by Markus Stolz

less more?

byMarkus Stolz
October 16, 2012, 1 Comment

Most Greek wineries bottle perhaps a surprisingly large number of different wines. Even small wineries with annual productions of up to 50000 bottles commonly include 5 to 10 offerings in their portfolio. Medium sized companies frequently double this number. The really large players can label more than 60 wines.

What might be some of the factors that determine the strategy of the wineries in regards to how many different wines they produce?

Total annual production: While it holds true that the number of offerings increases with the total annual production, there are very few wineries in Greece that produce less than 5 different labels.

Chosen colour and basic style of offering: Are whites, rosés and red wines produced? Is the style dry, medium sweet and/or sweet? Are sparkling and still wines made?

The number of grape varieties being cultivated or purchased: Many wineries work with a number of different varieties, including indigenous and international ones.

The number of blends being made: A single winery might blend one base variety with different partners and/or in different percentages, resulting in multiple offerings.

Targeting of different price ranges: Entry level wines, medium and premium price segments can be targeted by the same player.

Diverse winemaking techniques: The same grape variety might be able to express different styles, from unoaked fresh and crisp, to oaked medium-bodied and soft, or concentrated and tannic.

Additional reasons might be activities by one winery in different regions/appellations, a special bottling to highlight a single vineyard selection or the age of the vines. Sometimes not all vineyards are classified organic, which again calls for a different label. Lastly, regional traditions might be upheld, as happens for example with Nykteri wines from Santorini, where the grapes are picked before dawn and processed entirely within the same day.

Of all the above, the main two reasons for the relatively large number of wines produced by a single winery are likely the number of varieties they work with, and the resulting blends that are being produced. This is a double edged sword: On the one hand, there has been a lot of experimentation going on, which has led to useful insights and in some cases solid results. The latest example is a very intriguing blend of Xinomavro and Limniona, which I believe will turn heads. At the same time, the market has become crowded with labels and sometimes odd blends that confuse the consumer.  In this category fall a number of blends that consist of multiple international and native varieties. Especially in the export markets, these can be challenging.

I have the nagging feeling that sometimes less is more.

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  1. Yiannis PapadakisOctober 18, 2012, 2:28 pm

    I agree. Each Greek winemaker should focus on what he/she can do best within his/hers specific region, instead of spreading themselves too thin. Experimentation is a good thing, but only the most succesfull efforts should find their way to the market. Another drawback is that despite the large number of labels each winery produces, vineyard-specific Greek wines are very few, so the emphasis is rather on varieties, blends and winemaking technologies than on terroir.