and there are regular tastings and events held throughout the year. My friend Peer Holm @pfholm leads the Rhein-Ruhr SU regional group. Peer is also a very active New Media user – blogger, Twitterer, Facebooker, etc. Do you know him? Anyway – maybe we could get a Greek wine tasting led by you on the regional calender. I’d be there in a flash!
    And while you’re at it, maybe you can do the same tasting/presentation with other regional SU groups.
    It’s difficult for me to predict the economic potential of this audience, but it would definitely be educational and “plant some seeds” so-to-speak. Sommelier Union members are not exclusively sommeliers – there are also trade (like me) members. Please E-Mail me direct if you’d like to pursue this or any other idea with my help.

  4. elloinosNovember 6, 2009, 7:29 am

    Claudia, thank you so much for your help – I am always interested in any opportunity to promote Greek wines, and I will be in touch later today via email. Greatly appreciate your thoughts!

  5. Kostas KatsoulierisNovember 7, 2009, 5:53 pm

    Markus, congratulations on what apears to have been a successful event! I would love to know which wines you presented and which Xinomavros were popular. I am the first to admit that it’s not a grape variety I know that well. I prefer Xinomavro that is aged (tasting a 1997 Ramnista was a real revelation that showed the beauty of the grape’s potential) or in a blend (eg Rapsani, Dyo Elies or Alpha Estate) and it definitely needs food – again that’s my personal preference. Also interesting to note the attendees’ preference for the reds – I admit I was a bit disappointed that this month’s Decanter gave lots of good coverage to Greek whites but no reds were mentioned…

  6. elloinosNovember 7, 2009, 6:01 pm

    Kosta, I presented wines from Allagiannis, Dalamara, Palivou, Papantonis, Papayianni, Parparousis, Sigalas, Tetramythos, Thimiopoulos and Tselepos. The Xinomavro wines (that are truly stunning) were Dalamara Aghechoros (80% Xinomavro and 20% Merlot), Dalamara Paliokalias (100%) and Thimiopoulos Ghi kai Uranos (100%). I decanted all three, as they need a lot of air exposure to really kick it off.

  7. Kostas KatsoulierisNovember 7, 2009, 6:45 pm

    Very good range of wines! I believe journalist Simos Georgopoulos named Ghi kai Uranos the best red Xinomavro this year – unfortunately it’s always sold out at my wine merchant so I haven’t had the chance to try it yet. Is it an early drinker or does it need to age? I’ve got a Dalamara Paliokalas 2004 but believe it needs more time (as I said before most Xinomavro’s are too harsh for me when they are young). I’d also be interested to hear your views on gris de noirs and roses made from Xinomavro – I haven’t tried any yet.

  8. elloinosNovember 7, 2009, 7:01 pm

    Ghi kai Uranos is not easy to come by, as their production is always sold out. Ask Vassilis Papadopoulos from Kazakos Drink Bank and tell him I sent you ;) The first vintage was 2004, so there are no old vintages available. The wines are so good, it is hard to keep your hands off them. But I have no doubts at all that they will improve with cellaring. The Dalamara should also improve over the next decade. Good quality Xinomavro wines are very ageworthy. As far as the gris de noirs and roses – they are certainly very enjoyable, Kir Yianni has the rose Akakies that is widely available.

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