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Greek exports rise despite crisis

Greek exports are on the rise as wineries adapt to the economic crisis engulfing the country.

Gaia’s Nemea estate: ‘our products are niche’

Since the beginning of the Greek crisis in October 2009, due largely to the recession in the domestic market, many wineries have been concentrating on exports.

This strategy has paid off: Greek wine exports in 2011 rose 7.5% compared to 2010. Until 2009, around 80% of Greek wine was sold within Greece itself.

‘Greek exports are on the rise according to latest data. This is a sign of optimism,’ Sotiris Ioannou, president of the Greek Interprofessional Organisation of Wine and Vine, told Decanter.com.

The Greek wine sector is supporting individual winemakers’ initiatives by a national wine marketing program of €7m funded by the EU, Ioannou said.

Ted Lelekas, a member of a think-tank advising the Greek wine board on initiatives to stimulate the industry, said he thought the crisis, although ‘difficult and challenging in the short term’ would ‘ultimately be good for Greek wine’ by forcing wineries to be more proactive in the market.

‘Firstly, the wineries become more extrovert, engaging more with social media, taking more interest in road-shows and competitions around the world. At the same time, the Greek wine body has put together a strategic plan spearheading the four indigenous grapes that best represent our terroir and heritage – Assyrtiko, Moschofilero, Agiorgitiko and Xinomavro.

‘We then actively choose the most suitable examples of each one to promote as ambassadors for the industry. This is perhaps the first time that the whole industry has worked together so effectively – and not just with the EU funding, but with wineries’ own funds.’

Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, owner of Gaia wines, winner of two Regional Trophies and a Gold Medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards, with 60% of the production exported, said one of the reasons for wine exports’ success was their quality.

‘Our products, by our very size, are niche, which means they have to be exceptional – and this is now being recognised internationally. At the same time, the banking sector’s ability to give loans is close to zero at this point, and if you are not a solid company, with solid economics, you will not survive.’

Vangelis Gerovassiliou, of Domaine Gerovassiliou (winner of one Gold and six Silver Medals at DWWA), has seen the direct impact of the domestic collapse.

‘Our winery is very well known in Greece, but our domestic wine range has lost between 20-50% of customers over the past few years. The Greek market is now focusing on cheaper wines, so we are looking overseas. Our exports to the UK, for example, have gone up 100% over the past year alone.’

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