by Markus Stolz

Marketing
Greek wines in Germany

byMarkus Stolz
December 28, 2010, 5 Comments

Agrenda is a weekly Greek agricultural newspaper that is distributed nationwide. An interview with me in regards to the marketing of Greek wines in Germany was published a few days ago. The original interview in Greek can be found here . My answers were actually more elaborate, but were shortened somewhat because of limited space availability. Thanks go to @vintuition who encouraged me to translate and post the interview here.

Let’s expand the distribution channels

In the important German wine market, Greek wine is gradually improving its image and is becoming more appealing to discerning consumers, according to Markus Stolz. To him, as the German creator of the successful Elloinos blog, Greek wine with its numerous native varieties has the advantage of authenticity, and at the same time features great value for money wines in the high quality segment. However, in order for Greek wines to establish a better place in the foreign markets, there are still many barriers to be overcome, the main being the distinct absence of Greek quality wine from the basic distribution channels.  There is also a self-centered culture within the wine industry which often prevents it from cooperating towards a common goal. However the use of technology could do wonders to conquer new markets.

What image does Greek wine have in the German market?

It will take time and effort to change the tarnished image of Greek wine in Germany. In my opinion, the main problem is that Greek wines are not being sold in the German wine shops. Thus, the German consumer knows only wines available from wholesalers and supermarkets. Unfortunately, the wines that are offered there only reinforce the above impression. However, I see signs of change. Recently, the renowned publication Weinwisser asked me for a presentation of Greek wines, and hosted the topic for the first time its 20-year history. Some highly regarded wine merchants in Germany are for the first time interested in including Greek wines in their portfolio. One of the most famous restaurants in the country that holds 3 Michelin stars will offer six Greek wines that I recommended to them from spring 2011.

It is often said that the retail price of Greek wine is high.

This criticism is not unfounded with regards to wines costing less than 5 Euros. This has to do with the fact that many wineries are small family businesses with an annual production of less than 20,000 bottles which cannot be sold at a price tag of 3 Euros. On the other hand, large wineries in this category do not offer sufficient quality in their products. This presents a problem, as the low cost wines could function as a catalyst for sales of higher quality wines. In the mid-range price class of 5 to 10 Euros we see good value for money whilst the price range of 10 to 15 euro is very strong, and offers some excellent wines. In the highest category, Greek wines have an interesting specificity: 90% of the top wines are available at prices up to 25 Euros. I do not know of another country, where this is happening.

How should Greek wines be promoted abroad? What do you think of the marketing strategy developed by the EDOAO?

Most importers of Greek wine abroad are emigrant Greeks, serving mainly Greeks residing in this country. These distribution channels have to be expanded. It is very positive that a marketing strategy has been developed and I hope it will be fruitful, but I am skeptical about its long-term plans. Over the last 2-3 years, the Internet has completely changed conventional business models. In such a dynamic environment, it is dangerous to draw up plans far ahead into the future, based on research that is already 2-3 years old.

What other barriers must be overcome by the Greek wine-makers?

They could use simple but effective means to improve the image of wine. Millions of tourists have their first contact with Greek wine in taverns. Unfortunately the wine offering there is often of dubious quality. So tourists form a negative image, which they pass on to friends after their return. Wine producers could sell  bag-in-box wines of better quality to tavernas, thus helping the image of Greek wine in the medium term. Also, it is my impression that in the Greek economy, the wine industry is dominated by a number of cliques and has therefore become very fragmented.

What Greek varieties stand out?

Greece is blessed with numerous native varieties, which make its wines interesting abroad, as this gives Greek wines the advantage of authenticity. For me Assyrtiko and Xinomavro are the most exciting varieties as they have the potential to produce truly great wines. I also love the grape varieties of Robola, Malagousia and Vertzami.

What reception does your blog «Elloinos» have?

Two years ago, when I decided to become professionally involved with Greek wines, I immediately noticed the lack of interest abroad. Prejudices were prevailing and knowledge about the wines was only superficial, whilst the information available on the Internet was weak. Right from the beginning I made it my goal to achieve a constant level of interest in Greek wines. Elloinos readers include wine critics, journalists, retailers, importers, the gastronomy,  and wine lovers. Most readers are from the USA, Germany, England, Canada and Greece. Of major importance are the social networks like Twitter and Facebook, which have generated almost all my network of contacts abroad.

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  1. Kostas KatsoulierisDecember 29, 2010, 12:04 am

    Good interview Markus. I think more effort should be made to:

    1) Improve the quality & image of cheaper Greek wines that would be more likely to make it to supermarkets abroad. I don’t know about German supermarkets now as it’s 15 years since I was a student in Trier – unfortunately then I was more interested in the “local” Bitburger Pils rather than the jewels of Bernkastel ;-) – but UK supermarkets have completely changed the last few years and their ranges are now excellent – too few Greek wines are available there though.
    2) Improve education of people generally in the catering trade in this country – I don’t know how many catering schools’ adopt WSET like standards in their teaching.
    3) Look at TV advertising. I don’t think I have EVER seen Greek wine advertised on TV, yet I constantly see Concho y Toro & some Spanish brands on UK TV. Hell, I even saw FYROM wines advertised on CNN and that country is smaller than Greece.
    4) You rightly mention tourism but believe EOT has somehow got to work with wine producers and organisations to take this to the next level.
    5) Look at print media wine clubs (eg New York Times, London Times etc) so that they start to include Greek wines.
    6) Improve the range of wines offered at many restaurants here (and Greek restaurants abroad) as well as their storage conditions.

    As for bag in the box wines in the taverna, a great idea but as you know many taverna owners would still push their family’s barreled wine before bag in the box.

  2. elloinosDecember 29, 2010, 10:46 am

    Kosta, thank you, all suggestion are valid. As to point 2, I think Konstantinos Lazarakis MW is doing a great job with running the Greek WSET branch, and this has certainly helped a lot to improve the education. I believe there is really a major shift taking place. In terms of advertising, the New Wines of Greece campaign is just kicking off, this will be interesting to watch. Point 1 might be the most important one…

  3. Paul DDecember 29, 2010, 2:48 pm

    Excellent interview Markus. Whilst I agree in essence with Kostas comment about UK supermarkets, in terms of improvement, the actual ranges offered aren’t particularly innovative. Apart from the usual regions being very well represented there are generally oceans of Aussie Chardonnay, NZ Sauv Bl etc. With the rare exception the only Greek wines readily available are Retsina and Mavrodaphne.

  4. elloinosDecember 29, 2010, 2:58 pm

    Thanks Paul, that is actually a major problem. I do not believe that Greek wines can compete with international grape varieties in the global markets. Unfortunately Retsina and Mavrodaphne (at the price points they are offered at) fall into the category of those wines that reinforce the bad image that still exists abroad. Great shame really, as Greece does have so much more to offer. I am shaking my head yet again…

  5. Paul DDecember 29, 2010, 3:10 pm

    I’ve been shaking my head for years now Markus. Until a major supermarket takes a ‘risk’ and offers one of many alternatives then I’m afraid people browsing the shelves will continue to believe that Greece only produces 2 wines.