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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 20 December 2014
18 SATURDAY 20 DECEMBER 2014 Greek Geia mas! beverages are all part of the Christmas festivities JOHN PYRROS With Christmas approaching, people are rushing to ‘their local’ to stock up before festivities begin - and Greeks are no exception. Alcohol has long played a part on the traditional celebratory Greek table, from a glass of retsina, a beer by the souvla, or a tsikoudia to help with digestion. But customary Greek tastebuds are now going through a ‘spiritual’ change with an influx of Greece’s premium wine products hitting more shelves, due in part to its climate, that has seen a general push for greater global recognition. Traditionally the Greek market has consisted of large table wines - from a two-to-five litre range - but now boutique, top-shelf quality products are becoming the norm. And with that, Greek ‘beverage, spirit and vinegar’ imports to Australia have increased by 18.23 per cent (between 2013 and 2014), according to statistics from the Hellenic Consulate in Sydney. Driven primarily by these premium wines - red being the most popular - and premium spirits, with upmarket ouzo brands like Barbayanni and Con Ipermachou, a sales consultant at one of Australia’s largest Greek wine and spirit importers, Miloway, whose family company has served the community for over 30 years, tells Neos Kosmos that traditionally alcohol sales double during the festive season. “It’s usually a tradition that a lot of Greek families go out with sweets from the cake shop and they’ll take a bottle of wine for the table. Ouzo, brandy and beer sales go up, people have their barbecues, so all aspects of alcohol tend to sell. Especially the Commandarias, which is like a Cypriot port or masticha liquor, which they give out for presents as well. All alcohol goes usually at Christmas time.” Con firmly believes Christmas and Greek beverages go handin-hand and his family-run business has embraced that quality with its products. “It’s got to be on every Greek table, it’s just a part of the festivities. There’s not a barbecue where someone is not holding a beer or you see on tables people pouring some wine, or even an ouzo at the end of a meal, it’s really quite important - it plays a big part. And it’s really, I think ... it’s part of tradition. We do a lot of Christmas hampers here, and we put a bottle of wine in there with some figs and chocolates, it’s so popular, the Greeks really love to give at Christmas time. When I was younger, we used to look forward to Christmas, because we would have all our cousins, aunties, uncles, pappou and yiayia and it was one big happy family. And I remember my parents back then bringing in a box of beer or a box of wine into the house and everyone drank it up and it was just a peaceful, happy way.” Increasingly, brands like Nico Lazaridi (Drama and Kavala) and Skouras Wines (Peloponnese) are becoming more popular, along with other wineries in Greece’s northern regions, which make for great gifts, he says. “Drama and Kavala are starting to produce some really excellent wines, it’s more like a French style grape, the climate there is suitable for a sauv blanc or a chardonnay or a cabernet sauvignon. Then you’ve got close to Peloponniso, Nemea, which is famous for the agiorgitiko grape, a red indigenous grape which is found only in that part of Greece. We have a lot of people asking us (about wines) from Santorini, and then you get a lot of people asking us about wines from Crete.” Approximately 80 per cent of Miloway’s wine supply is to Australia’s Greek restaurants and cafés, while the remainder is concentrated on non-Greek businesses, in an effort to grow the Greek supply chain. “If you’ve got some really premium wines ... that are up there ... why shouldn’t we show them? Why shouldn’t we wave the flag? They’re great! I have a lot of meetings with non-Greek restaurants that hear about the wines, especially the Nico Lazaridi wines because they’re a very French style, and a lot of Aussie consumers can relate to them. If we give them an indigenous grape like a moschofilero, which is a white A popular Greek favourite. PHOTO: FLICKR/OUZO ALPHA.
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