CULTURE

More affordable, improved wines

It is the ongoing crisis which led Krisi, Dama Koupa, Akres and Mosaic, Greek quality wines carrying a less-than-5-euro price tag, to the dinner table. When wine producers trying to survive in hard times were faced with the dilemma of selling cheaper wine or not selling at all, the choice was an obvious one.

Despite the crisis — or perhaps because of it — local wine consumption has remained steady. What is being observed, however, is that wine consumers are turning to more affordable bottles as well as unbottled wine.

?The consumption of bottled wine in the over-10-euro category is displaying a drop of 30 to 40 percent,? Angelos Rouvalis, president of the Greek Wine Federation, told Kathimerini.

At the same time, low-cost wines have either maintained their sales figures or increased them. An example is the Domaine Hatzimichalis Prima Terra 2010 white wines which went out of stock last summer. Their success points to the fact that wine lovers have not abandoned their habits but prefer nowadays to drink budget wines at home.

?Consumers who used to buy 10-euro bottles are now purchasing 7-euro bottles of wine. Those who used to buy unbottled wine are now going for cheaper unbottled wine,? said Costas Bakalis, the owner of a wine store in central Athens. According to Bakalis, sales in the over-20-euro-a-bottle category have gone down by about 25 percent.

If the development of more affordable wines was somewhat imposed in the current climate, the question that arises is why wine producers had up to now insisted on higher priced products.

?Until now the pricing of wine was based on its estimated quality, as opposed to the cost of production,? noted Rouvalis, adding that the time has come for wine producers to offers products at cost price, if not lower, in order to survive.

Winemaker Giorgos Skouras, whose lower-priced Akres selection hit the market before the holiday season in December last year, echoes the same sentiment. ?Thinking consumers lead winemakers to do some of their own thinking as well,? he said.

One factor which allows for lower pricing is the fact that these winemakers had already made infrastructure investments, meaning that the costs of running their vineyards and wineries are now reduced. While new products maintain the winemakers? quality standards, they are less expensive in terms of production and bottling.

Lowering production costs can be achieved in a number of ways and is determined by a number of factors, such as whether the grapes come from mountainous vineyards which require extra manual work, for instance. Aging is another factor: If a winemaker is producing a wine which has to age for a period of three years, for instance, he is looking at five years before he starts earning an income from that particular product.

Winemaker Paris Sigalas recently unveiled Krisi (Crisi), white and red wines which for the time being have limited distribution.

?I used to produce unbottled wine, which I have now upgraded through combining it with fine quality wine and coming up with a more affordable product. I?m trying to adjust to the current situation and there is definitely a risk involved,? said Sigalas.

A similar effort is being made in Goumenissa by Evangelos Chatzivaritis, whose Mosaic wine is sold at 4 euros a bottle. Mosaic is based on four different wine varieties, a process which, according to the winemaker, allows for lower prices as well as an opportunity to play with flavors and aromas.

It also allows for more freedom price-wise, something which might prove particularly productive during these tough times.