Greek wine and its prospects

«Wine Report 2006,» the latest in a prize-winning series by Tom Stevenson, has a team of specialists reporting from each region. Geneva-based Nico Manessis, who travels extensively in Greece to get the lowdown on every aspect of the wine industry, contributed the Greek section of the report. After the December launch at Eleftheroudakis bookstore, for which Greek Women in Wine held a winetasting, Manessis talked to Kathimerini English Edition. An aficionado of Greek wine, he is also outspoken about the local industry’s need to market an excellent product effectively. «There’s no point relying on the public sector,» he said, citing the failure to capitalize on the promotional opportunities afforded by the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004. «The producers have to get together and come up with five-year plan to promote Greek wine.» With all Greece producing only slightly more wine than Sicily, it clearly does not have the volume to compete with major producers, as Manessis explained. But other strategies could pay off: «The industry should target non-traditional wine markets,» he elaborated. «In India there’s a new middle class, and in Russia. They’ve got money and they want wine now.» There and in China, Manessis sees an opportunity for what he calls «Greek flair.» After all, with the diversity of its terroir, some 300 indigenous grape varieties, and many winemakers investing in innovative methods, Greece has a classy product to sell. It was innovation that Manessis was excited about in January on his return from northern Greece. He extolled forward-looking winemakers who are using technology to boost quality and even shorten ripening time. At Ktima Alpha in Amynteo, for example, weather stations forecast conditions in the vineyard, prompting underground pipes to deliver water as needed. What else could the Greek wine industry do to promote itself on the world stage? Manessis suggests catering to the huge interest in white wines, «which they should make fresher and lighter. They must exploit sparkling wines.» There is a demand for sweet wines, which he agrees have been tweaked for contemporary tastes «but not enough,» in his view. And he’d like to see more attractive, more minimal packaging. Smitten A Corfiot by birth, Manessis got into the wine industry almost by chance when he was studying hotel management in England and took a course on wine. «It was completely circumstantial, but I was smitten,» he recalled. It was the beginning of a lifelong passion. Since then he has worked in virtually every aspect of the trade – production, marketing and sales – in England, France, California and New York. Now he concentrates on writing and in addition to his popular books, «The Greek Wine Guide» (which went into three editions, two of them best sellers) and «The Illustrated Greek Wine Book,» he has written about wine for several publications such as Decanter and The Financial Times. But his next book won’t be about wine. Intrigued by the history of his own family, which can trace its origins back to the time Venice ruled Corfu, Manessis is deep into research for a book about that.

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