The history of the boutique winery Domaine Costa Lazaridi starts in Drama with a group of good friends and some glasses of wine.
The secret is in the vine, only a good vineyard can give a good wine – Costas Lazaridis
It was 1975 when Costas Lazaridis, a professional stonemason in those days, decided to leave the foreign lands forever and return to his hometown, Drama, in northern Greece.
The art of stonemasonry helped him to earn a decent living in Germany. This was also the ‘art’ the Lazaridis family was known for in that neck of the woods.
In the beautiful city of Drama he reunited with family and friends as well as some 10 hectares of land which he had inherited from his predecessors.
It was like a sudden love affair, the relationship that Costas developed with the land. He loved his wine sessions with his friends and relatives and he decided to make his own mellow liquid passion a reality.
And so he did, without imagining that one day his wines would travel from Drama to the five corners of the world.
“It was, and remains, his great love,” says Gerasimos Lazaridis, son of Costas, who recently visited Australia to promote the wines of Domaine Costas Lazaridis in Australia.
“From the moment he saw his vines to fruit and the liquid nectar fill the barrels, my father developed a thirst beyond wine. He wanted to learn more and more about it. Initially winemaking was a labour of love destined to fill the glasses of friends and relatives.”
But… “in the late ’80s he realised that it was possible for him to expand”.
It was in 1992 that Costas entered the world of commercial wine production, establishing his company Domaine Costa Lazaridi and opening ‘Chateau Julia’ in Adriani, Drama.
He started with a shy 10 hectare vineyard and today Domaine Costa Lazaridi accounts for more than 200 hectares of vineyards, cultivating Greek and international varieties of vines.
“We maintain low yields to ensure the best possible quality of raw material. This is very important and paramount for us in order to maintain the good name our wines have all over the world.”
And the quality of Costas’ wines is confirmed by the fact that his estate has an extensive collection of over 700 awards and distinctions to show, among them many gold medals, won in some of the biggest and most prestigious competitions in the world.
Five families, one secret
Amethystos white, Amethystos rose and Amethystos red were the first wines that introduced Domaine Costa Lazaridi in the wine market. That was back in 1992. Today the estate produces five families of wines; Amethystos, Chateau Julia, Domaine Costa Lazaridi, Oenodea and Oenotria Land.
In addition to the above, in a modern distillery Domaine Costa Lazaridi also produces the Idoniko Tsipouro (Greek grappa) – named after the ancient inhabitants of the area, the Idones, the Methexis grape spirits from moscato, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, and the aged Methexis Cigar from sauvignon blanc.
And at the end of 2006, another family of products was introduced, the Aceto Botanico, along the lines of the Italian balsamic vinegar.
Alongside its success in the Greek market, the company put great emphasis on exports. As a result of their initially challenging, but today, very rewarding business strategy, their wines now travel to Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Switzerland, Austria, Cyprus and Albania, as well as the United States, Canada, China, Brazil, Singapore and Australia.
“From the 50,000 bottles that we were producing in the mid-’90s, we have now reached 700,000,” says Gerasimos Lazaridis, who with his brother George represents the new blood in the company.
He adds that the challenge to win and maintain a good presence in markets such as those of France and Brazil – difficult markets to penetrate due to the high local wine production – was not really a herculean task…
“We have a great advantage in these markets. The consumer knows and appreciates a good wine. Our product was, is, and remains the passport that ensured our successful journey there,” says Gerasimos.
Haritos Maronikolakis, public relations manager of Domaine Costa Lazaridi, adds that Domaine Costa Lazaridi is, in relation to its exporting operations, amongst the top ten boutique winemaking companies of Greece.
We cannot pinpoint one particular factor that contributed to this success – or can we?
“The secret is in the vine,” says Gerasimos.
“Only a good vineyard can give a good wine. No matter how much effort an oenologist will put into perfecting a wine, if the raw material is not of the best possible quality, the product will be inferior,” says Gerasimos.
“We are self-sufficient and not dependent on others. We don’t buy grapes from other producers. We don’t import grapes from abroad. We control the production of wine from the first to last point,” he says.
And as if these quality safeguards are not enough, Domaine Costa Lazaridi works hand in hand with some of the world’s most famous names in wine consultancy. One of them being Michel Rolland.
Try once and love it forever
Domaine Costa Lazaridi has introduced six types of white and red wine to the Australian market. The challenge to create a worthwhile presence in the Australian market is not new to the Greek winemaking company.
But Mr Maronikolakis does not want to elaborate on the challenges; he prefers to talk about the advantages.
“Essentially, selling wine is more or less dealing with people at a pleasant time. Because wine is a product that creates pleasant moments and is closely connected with some of our most enjoyable experiences. So it is easy to market it in that respect.
“Then our other big advantage is the fact that the product is just excellent. The hard part for us is the first test. And this is the work we are trying to achieve with our visit in Australia,” he says, adding that the first signs are very positive.
“We did a number of wine tasting events around Australia and the response was excellent. Our policy in entering the markets abroad has a Greek colour.
Greeks are everywhere in the world. The Greek consumers have a much greater emotional, I may say, attachment to the product. And when this emotional attachment is materialised and confirmed with a quality product the rest is easy.
“We owe a huge thank you to the Greek diaspora in Australia and in other parts of the world. This diaspora are the people who have supported us in our baby steps in every new market we have entered,” he concludes.
The wines Domaine Costa Lazaridi are imported into Australia by the diaspora company Tyrnavos Imports.