The growing popularity of Eastern Mediterranean wine

Wine from the Eastern Mediterranean isn’t always at the forefront of consumers’ minds. However, the region that goes from Lebanon to Croatia is home to many different types of wine. And it’s becoming more popular, thanks to new coverage in the World Atlas of Wine, the most recent edition of which has devoted pages to wine from Israel, Lebanon and Cyprus for the first time.

How is Eastern Mediterranean wine selling internationally?

Greece sells more internationally than the other countries from the region. For example, there has been an upsurge in popularity of wines from Santorini. In 2019, approximately two million hectolitres (each hectolitre = 100 litres) of wine was made in Greece.

From this volume, approximately 90% comes from the 200 grapes indigenous to the country. Around 13% of the total wine volume produced in Greece is exported internationally, and it’s worth about £71 million (82.6 million Euros).

Santorini wines are finally shifting into the fine wine bracket with prices equivalent to those of high-quality white Burgundy. This burgeoning interest in wines from Santorini is likely to have a knock-on effect for collectors and sommeliers.

Georgian wine is exporting more than ever before

Georgia, located at the apex of Europe and Asia is also increasing wine exports. In the second half of 2019, UK based importer Berkmann Wine Cellars began listing wine from a Georgian producer called Tbilvino.

According to data from the Wine Agency of Georgia, in the 12 months leading up to October 2019, Georgian wine exports increased by 20% in value and 11% in volume. It is exported to 50 different countries, with recently opened markets including Sweden, Germany, the UK, the US and Japan. Georgia exports the highest volume of wine to the Ukraine and Russia, with China in third. Interest from Scandinavia, the UK and the US is also increasing the growth of wine from this region.

Turkish wines, while traditionally not particularly successful in international markets, are also kickstarting growth plans. Varieties such as Narince made from an aromatic white grape, and Papakarasi, which makes soft fruity reds have potential for export markets.

Romanian and Israeli wines

There is also an untapped export market for Romanian wine. Philip Cox is the commercial director for Cramele Recas, the largest wine producer in the country. He says that Romania has huge potential thanks to its lengthy history of wine making, and fascinating local varieties. He also says that the country’s ‘flexible legislation’ allows wine producers to pick and choose from a vast range of varieties. Add this to relatively cheap land, low living costs and you have the ingredients for a very successful export market.

Philip says: “[Romania] now has one of the most modern wine industries in Europe, with more than 200 new wineries built in the past decade.” The producer exports to 23 countries, and is nationally distributed in Myanmar, South Korea and Japan.

Over in Israel there is no official wine group pushing for exports. However, there is an unofficial group of wine producers working together to export increasing amounts to the UK wine market.

 

The group is led by Morris Herzogf from Kedem Europe, a specialist in Israeli wine. He believes the biggest challenge is to change people’s perceptions of wine from Israel. He points out that recently sommeliers and wine aficionados are discovering that there are many high-quality wines from the region.

 

Various London restaurants have become buyers for Israeli wine, and professionals are increasingly using it to match the cuisine from the region as it becomes more popular. Winemaker Faouzi Issa heads up the oldest commercial winery in Lebanon, which is called Domaine des Tourelles. He says that the UK is their main market and that: “… consumers [in the UK] are very open to discovering new wines, particularly those with an interesting story.”

 

His wines now reach 25 countries, and over the last ten years his export volumes have increased eight times. However, despite the undoubted increase in exports for wines from the Eastern Mediterranean, it’s likely that they will remain niche for the meantime, and won’t be named on any 2020 wine trends lists. For now, only wines from Georgia, Hungary, Romania and Greece are included on the International Organisation for Vin and Wine (OIV)’s list of countries that make more than one million hectolitres a year.

Delicious Greek wines ideal for summer time

While some wine lovers like to match their bottle with food, others like to match with the season. As we transition into summer, it’s time to seek out some wines to enjoy in the warmer weather. And one way is to turn to regions that are used to basking in the sun.

Greek wines might not be your first choice for a summer tipple, but there is something about the tastes of the Aegean that are ideal for hot weather.

 

Greek wines for summer

Early spring is when we can see summer just over the hill, and the warmer weather is an ideal match with Greek wines, particularly white. Wines like Avantis Estate White, Evia, Greece 2018, for example, are packed with flavours and hints of summer.

Most Greek whites share the same aromatic breeziness, with hints of thyme, orange blossom, lemon and honeysuckle that will transport you to a Greek taverna in the Mediterranean sunshine, This particular wine does all of this and more, thanks to its blend of Muscat, assyrtiko and viognier grapes from the Greek island of Evia, lending the wine a fragrant, lemony stone-fruit flavour. Serve it with an al fresco dinner of feta, olive and lemony dressed salad and you’ll feel the warmth of the Greek sun, even in England!

 

International wines using Greek grapes

Assyrtiko is a grape that has become popular with wine makers in other countries too. For example, there is a tensile version of the Greek grape in the Clare Valley in Australia. Back in Greece, Santorini is home to some delicious examples, inlcuding Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko 2018, Atlantis Santorini 2017 and Gaia Estate Wild Ferment Assyrtiko 2017, which is very like Chablis.

While whites seem perfect for summer, Greek red wines are also worth including on your shopping list. Local Greek grape varieties make standout wines, with xinomavro being used to make Thymiopoulos Jeunes Vignes Xinomavro 2017 in Naoussa. This tastes of a mix of warm herbs and slightly tangy red berries. It calls to mind Languedoc and Burgundy but with its very own Greek feel.

You can also find some lovely wines that use Greek grapes in their mix. For example, Skouras Synoro mixes aghiorghitko, merlot and cabernet franc for a delicate and fine Greek claret. It’s very food friendly, so not only is it a good match for any time of the year, it’s perfect with a rich lamb dish flavoured with rosemary and garlic.