ProWein 2012 – Trade article series: Wine business in ...Greece

In former times Greek wine was equated even more strongly than today with the resinated Retsina or the simple, sweet Samos. In the meantime, at least educated wine friends know that Greece has outstanding autochthon varieties such as Agiorgitiko and Xynomavro (red) or Assirtiko, Malagousia, Moschophilero and Roditis (white) and that Samos can be an excellent sweet wine. Wine professionals have also registered the increased cultivation of internationally well-known varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc, which are often blended with domestically produced wines in cuvées.



With its exquisite wines grown by ambitious wine companies, Greece can certainly make the headlines in specialist circles. Because the top-end produce of the country, which gave birth to European wine culture (winegrowing already existed here 4,000 years ago), can definitely hold its own with very good wines in other countries. At times of immense state indebtedness wine is one of the few positive factors in the Greek economy. And it is still one of the hope factors in export business.

In this connection, in 2010, the worldwide volume even increased again from approximately just over 30 million litres to almost 39 million litres. The rise was in particular attributable to the German increase (14 million to 20 million litres), but was to the detriment of revenue, which with just over 26 million Euro, even registered a slight decline (2009: 26.6 million Euro). As a result, the majority of the wine ends up as a value-for-money product on the shelves of the food retail trade but is also to be found in promotions hovering around the sensitive 1.99 mark, but actually never below this figure. After Germany, Italy (almost 5 million litres in 2010), France (3.4 million litres) and the USA (2 million litres) are the most important customers. On the revenue scale America with 6.5 million Euro ranks second ahead of France with 5.3 million Euro, while the Greeks only achieved revenue of 1.6 million Euro in trade with Italy.

In 2012 the Greek wine manufacturers will be showing an even stronger presence than last year at ProWein in Düsseldorf – leading fair for the international wine and spirits sector. The Greek wine producers feel that export success is of vital importance to the wine sector, because in Greece itself wine sales have collapsed due to the economic crisis.

2011 vintage: good quality but smaller harvest
In recent years organic wine growing has developed positively. The reason is mostly the favourable climatic conditions (warm, dry summer, hardly any moisture). An increasing number of companies are switching over at least with part of their space and capacities. Some of them will have regretted this with the current 2011 vintage. Because although it is confirmed as having good quality overall, in some areas of the country such as Crete,  Attika and Viotia there was strong downy mildew (Peronospora) infestation, which – as it is hardly a problem otherwise  – was often not sufficiently dealt with. The result: a decline in the harvest of up to 30 per cent. This automatically lead to an increase in grape prices and thus also the prices on the retail shelves. Nikos Assariotis from Cavino assesses the situation as follows: “This has hit our wine industry at the most inconvenient time, as Greece's current position could lead anyway to buyer’s abroad being reluctant to purchase, and an increase in prices would not be appropriate in this situation.”

Old varieties re-discovered
A special feature in Greece is the comeback of old varieties which almost died out. The white Malagousia is a typical example here. It was rediscovered in the 90s and today enhances collections produced by very good winegrowers as an elegant, fine-aromatic wine. The ancient red wine variety Vradianos was revitalised just a few years ago. The Kellerei Tsantali wine cellars revived the Moscomavro red variety in Macedonia. On Santorini exemplary winegrower Paris Sigalas produced his excellent Mavrotragano red wine. On Crete the versatile white Vidiano impresses, while from the north of the Peloponnes, the Lagorthi is reminiscent of the aromatic Sauvignon blanc. There are even old varieties without a name. The top winegrowing estate Biblia Chora in Thracia discovered an old grape variety in hilly landscape conditions, whose DNA is currently being researched. Previously the vines produced a complex, juicy Rosé.


Author Rudolf Knoll is the editor of VINUM wine magazine and has been a connoisseur of the Greek wine scene for over 25 years, which he has written two books about.


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