Greece has been much in the news lately, and sadly not in a good way. How does Greece’s economic upheaval affect her agriculture? Specifically, how are wines from Greece faring? The answer is mixed and requires us to look both at domestic consumption and exports.
Greek Wine Exports
Greek wine exports do not seem to be floundering, although smaller producers are having it rougher, because it is more difficult to do business. According to CNBC.com, the US and Germany represent the lion’s share of Greece’s wine exports, and their demand has not diminished.
Domestic Consumption of Wines from Greece
On the domestic front, we see several interesting trends. But before exploring these, I want to highlight the fact that domestic consumption accounts for most of the country’s production. In 2009, a full 80% of Greek wine was consumed domestically. The economic downturn has resulted in a heavier focus on exports. Nevertheless, domestic consumption is key to the success of Greek wine.
Now for the trends, starting with one negative, followed by two positives. On the negative side, per capita wine consumption is down seven percent, in part due to people opting for less expensive wine.
On the positive side, according to Cathy Huyghe at Forbes.com, “With … a sense that local products are… less expensive, consumers demanded options in the form of ‘homemade’ or pure wine served in carafes at restaurants… This development has resulted… in a sharp increase of wine bars and by-the-glass consumption,” which has encouraged experimentation and conversation about wine.
Also on the positive side, due to higher taxes on hard alcohol, wine is showing up in increasingly more clubs.
The History of Wines from Greece
How has Greek wine fared historically? The current crisis is not the worst this ancient culture has had to overcome. At one time Greeks were arguably the world’s premier wine producers. With thousands of years of experience, it isn’t surprising that they were also energetic wine exporters, not only of bottles but also of vines. Vine DNA testing around the world reveals ancestry from the southeastern corner of Europe.
Why is Greece not at the forefront of wine excellence today? War and turmoil over the centuries, coupled with 500 years of Turkish rule where wine drinking was prohibited, account for Greece’s falling behind in wine dominance. When wine started making a comeback, Greece unfortunately was not spared from the phylloxera epidemic.
Today, however, due to modern technology and focused attention, Greece’s wine industry is rebounding with signs of becoming a world force. Tourism is greatly aiding wine consumption, especially in the more visited areas like Santorini. Also in her favor, Greece lies on a latitude like California’s, with that dreamy Mediterranean climate, rocky mineral soil, and mountainous terrain that supports wine grapes so beautifully.
Hopefully I’ve piqued your interest in exploring Greek wines. Next time I’ll introduce you to a few of the most popular.