By LINCOLN SILIAKUS
Last year, the value of Australian wine exports fell by 18% in value, and 11% in volume.
The fall in value to the UK was 18% and to the US 26%.
It’s not just the crisis. Oversupply of grapes has held down prices, and quality was affected by heatwaves and drought.
The Aussies are also suffering from their image as makers of easy drinking, predictable plummy varietal wines.
Some are even talking up the glories of their soils. Having sneered at it for years, are they now going to use the dreaded “T” word?
Meanwhile, I have been judging for the Wine Producers Association for the northern Greekvineyard in Thessaloniki…
Although the Greeks have been making wine for quite a while — they introduced it to the French in the Rhône valley several centuries before Christ did his trick at the Cana wedding feast — they have only just started making fine wine again.
Modern Greek tipplers prefer international varieties to Greek ones, which is fine if their winemakers are not exporting. But who outside of Greece would be interested in Greek Merlot? No, they have to promote their own grape varieties, many of which are very exciting.
But watch out! If they go the Aussie route and push varieties at the cost of « location », they will dig themselves into a similar hole. The Aussies spent millions pushing the message that, essentially, you can make good wine anywhere with the right technology. They may now have to spend even more convincing the world that, er, well yes: they do have great terroir (which they do!).
The Greeks can avoid that trap. After all, unlike the Aussies, they have their own varieties like Xinomavro and Assyrtico, which come from clearly defined regions. And regional names might be a lot easier for overseas consumers to pronounce than the grape name.
I may be sounding French, but it’s the only way to go!
Yes, obviously I agree. It will not be easy, but I think that the general reputation of Greece (its history, culture, geography and the easy-going nature of its people) is so good that Greek winemakers will be able to differentiate themselves by the sophisticated use of Greek varieties. Here’s hoping! It’s not just a question of using local varietals – it’s a question also of contextualising them, matching them to the right soils, applying the correct techniques. Call this terroir if you like, but it’s the way ahead!
I feel the big difference between a wine and a beverage is that beverage is produced according to the consumer and wine according to the climate and microclimate and tradition of the region. In Greece as in many countries where wine was neglected for many years, consumers associated low quality wine to the local grape varieties. A wave of quality was introduced in Greece in late 70s and they had to use an easy marketing trick to make the consumer to feel as if he was drinking suddenly a quality wine. They so used the «international varietals » and produced beverages to make the Greeks to drink those new brands. I personally think that in that trap not only Greeks were trapped but the whole of new world and they are now producing alcoholic beverages with no regional character. Greek varietals are THE most big weapon to fight the international competition as well the local varietals of each country.
i had been lately to Napa Valley and discussed with American wine producers. Almost all of them told me that their dream was to produce a « French style wine ».
The question now is why should i buy an expensive American wine (because on the top they were very expensive) out of French varietals that tries to resemble to a French wine and not THE French wine with most probably a better price that is not a massively produced wine that is reflecting the local character.
So a part of Greek producers is acting is in the new world but with little means to compete the international competition, and another part that is struggling to persuade people to try the Greek varietals as something eccentrics, traditional and that can surprise because of its different character, that requires as well a very big effort but can invest on that.