Greek wines playing catch up in Asian market

Greece has been making wine for more than 5,000 years, but it’s only just starting to infiltrate the crowded Asian market.

Kavita Faiella, brand ambassador for Kir-Yianni winery reckons it has more than a little to do with pronunciation. He points to the difficulty in promoting Greek wines when the vast majority of consumers in Asia are not familiar with the grape varieties, production regions and find it difficult to pronounce the names.

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Greek wine is making an impact within the Asian market.

Indigenous grapes are best

While Greece does grow vines with international grapes, its best wines come from the indigenous grapes. They have names like Xinomavro, Assyrtiko and Agiorgitiko and are not at all well known in Asia.

Despite this, during the last few years, there has been a move into the Asian market. Greek exports from wineries like Alpha Estate were the first to tap into this market. Alpha Estate is in Amyndeon, which is in the northwestern part of Greece and has been exporting wine to China for more than four years. It also sells wine to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan. And while the Greek export of wine to Asia is relatively small, it’s growing all the time.

Growing recognition in Asia

Kir-Yianni is another winery in northern Greece who has made in-roads into Hong Kong. Earlier in 2017, the winery made a deal with Hong Kong’s largest wine retailer, Watson’s Wine. They make wines in Amyndeon and Naoussa, using local grapes including Roditis, Malagousia and Xinomavro, among others.

So far, Greek wines seem to be going down well in Asia, as they are in other major wine drinking cities like London, New York and Sydney. The winery’s higher priced wines are doing well in China and Japan as well, where they’re collaborating with the country’s first Master of Wine Kenichi Ohashi.

Santorini wine popular

As it goes so well with seafood dishes, Assyrtiko from Santorini is popular among Asian wine lovers. Its red grape Xinomavro (also known as the ‘Burgundy of Greece’), is becoming more popular as well. The latter’s rose and sour cherry aromas, along with its impressive acidity and ability to age well, stands it in good stead with this growing market.

Watson’s Wine is now stocking five of Kir-Yianni’s Greek wines, including Samaropetra 2015, which is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc along with Greek grape Roditis. There’s also PAranga, a blend of Merlot with Greek grape Xinomavro, Ramnista 2012 and Diaporos 2012, made from Syrah and indigenous grape Xinomavro.