It’s safe to say the head of buying at Hallgarten & Novum Wines is excited about wines from Greece – as well as a return to Old World countries.
Speaking to Drinks Retailing at the importer and distributor’s trade tasting this week, Steve Daniel says there are a few reasons for his enthusiasm: “I think consumers are always wanting to drink mineral, fresh white wines,” he starts. “And I think with global warming, a lot of traditional areas that used to provide those styles, don’t anymore. The styles have changed.”
It’s Daniel’s job to go out and find areas that can produce a classic, mineral fresh style – mainly for whites but also fresher reds.
“My current trend prediction, which has been 25 years in the making, is for Greece,” he says. “Particularly for white wines, which sounds counterintuitive. Everyone thinks Greece is going to be hot, and you’re not going to find fresh, crisp white wines. But for me, the source of those kinds of wines that I’m most excited about is Greece.”
He highlights the natural acidity of Assyrtiko, which is becoming more well-known even outside of Greece. Daniel also believes it will become widely planted around the world, “as an acidifying grape”.
Sticking within Greece, Daniel highlights several other exciting grapes, including aromatic Moschofilero “which also has good acidity”, and Malagouzia, which he says is “a bit like a Viognier but more acidic”.
“There’s loads of new grapes, or old grapes, being discovered in Crete,” he adds. “Things like Thraphsathiri and Vidiano.”
All of which were on show at the tasting.
Outside of Greece, Daniel says places such as North Macedonia and Lebanon offer good value – as well as Tenerife.
“I’ve been spending a bit of time in Lebanon, trying to find wines that are more reflective of the Mediterranean climate, rather than Bordeaux lookalikes,” he says.
Daniel, who has been in the trade since 1987, explains that the pendulum has swung from the Old World to the New, in his career. Now, he believes drinkers are starting to look back to the Old World, citing factors such as sustainability-consciousness and a desire for lighter styles of wine with more acidity. And he adds central and southern Italy to his list of interesting wine regions that offer both decent value and intrigue.
That’s not to say we don’t talk about the New World – and Chenin Blanc from South Africa gets a nod – thanks to both its acidity and malleability.
Although we didn’t all sit down to chat at the same time, Daniel’s predictions were echoed in our conversation with Hallgarten’s customer marketing manager, Tom Bennett.
He describes younger-mindset consumers as more adventurous and ready to explore places such as Greece and North Macedonia.
“There’s a real sense of wanting to discover,” he says of this cohort. “A lot of these consumers haven’t necessarily got an education around wine and are therefore happy to be guided.”
Bennett talks about the ‘less but better’ approach by consumers, and explains that although price sensitivity is an important consideration in the current climate, people are still happy to spend a bit more for celebrations and occasions.
“We’ve certainly seen the resilience of Champagne,” he says, adding that English sparkling wine has performed well for the company.
When it comes to advice for retailers, Bennett says being able to demonstrate value for money is very important. “While consumers might be happy to trade up, they certainly want to know they are getting good value,” he explains.