Greek wine is becoming the new darling in a number of important export markets, yet has failed to make any noticeable advancement in my original home country, Germany. I am currently spending a week here to reassess the situation. The currently predominant climate is a challenging one, as the financial crisis has led to a general anti-Greek sentiment with many Germans. I view this simply as an additional obstacle that needs to be overcome. Sales of quality Greek wine into Germany have been so low for many years, that any further drop would be negligible.
The German wine market is fragmented – there is no single wine centre city that carries a similar influence like London or New York, who are setting trends in their respective countries. To be able to win in Germany, you must win nationwide.
Something is amiss: The influential players from the German wine industry are simply unaware of the evolution of Greek wines in the new millenium. The knowledge base from distributors, supermarkets, and large wine merchants is outdated and in many cases a decade old. I do not blame them; it was the job of the Greek wine industry to ensure that they tell their own story. This did not happen. Those Greek wines that do make it into the country are sadly the same that did so a decade ago: Mainly mass-produced, cheap and utterly unconvincing samples that do not deserve to represent Greece.
Greek wineries must break the Catch 22 – in the past, marketing initiatives were funded by the wineries according to the amount of volume that was being exported to Germany. This meant of course that those wineries who already had a market share are the ones that contributed most funds for the campaigns – and had the most say in the execution. This put the focus right back to those products that do nothing for the reputation.
Meanwhile, I continue to take things into my own hands and seek one on one engagement. Yesterday morning I filled the trunk of my car with exciting Greek wine samples. I drove 3 hours to meet an influential wine merchant, and had a 90 minute conversation. It was a great exchange of thoughts – the owner found the information I provided compelling. The fact that I presented numerous indigenous grape varieties, coupled with the sheer amount of wineries that are certified organically, and the fair price points brought a huge smile to his face. He admitted that the last time he looked at Greek wines was back in the 90ies. He is now seriously considering listing some next year. The 3 hour drive back was a happy one.