I started the undertaking of promoting Greek wines abroad about a year ago in a rather unexciting mainstream way, by knocking on doors of German and British wine merchants, trying to convince them on a one to one basis, of these wines’ uniqueness and quality. During these days in early 2009 I happened to read a very derogatory article about Greek wines, written by Mario Scheuermann, a known and influential German wine critic. It echoed a bit what I had heard so far from the business contacts I had made until then. I felt deep injustice about its content and the potential impact this could have in the public view. At the same time I was intrigued and challenged to make my own perspective widely known, that the value of Greek wines has not yet been recognised for its true worth.
I started working very hard towards achieving this by intensely networking in the business. My efforts to that effect involved using all means at my disposal, from making personal contacts to extensive use of social media. It paid off, as I managed twice to present a range of selected Greek wines to Mario Scheuermann himself and two of his renowned colleagues, wine journalist Eckhard Supp, and wine consultant Michael Pleitgen. Both events were successful. These three important writers eventually retreated from their initial, rather reserved standpoint about Greek wines to publishing very enthusiastic and detailed reports about them, by the end of 2009. Mario Scheuermann even made his Greek wine review his most detailed for the year. The makings of a turnaround became evident.
Then, one week ago, Christos Tziolis, a well known Greek wine merchant located in Berlin, publicly expressed his disapproval of me and my work. This came surprisingly for two reasons: First, I never before had any contact with him to know the issues on his mind, and second, his criticism was quite personal: he accused me of arrogantly claiming to be a missionary for Greek wines, although he and others had already been promoting Greek wines for more than 10 years in Germany. He concluded that “Greek wines did not need people like Mr. Stolz”.
I have deepest regard for Christos Tziolis’ contribution in the business. I do not wish to contest his place in it in any way and I responded equally publicly exactly that to his views. The results of my own work can be measured by hard facts, not claims. Mr. Tziolis reply is yet outstanding, so to my regret there has been no further exchange of views.
I am refering to the incident, as I feel the need to raise a red flag. One of the two wine tasting events which I organised for the German critics took place in early November. I found out that Mr. Tziolis made enquiries about them beforehand, at the owner of the premises they were held. Following that, a few well known wine estates, who initially had assured me of their full support for this event, did not make their wines available. Also, some wine makers who had been extremely positive about my efforts until then, suddenly became more reserved towards me. Finally, several estates kindly declined further contributions at scheduled exhibitions.
I honestly believe that old fashioned practices of controlling a business by shutting out others have no longer a place in today’s world. To the contrary, the only way to achieve progress, to build and grow, is to be open. That means listening, engaging, and sharing. Greek wineries should be able to work with new approaches to market their wines as they see fit. Existing market shares need to be protected, at the same time the focus should be on an expansion in the years ahead. Surely these two goals are not mutually exclusive! In that spirit, I am still much looking forward to starting an open dialogue with Mr. Tziolis.