With its rich winemaking history dating back more than 5,000 years ago, Greece is making a late surge to catch up with the diverse mix of wineries in today’s much contested Asian market.
“Even thought the Greeks have been producing wine for over 5,000 years, the challenges in promoting Greek wines, are that the majority of people are unfamiliar with the regions and grape varieties, that are often also difficult to pronounce,” commented Kavita Faiella, brand ambassador for Kir-Yianni winery in the Asia Pacific.
Although international grapes are planted in the Mediterranean country, its most interesting wines come from its indigenous grapes – with multi-syllable, tongue-twisting names – such as Agiorgitiko, Assyrtiko and Xinomavro.
Over the past few years, there seems to be a trend to push Greek wine exports with wineries such as Alpha Estate among the first tapping into the market. Located in Amyndeon in the northwestern part of Greece, the winery has been exporting to China for almost five years, and its wines are also sold to Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, according to its export manager, Kostas Arvanitakis.
Despite the small export percentage to Asia, Arvanitakis says, “it’s still not too late”.
Another winery coming hailing from northern Greece, Kir-Yianni, made its first entrance to Hong Kong earlier this year with the city’s biggest wine retailer Watson’s Wine. Making wines in both Naoussa and Amyndeon from local grapes including Xinomavro, Roditis and Malagousia among others, the winery brand ambassador was sanguine about Greek wines’ growing recognition in Asia.
“We are really happy with how Greek wines are being received in Asia at the moment. Over the last decade is has been a slow increase but we have found some really great momentum in the last two years, which is perhaps also a reflection of the popularity of Greek wines today in major wine drinking cities such New York, London and Sydney,” explained Faiella. Greek wines are believed to have ‘high potential’ in the UK as one importer previoulsy told db.
The winery’s more premium priced wines are well received in China, and Japan, in particular, has shown keen interest for the wines, according to the winery representative. “We only started exporting to Japan a little over 12 months ago, but are already seeing a lot of traction in the market, where we are collaborating with Japan’s first Master of Wine Kenichi Ohashi MW who has been wonderful at promoting our wines to both the trade and consumers,” she explained.
Speaking of Asian drinkers’ Greek wine preferences, she noted that Assyrtiko from Santorini tends to grip interest among Asian drinkers as it pairs nicely with seafood dishes, while its main red grape variety Xinomavro, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘Burgundy of Greece’ is picking up interest and naturally sales volume too.
“It has beautiful sour cherry and rose aromas, and whilst it looks like Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo in the glass, has quite a firm structure on the palate, with textural tannins, great acidity and is also very good for ageing, as it develops more savoury characters,” added Faiella.
Five of Kir-Yianni’s wines are available at Watson’s Wine including ‘Samaropetra’ 2015, a blend of indigenous grape Roditis and Sauvignon Blanc; ‘Paranga’ 2014, a blend of Merlot, Syrah with local grape Xinomavro, and two Xinomavros ‘Kali Riza’ 2014 and ‘Ramnista’ 2012 in addition to ‘Diaporos’ 2012, made from Xinomavro and Syrah.