by Markus Stolz

Engaging
the audience

byMarkus Stolz
December 11, 2009, 2 Comments

I had the pleasure of attending a wine tasting event at the “Wine loved – Cultural Center for Flavour Information” in Athens yesterday evening. As I have reported earlier this year, Greeks have started embracing wines on a much more serious level than in the past. This is a great development that just shows how the ongoing wine revolution is having a lasting effect on the consumers.

My friend Yiannis Liberopoulos invited me to join a group of wine enthusiasts for a presentation by the father and son team of the Papaioannou winery from Nemea. The event was due to start at 9:00 pm, and being German I arrived 20 minutes early, expecting to be one of the very first guests to arrive. To my surprise nearly all seats were already occupied by a great number of people, and more chairs had to be brought in. I estimate that a total of 50 wine friends were present by the time the tasting started. This I find to be very impressive indeed, I simply did not expect so many people to come to such an event on a Thursday night, but as the presentation proceeded, I could see why:

Thanassis Papaioannou is a passionate man; he is one of the pioneers in Nemea and started a small estate in 1984. He has the reputation of being extremely talented in the vineyard – which is an accomplishment, as he is a completely self-taught winemaker. I guess he is well into his seventies, and I wish I would have some of his energy when I get there. His softly spoken son Georgos holds a winemaking degree and does a lot of work in the cellar. For 3 hours, they presented their wines, the father being very entertaining and energetic with strong held opinions, the son adding balance by relaying facts about the different wines shown.

To me, it was very interesting to gain more insights into the Greek point of view. Out of the 10 wines shown, 6 were made from international varieties. This startled me, as Nemea is usually synonymous with Agiorgitiko. Thanassis Papaioannou believes that it is easier for Greek wineries to win awards at international wine competitions with varieties that are not indigenous.

The range of wines was very well made, however it was missing what I personally love about the Greek wines, which is exactly that fact that they are distinct and unusual. So I could not well relate to a Greek enthusiastic participant who proudly exclaimed, that the wine just tasted was not a mere Chardonnay, but a Chardonnay from Nemea!

The real buzzes for me were indeed two premium offerings of Agiorgitiko. It was then that I was able to taste the sense of the place these wines come from – their terroir. In my opinion, these are exactly the wines needed to win the hearts of the wine lovers abroad, if offered at the right price.

The evening was a real treat, I love the fact that winegrowers make the effort to travel to Athens and engage with the public for some hours. The participants asked a lot of questions, and the Papaioannou team not only answered them, they engaged with their audience. This is great marketing that bears fruits for both, grower and wine lover alike.

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  1. Kostas KatsoulierisDecember 11, 2009, 11:51 pm

    If I had known about this event and more importantly I wasn’t holed up at home with a throat infection and a fever I would have tried to go up there. I didn’t know you knew Yianni Liberopoulo! It is a small world indeed although I know him from the world of work rather than the world of wine. Anyway I would be interested to know which wines you tasted. I used to love the Papaioannou Estate Nemea years ago but have not been thrilled by it the last few years.

    As for Mr Papaioannou’s remarks that it is easier for Greeks to win foreign awards with international varieties, I disagree. That may have been true a few years back but the tide is changing – if you look at this year’s Decanter Awards, top marks were gained by indigenous varieties, Wild Ferment, Gaia Estate & Anthemis as well as blends of Greek & international i.e. Alpha Estate & Ovilos White. I am also glad you raised the issue of price as unfortunately it is central especially in these recession bound times. Personally I have a problem paying €50 for a bottle of Greek wine unless it is either twice as good as a bottle costing €25 (for a Greek varietal) or as good as a similar priced foreign bottle with an international varietal. There is of course a possibility that the Greek version of the international grape is something completely different yet equally rewarding. I apologise if I went on a bit but sometimes I believe Greek consumers do not question issues enough. Have a great weekend!

  2. elloinosDecember 12, 2009, 12:20 am

    Kosta, I hope you feel better soon. Indeed, in Greece the world seems to be very small. We tasted Rousanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, the basic Agiorgitiko, Microklima, Terroir, Petit Verdot, and a sweet Agiorgitiko. I tend to agree with your observations. It does not serve the export markets to try and compete with a “standard offering” of international grape varieties. As to the pricing structure of the top wines from the estate – if they wish to enter the markets abroad, they should be less than half the price. It makes little economic sense to me to charge 50 + Euros, it simply is not realistic at this stage. I’d rather like to see a reduction in the volumes of the “basic” offerings in favour of enlargement of the top range with a more realistic pricing.