California Dreaming Festival, which was held in the Sheraton Hotel in Warsaw, May 24, was the largest presentation of Californian wine in Poland.
Californian wines began to appear on the Polish market at the beginning of the 1990s. Such names as Sutter Home, Paul Masson and Ernest & Julio Galio have already become popular among wine connoisseurs who do not have very deep pockets. More expensive and luxurious kinds, such as products of Sequoia Grove and Paul Allen vine-yards, are graduatly appearing on the market. More and more Poles are also starting to have a taste for Californian Zinfandel young wines which were completely unknown in Poland a few years ago.
The research on Polish consumers’ preferences indicates clearly that the participation of lighter alco-hol, such as beers and wines, is considerably grow-ing. Poland, which the West has traditionally associated with a country of consumers preferring vodka to other drinks, is becoming to be perceived as a potential market for wines, including the most expensive ones. In restaurants in Warsaw, Cracow, Gdańsk and Poznań one can already find even rare, vintages wines.
It is not surprising that a large group of representatiyes of 18 Californian vineyards came to Warsaw. Ten of them were accompanied by Polish partners they have gained in recent years, the exclusive importers of their products.
Visitors to the California Dreaming Festival had a chance (at least in theory) to taste in total over 300 kinds of noble pota-bles from California. Before the four-hour-long festival started vineyards and media representatiyes were received at a lunch in the residence of Christopher Hill, the ambassador of the United States in Warsaw. He also formally opened the festiyal.
“The turnout was spectacular, much better than we expected,” said Walt Marx, regional director for export sales of Canandaigua Wine Company. “I am sure we will come back to Poland soon, with a wider representation of Californian wineries,” he added.
The optimism shown by Mara, who has spent 35 years in the wine trade in many places all over the world, was shared by his Polish partner in business Krzysztof Apostolidis, president of Partner Center Sp. z o.o., a wine importing company from Łódź. In Apostolidis’ opinion many new wines from California could appear on the Polish market in the coming years. Apostolidis has success-fully introduced very popular non-vintage Paul Masson white, red and rose wine in charac-teristic carafe-shaped bottles into Poland.
The problem of imported wine salesmen, just as in the case of any other alcohol imported to Poland, has consisted of very high taxes and excise duty. This is the reason for a para-doxical situation when it is much cheaper to buy wines not only in the Czech Republic, but also, for example, in Austria and Germany. Wine producers also strongly crtticize Polish regulations concerning alcohol adyertising which are much more restrictive than, forexample, U.S. regulations.
There is some doubtful consolation for wine producers in the fact that for obvious reasons it is much more diffi-cult to fake their products than, for example, vodka and whisky.
Hopes for favorable chan-ges in tax law and in regulations on advertising are brought by Poland’s forthcoming accession to the European Union. Many yisitors of the Warsaw festiyal even said they were going to maintain and reinforce their position on the Polish market in the next months even at the cost of much smaller profits than any-where else, in order to fully profit later from a predicted buy-ing boom after Poland joins the EU.
This is the reason why eight large groups of producers who were present at the festiyal – Delicato Family Vineyards, the California Group, Worldwide Wine Seryices, Ironstone Vineyards, Vin-de-Cal International, J.Lohr Winery, Stonehedge Winery and Seghesio Family Vineyards are look-ing for regional partners to represent them in Poland.
For Craig A. Rosser, director of the international diyision of J.Lohr Winery, the trip to Warsaw was an occasion to look for potential distributors. “The Polish market seems to be very promising; we have to establish good business contacts here,” he said. Rosser, who stopped in Warsaw en route to similar events in Hong Kong and later Tokyo, used the festiyal as an occasion to visit the country of his ancestors; “My mother is Polish by birth, she is now 91, but this morning I called her and we talked about how Warsaw looks now; I also sent her a cou-ple of postcards,” he said.
In the eyening, the California Fusion Party held in the halls of the Sheraton Hotel closed the festiyal.
Media patrons of the California Dreaming Festiyal included The Warsaw Voice, Gazeta Wyborcza, Kuchnia and Świat Win.