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by Markus Stolz

Greek
wine industry

byMarkus Stolz
February 8, 2010, 5 Comments

The cultivation of vines in Greece reaches back to antiquity. Some of the earliest references to wine come from the poetry of Homer. Yet, few people are aware of just how young the current Greek wine industry really is.

  • Most of Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire from the 15th century until its declaration of independence in 1821. Under the Ottoman rule alcohol consumption came to a halt and the art of viticulture died out.
  • The next decades gave rise to the Corianthiaki, a grape variety that is used to produce raisins. Phylloxera reached the country in 1898, and Greece became heavily involved in the two world wars. Shortly thereafter, the Greek Civil War was fought between 1946 and 1949.
  • During the 1960s, wine sales were dominated by bulk wine, and Retsina became the national drink.
  • In the 1970s, bottled wine became common. Just a handful of big players dominated the market. This decade also saw a significant number of boutique wineries entering the wine scene.
  • During the 1980s many more small businesses were set-up, and a number of different growing areas became the home of these soon to become top growers.
  • The 1990s truly established the pioneers of the 70s and 80s. During this last decade of the century, quite a few winemakers who had been employed set-up their own wineries.
  • Finally, the last decade witnessed the birth of many new estates, and the involvement of a new generation of winemakers who are not afraid to push even harder towards the best possible quality.

Given the fact that the “modern” Greek wine industry has only been truly shaped over the last two decades, it can be expected that the best is yet to come.

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  1. Thomas PellechiaFebruary 9, 2010, 4:31 pm

    Markus,

    I remember visiting Samos, Rhodos and Athens in 1975 and drinking bottled white wines with names like Pallini, Rhodos, and Lindhos that were fantastic. Then, I was young and exploring, and I had no idea what the grapes were, but I was lucky to be there when things were beginning to happen.

    It was the same period that I lived in Tehran for two years, where, before the ’79 revolution, you could buy Iranian-produced Riesling and a few decent reds.

    The trip was a massive revelation that ultimately was responsible for my eventual shift out of one life and into the wine business.

  2. elloinosFebruary 9, 2010, 4:39 pm

    Thomas, great to hear from you. You are one of the very few people I know that have “tracked” Greek wines for a such a long period of time. You were certainly on the inside when things started to happen! I always enjoy when you share your views.

  3. Thomas PellechiaFebruary 10, 2010, 2:40 am

    Oh, but Markus, I was there and didn’t know at the time that I was on the cusp of big changes. Had I known, I might have stayed and done what you are doing now. But I was young and dumb, and although I had learned a little Farsi, I could not speak Greek!!!

  4. elloinosFebruary 25, 2010, 7:25 pm

    Kosta, thanks for sharing, the article is a great read and holds much truth!