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.