A legendary importer: Peter Goossens, Belgium
Importer of the Month
This Belgian company imports award winning wines and spirits from 17 countries, but Hungary has its own “menu” on the webshop – which clearly means a special focus. And indeed, the story of Global Wineries started with a passionate sommelier, who 30 years ago decided to work with Hungarian wines.
Some of the Hungarian wineries at Global Wineries: A Gere Winery (Villány), Etyeki Kúria (Etyek), Pannonhalma Archabbey (Pannonhalma), Tornai Winery (Somló), Vylyan Winery and Vineyards (Villány)
A charming, true gentleman with great sense of humour and always with the sparkle of youth in his eyes – even though after we last met, he hurried home to his grandchildren. Peter Goossens would deserve the highest award from the appropriate wine body of Hungary, until it happens, I will do my best to tell him how grateful we are for his three decades of trust and passion.
I first met him during the first Hungarian Wine Summit, for which I was in charge of inviting foreign professionals. Besides my existing numerous contacts, I tried to find new ones (new for me), so I did my homework, searched a lot and among others I found Global Wineries. I sent an email to not a lesser person, but the founder, co-owner, Mr Peter Goossens himself, and he replied immediately! I had not known at that time, that he is undoubtedly a legend in the scenery of Hungarian wine export.
Then we met again, when Peter attended the Franc & Franc Forum in Villány, the international celebration of Cabernet Franc variety. We had more time to chat, we also had several glasses of beer to relax – after the hard days of tasting gorgeous red wines.
When Peter arrived for the Franc & Franc event, I was waiting for him at the airport. We had some time to kill, so I asked him if he wants a coffee or water. He did so – he asked for a beer. I was happy to join him. “So how did it all start” – I asked the obvious question. Peter then explained that after a successful career as a sommelier in Antwerp, he decided to launch his own business. “At some point every sommelier wants to create his own enterprise with the previously gained knowledge.” – he explained. Peter came to Hungary because a friend’s friend suggested this unknown country, and he bought his first lot of wines. “It was a disaster, those wines were made by large companies of the Communist era, the wines were mass produced, in most cases they were even faulty, oh my God how much problem we had!”.
However, the first bad experience did not discourage him, Peter Goossens and his colleague came back and they visited the Budapest Wine Festival, it must have been the 1st or 2nd edition, because back then it took place in the centre of the capital, at Vörösmarty square (nowadays it is held in the Castle of Buda). They tasted and met the most famous winemakers who emerged from nowhere after the collapse of the Communist regime. The tasting was followed by several visits to the wine regions, the portfolio grew and grew.
A 100-euro Hungarian wine? Why not!
Later during the Franc & Franc conference and its side events, we visited Attila Gere, one of the pioneers of Villány wine region. It was there, when the nature and the value of the relationship between the exporter and the winemaker became visible for me: there was mutual trust, there was friendship, there was fun.
Attila Gere was showing us the Attila, the icon wine, as a barrel sample, different vintages. He recalled the year when they first released this top blend. They positioned it high and asked 100 euros for it. Peter Goossens was sceptical, but then he had to admit: fine wines can work in the Belgian market, even if they come from Hungary. It was clear that Peter and his team does something very well. I was eager to hear more, but in Villány there was so much to taste, to see, to hear, so I could not ask everything. Therefore, I sent some more questions to Peter, below you can find these questions and answers.
– Now, looking back to 30 years of work with Hungarian wines, what do you think the key is for the success of Global Wineries with Hungarian wines?
– After so many years it is still a nice market. When our sales team want to visit a new customer and they say that they are not interested, our sales person starts to talk about our Hungarian wines – that usually opens some more doors. Also, in the gastronomy sommeliers like putting our Hungarian wines as a “recommended wine” in a menu.
– I can see that you have a really wide range of Hungarian wines. Some importers are afraid of having more and more products, they think that too many brands may “cannibalize” each other. How do you see it?
– Yes, we have a wide range, but (almost) all wineries are from different wine regions. I was very determined to import wines from different regions of Hungary. And from each region, we looked for the greatest winemakers – for example in Villány I chose Atilla Gere. He is a great person and we had a “click together”. After some years we started to import also from Vylyan (another estate from Villány), because they had some other grapes and a different style. Certainly, there are more great wine producers in Villány, like Bock and Tiffán, but now have quite a nice amount of wines from the region and it is enough. We follow the same strategy for the other wine regions.
– How about the Vylyan wines with artistic labels? Do your customers find them an extra? A “pro” for the wine?
– To be frank, our clients go more for the taste than for the labelling. We don’t have a lot of reactions. I think outside of Hungary it is difficult to measure that.
– Apart from Attila Gere, Pannonhalma Archabbey seems to represent another significant part of your Hungarian portfolio. Why are the Abbey wines successful in Belgium (apart from being outstanding, of course)?
– We have been working with this estate from the beginning. Tibor Gál senior was a very good friend and we had a lot of meetings at that time. We have also imported wines of the family winery in Eger. The winemaker of Pannonhalma Archabbey was Zsolt Liptai, one of the first students of Tibor. Their Rhine Riesling and the Pinot Noir were excellent, so it was obvious that we want them in our portfolio.
– During the first Hungarian Wine Summit in 2022 we went to Etyeki Kúria together and following that visit you started to work with them. What triggered you there, what makes Etyeki Kúria wines suitable for your clients?
– I was surprised at the professionalism of the visit. When I tasted the magnum Pinot Noir 2016, I was amazed by the quality–price ratio. The other wines were also clear and correct. Etyeki Kúria wines are made for a wide range of people.
– I can see Tornai Szürkebarát (Pinot Gris), a Mundus Vini gold winner volcanic wine from Somló on your webshop. Does the medal matter to your customers? Or is it more the unique soil of Somló?
– The medals are more interesting for the retail. Tornai Szürkebarát is indeed a unique wine, and yes, the soil is very important there.
– You mentioned that you have two portfolio tastings called Wine Village, when all of the Hungarian wines are available to taste. It is mainly a consumer event, am I correct? Based on the previous editions of this event, what are your experiences? What is the favourite of the Belgian wine lovers?
– This year it will be the 20th anniversary of our Wine Village. We started 20 years ago with a range of 50 wines (also with some Hungarian wines), nowadays more than 600 wines are available to taste during 3 days. Plus, we host more then 80 wineries from all over the world. From Hungary there will be 12 different estates exhibiting. It is an event also for the end consumer but the wholesale people also participate. As for the favourite of the Belgian people? It is hard to say, they have a lot of favourite wines. 😊