I receive continuous enquiries from abroad for updates in regards to the situation in the local Greek wine market. Please read this article on Wine Searcher for an overview on how things were four months ago.
The diminishing demand from consumers for bottled wine keeps in tandem with the ongoing collapse of the Greek economy seen during the last few months. Disposable income is shrinking further, and bottled wine, even at reduced prices, is viewed as an extravagance by most consumers.
I went to my local supermarket earlier today, which was crowded with shoppers who just returned from their August vacation. The only deserted area was the wine department, where a larger number of wines than ever before were heavily discounted.
I visited a number of wineries over the last weeks and some discussions are still fresh in my mind:
The owner of a family owned winery:
“We try to export more of our production. Sadly we got burned very recently, after we decided to expand our distribution network in the US. We shipped a small quantity of our wines to a new contact and received prompt payment. The follow-up order was much larger. We fulfilled it, but never a received a cent – the guy closed down the business and disappeared. Our local sales have plummeted by more than sixty percent. For the last twenty years, we made a decent living out of making and selling wine. We never became rich, but our family was secure. Now I do not know how much longer we can keep the business going.”
The owner of another small winery:
“The local Greek market for bottled wine is dead. Nothing is moving; we are experiencing a complete standstill. We need help to export our wine. I am still improving the quality of my wine year after year. Good winemaking needs a lot of patience. My concern is that I might not have enough time left to reach my potential, as a certain minimum cash flow is needed to stay in the game.”
Some wineries succeed by creating new demand through innovation: The Manousakis winery in Crete also experienced a sharp drop in demand from the Greek market, but Alexandra Manousakis reacted immediately: She changed strategy early last year and shifted her focus to the tourism industry. The winery now offers a number of tour options and receives dozens of visitors on a daily basis throughout the summer months. Apart from direct sales, this has led to an increase in brand equity abroad.
Other producers have created wine ranges that aim specifically at new customer segments. For example, Boutari recently introduced a new line of semi-sweet wines presented in 187 ml bottles, aimed at the younger crowds as an alternative to cocktails.
The next real test will come soon. The Greek market has in the past demanded the release of the new vintages for white wines as soon as possible after harvest. This went hand in hand with the notion that these wines should be consumed within a year. I still see plenty of whites from 2010 and 2011 sitting on the shelves. Perhaps the days of such early releases are over already.