by Markus Stolz

Commercial
suicide?

byMarkus Stolz
January 4, 2010, 14 Comments
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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.

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  1. tobias cooks!January 4, 2010, 4:57 pm

    What a shame that you get such a narrow minded feedback from some people in the market. On the other hand I am not surprised. I had some strange feedback wanting to promote Greek products such as wine and olive oil abroad. Do not get irritated by that! I think you are doing a great job with your attempt to promote Greek wine!

  2. Georgios charitouJanuary 4, 2010, 5:36 pm

    Ehrlich, dieser Beitrag macht mich traurig… warum kann das Miteinander-für-ein-gemeinsames-Ziel-kämpfen zwischen Erwachsenen nicht vernünftiger funktionieren?! Kenne Herrn Tziolis nur flüchtig und bin ihm immer sehr dankbar gewesen, dass ich den einen oder anderen neuen Spitzenwein bei ihm im Laden finden konnte. Er ist schließlich der einzige Händler im Norden bei dem man diverse Weine, die man sogar in Griechenland erstmal finden muß, zu einem gesunden Kurs kaufen kann. ( Herr Zorbas baut leider langsam die Zelte ab…)
    Trotzdem hatte/habe ich oft das Gefühl, dass er sich zu sehr auf seinem Monopol-Status ausruht. Bis auf sein Erscheinen vor 3 oder 4 Jahren im Hotel Grand Elysee in Hamburg im Rahmen des Kerasma-Programms und einer Verkostung in einem Berliner gr. Restaurants mit Hernn Kokkalis vor einigen Monaten, ist mir leider keine weitere “Aktivität” zu Ohren gekommen welche das Image des griechischen Weines auf einen aktuellen (positiven) Stand hätte bringen können.
    Hier gehen 2 Menschen eindeutig 2 verschiedene Wege um an das gleiche Ziel zu gelangen: Du machst es auf eine moderne, effektive Art und Herr Tziolis geht seinen ihm vertrauten (vielleicht etwas angestaubten) Weg. Das ist völlig in Ordnung!
    Es ist aber ganz wichtig dass ihr beide euren Stellenwert am Markt habt. Mach bitte weiter so und lass Dich bloß nicht ausbremsen.

  3. Eckhard SuppJanuary 4, 2010, 6:33 pm

    This attitude of Mr. Tziolis and some Greek producers is all in line with the attitude of Greek wine officials. When they need you to visit their (otherwise empty) stand at fairs like ProWine they desperately run after you (“Don’t you remember me?”), but when it comes to answering mails and letters inquiring on information and data about Greek wines and viticulture they don’t even feel compelled to giving you a hint of an answer, not even a sign that they are still alive.

    By the way, after having read Mr. Tziolis complaints, I offered him to send us samples for another tasting of Greek wines on ENO WorldWine (www.enobooks.de). Useless to say that to this day we have not received any samples or even a short answer.

  4. Kostas KatsoulierisJanuary 4, 2010, 8:19 pm

    Mr Tziolis’s attitude is regrettable and does no-one any favours. It really smacks of parochial and old world jealousies. As as Greek I am doubly proud if a non-Greek seeks to assist in promoting part of my culture and does it in a modern and vibrant manner. Especially when it is an area which has been dealt a disservice by outdated practices or a simple lack of creativity or coordination. This “we know best” attitude is unfortunately very prevalent in this country. It is holding back modernisation from many aspects of Greek life – examples can be found in tourism and agriculture. I hope it changes and changes soon. Keep tapping away, Markus…

  5. Ted LelekasJanuary 4, 2010, 8:50 pm

    Markus, I am deeply saddened by this incident. And although I wish I could say I’m surprised, I can’t. And this is even more sad…
    People in the wider wine business around Greek wine often fail to understand that the effort to communicate and promote it to international markets is not a contest and there is no room for petty and old-fashioned practices.
    All I can say is “keep up the good work”. Anyone who is smart enough recognises that Greek wine needs all the help it can get, and we can only wish there were more people like you.
    I wouldn’t read too much into this unfortunate incident, especially where there are so many people who follow you and respect your work. As a matter of fact, sometimes it’s good to have a few exceptions, even if they are annoying, because they only confirm the rule…
    I’m with you 100% – but you know that already.

    Best wishes and Happy New Year
    Ted

  6. VassilisJanuary 5, 2010, 12:32 am

    If Mr Tziolis was mainly interested in promoting the greek wines, then instead of criticizing you, he should have tried to meet with you, get to know you better, understand what you are trying to achieve and (why not) organize joined activities with you. That would help both his and your business.
    I hope Mr Tziolis’ actions on how to anticipate potential “competition” is the exception of how Greeks do business abroad.
    Keep up the good work Markus!

  7. KonstantineJanuary 5, 2010, 3:31 pm

    Dear Marcus,

    It is great to have professional people promoting the great new wines of Greece and congratulations on your work so far. There is no exclusivity for Greeks or non-Greeks in promoting their products and personal and other business interests should not be part of promoting anything.

    Greece needs more people who know how to sell and promote its wines – in Greece and abroad, and who understand how the market works, and can educate the producers of what it takes……..these are niche boutique wines, of good value, and great stories and although great strides have been made in production the different markets are still full of anachronistic stories about Retsina (which i like) and other myths which show that there is still long way to go till we get Greek wines become a reality in the minds and buy them on a regular basis
    Keep up the good work and hope to see you in NY next time you are around

  8. Viviane Bauquet Farre / Food & StyleJanuary 7, 2010, 3:23 am

    Dear Markus,

    It sadness me a great deal to read this post! The world is often not too open to a new voice… But you have a passion for what you do and therefor I believe that you will find a way to work with what is in front of you. Your two goals are absolutely not mutually exclusive, on the contrary. All Greek winemakers can only benefit from your work.

    I thank you for opening my eyes (and my tastebuds) and I will continue to be a strong supporter of what you do. I echo the other comments before me: yes, “keep up the good work”… I am so very happy that our paths have crossed and I love not only what you do, but your spirit too. Markus, you are just wonderful!

  9. Yangos MetaxasJanuary 8, 2010, 6:34 pm

    I am most surprised after reading your story. I have been following your efforts to promote Greek wines abroad and I cannot see why Mr. Tziolis reacted in the way he did. I happen to know personally Christos Tziolis, because he had visited the Metaxas Wine Estate in Kefalonia in the past. We’ve had dinner together in Katelios, where we exchange aspects about the prospect of Greek wines in the German market. He also used to sell our Robola of Kefalonia Metaxas in Berlin. He was giving me the impression of a simple charming Greek, who was trying hard to promote and sell Greek Wines in Germany. I was puzzled though, when for no apparent reason he abruptly stopped our cooperation.

    I feel that that the current level of knowledge and awareness about Greek wines from the part of foreign wine writers, critics etc. does not leave much room for wrong moves. I would dare say, that there had been other foreigners who, being very sympathetic to the cause of Greek Wine, have tried in the past to promote Greek wines abroad, but were faced with similar hostile behaviour from Greeks, either winemakers or “experts”. Unless, all Greeks involved one way or another with wine, realize that we are ALL on board the same ship, I am afraid that we will remain mere spectators of other wine making countries pushing our weak world wine presence further into oblivion…

  10. Wine RamblerJanuary 10, 2010, 1:13 am

    This all sounds like a rather sad story. I do not know Mr Tziolis, nor do I know anything of the incidents mentioned here (apart from having heard about the wine tasting with the German journalists). What I can say though is that you managed to re-kindle our interest in Greek wine, and interest that died with cheap high school-wine, and surely any activity that leads to that should be supported by those caring about Greek wine. I hope the situation gets resolved.

  11. turnaround consultingJanuary 13, 2010, 9:57 am

    There’s nothing wrong with promoting the Greek wine, it is one way of promoting your land’s specialties and an opportunity to earn.

  12. Nikki RoseJanuary 14, 2010, 12:04 am

    This is very unfortunate but a surprisingly common occurrence. If a merchant (of any product) does not grasp the concept of collaboration and promotion by as many people on the planet as possible, he/she is in the wrong business. It’s like shooting yourself in the foot — open up a business and criticize others that share your passion and are working toward creating awareness? There does come a time when one might simply give up in frustration if common-sense support is non-existent. Welcome to my world!

    Nikki Rose
    Founder & Director
    Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries
    award-winning seminars celebrating our heritage

  13. Paul KramerNovember 10, 2010, 7:42 pm

    Hello,

    Sorry for this off topic, but I would like to get in touch with Georgios Charitou who has posted nearly a year ago in German. I believe this guy is one of my best friends during my kindergarten…..
    Possibly the owner of this website can give me the email address.

    Thanks very much, and great website!
    Paul Kramer
    kramerpfa@gmail.com

  14. elloinosNovember 10, 2010, 7:57 pm

    Paul, I forwarded this to Georgios, hope he will be in touch with you ;) Markus