Greek wine label enters Turk market

ISTANBUL – One of Greece’s household names in wine, Tsantalis, entered the Turkish market last November, becoming the first wine from the neighboring country available in Turkey. «Tsantalis is one of the biggest wine producers of Greece,» said Spyros Hatzianastas, Tsantalis’s distributor in Turkey. When the label first hit the Russian market four years ago it sold 1 million bottles in its first year of sales. Although Hatzianastas is not aiming that high, he believes the potential for their wine in the Turkish market is great. In its first month, he and his colleagues have nearly sold their target of 5,000 bottles per month in the first year. The entrepreneurial move into the domain of wine sales, highly regulated and taxed in Turkey, started when one of Hatzianastas’s co-workers asked a rhetorical question. «He asked me, ‘Could we sell Greek wines in Turkey?’» said Hatzianastas. The distributor originally thought of bringing a unique taste to Turkey, Retsina, a wine with a strong resin flavor. Interested in the Turkish market, Tsantalis agreed. As Turkey’s wine industry is trying to make its wines more palatable to both tastes and pockets with the production of cheaper bottles of better-tasting wine, keeping the prices down was a challenge for Hatzianastas and his partners. It took 15 months for the wine to get state approval and the wines that are very affordable in Greece received a 189 percent price increase after they cleared customs. «In the end, Halkidiki (one of the Tsantalis labels) was inexpensive compared to other imported wines at 20 Turkish new lira (YTL) after taxes,» said Hatzianastas. Varieties for all tastes Turkish customers can find a semisweet wine called Imiglikos, a high-quality dry red called Rapsani and Halkidiki, a white table wine made of Roditi and Sauvignon Blanc and a red made of Xinomavro and Merlot. Roditi and Xinomavro are two Greek grape varieties. The wines are not yet available in supermarkets, but they can be found at select delicatessens and restaurants around town as well as the distributor’s cellar in Beyoglu’s Tunel area. Although Tsantalis wines did not enter the Turkish market with a big bang, Hatzianastas believes they will attract the attention of wine lovers and establishments will restock the product. «We didn’t start very dynamically, but we are slowly entering,» said Hatzianastas. The next step for Tsantalis will be to increase the varieties of products sold to include other types of wines, Retsina, ouzo (a Greek type of raki) and Tsipouro (a liquor like raki without anise). So far customers prefer the Halkidiki label because of the taste and price. In Turkey Tsantalis wines can be found at Ada restaurant on Asmali Mescit Sokak in Beyoglu’s Tunel. The restaurant is co-run by Hatzianastas and Deniz Barin, who started the business together to sell local boutique wines but mainly distribute Tsantalis. The idea was to let customers taste wines before they bought them. From cellar to restaurant «Then we thought, ‘Let’s install tables and serve cheese with the wine.’» Soon they added cheese and chocolate fondues and had a Mediterranean menu to accompany the wines, and later raki, a customer request. Customers can choose a bottle of wine off the shelf and take it home or drink it at the restaurant for a YTL 10 corkage fee. «Now we sell the cheapest wines and have great quality and range,» said Hatzianastas.