Like a fine wine? Greece’s brands thirst for name recognition
Here is a web preview article for a special two-page spread in Friday’s Athens News.
Walk into a grocery or liquor store in Greece and you’ll see shelf after shelf of Greek brands.
In fact, EuroMonitor research indicates that 90% of the wine Greeks drink (as of 2002) is domestic.
But overseas, you’ll be pressed to find a Greek brand wine (with the exception of Germany which makes up about half of all Greek wine exports) despite the fact that Greek wines perform as well or better than their European counterparts in international competitions.
Several grocery stores in the UK, for example, confirmed to Athens News that they do not carry Greek brands. One, Tesco, carries a couple of non-vintages including a Kourtaki retsina.
That’s part of the issue. Mention Greek wine, and the first thing that comes to mind is retsina, or rather the bitter taverna juice that tourists traditionally imbibe while on holiday.
But the nearly 500 winemakers in Greece produce far more than that traditional beverage. Powerhouse brands Tsantalis and Boutaris have over 30 labels and hundreds of varieties each, including dry, sweet and dessert wines in addition to retsina. (They both also export a fair amount, up to 40 percent of their production.)
Greek wines also have four levels of official appellations — roughly equivalent to their French counterparts –to ensure proper cultivation and the preservation of traditional brands. (For a full description see Greekwinemakers.com) Taste is in the tongue of the beholder, but the appellations — a bit of a bureaucratic nightmare for winemakers — ensure Western European standards.
Lack of a Greek brand name
Yet, Greek wine isn’t mentioned alongside “new world wines” coming from Australia and South Africa nor is it mentioned in the same breath as French and Italian labels.
“It’s a total lack of marketing,” says Nick Kontarines, owner of the aptly-named Yamas Wines. Kontarines uses his online operation to import Greek wines for customers in the UK.
As a seller and consumer, Kontarines has had trouble finding a place to buy, let alone sell, Greek wine. “Independent wine merchants don’t stock Greek wines because the customers do not ask for them,” he said. “The supermarkets occasionally have some Greek wines but not for very long because they don’t sell.”
According to Kontarines, the Greek Export Organization has fallen short of creating a brand name. focused on international competitions instead of building relationships with stores and wine importers.
(The Export Organization, Kerasma, has yet to return repeated Athens News inquiries.)
Kontarines moves 5,000-10,000 cases of wine a year and could move more if people knew about the quality of Greek wine.
“Greek wines have the potential,” he said. “They don’t have the marketing.”
Check out Friday’s edition of Athens News for a thorough reporting on the Greek wine market, an interview with a winemaker and more information on appellations and the top labels.