GREECE: In vino veritas

Throughout the centuries, people everywhere found solace in the reasonable consumption of wine. In ancient Greece, the wine producing vines had their own deity - Dionysus - while Christianity found in wine a worthy symbol and a substitute for the blood of its founder. It is no wonder then that sooner or later a university survey would examine the importance of wine and its role in the Greek social life.

Such a survey has been conducted in a postgraduate programme of the agricultural economy department at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. The survey looked at the attitude of modern Greek consumers of wine and revealed a number of interesting findings.

The overwhelming majority of the sample (91%) said they consumed wine, which makes it one of the most popular alcoholic beverages. Just over 50% declared that they consumed wine with very high frequency.

Wine drinkers appear to show a great deal of confidence in Greek wines, preferring them (65%) while those who preferred exclusively imported wines comprised only 0.6% - a strong indication the Greek wine market has not been taken over by imported wines to such an extent as in other European countries.

A large proportion of wine consumers, 74%, had tasted imported wines and had a very informed opinion about them but did not prefer them exclusively. France appears to have the lion's share of other Mediterranean wine-producing countries while the 'new world' does not appear as a danger to the traditionally established varieties, at least for the time being.

Just over 84% of those surveyed admitted consuming up to three glasses of wine every time while 68% consumed two glasses and 16% normally consumed four glasses of wine or more.

Red wine was preferred by 48% of those asked about what kind of wine they preferred and 36% said they would prefer white. Resinated wines were preferred by 8% of the sample as opposed to 7% who liked rosé-type wines. Sparkling wines came very low in the consumers' preferences.

The sense of taste was the strongest criterion (44%) to the question "Why do you prefer to consume this particular kind of wine?" The aroma and the sweetness appeared an important consideration in the choice of a specific wine.

The 'occasion' or the particular circumstances were often the main consideration why people chose a specific wine, followed by the wine producing area. On the other hand, price did not appear to be a primary criterion and 71% of those asked said that wine prices were very reasonable.

Beer was the second choice of drink by wine consumers with 27%. Greek ouzo came second behind beer with 24% and whisky third with 16.5%.

The survey involved 400 people from all walks of life: men and women, young and old, from all social groups with different education levels and different socio-economic characteristics. The method involved personal interview and the completion of a questionnaire.

The mild Greek climate is particularly favourable for the cultivation of good varieties of grapes and the country can boast some good wines with the most famous and easily recognisable those from the Ionian and Aegean wine-producing islands, from Samos Island and the famous red St George variety from Nemea in central Peloponissos.

So go on, spoil yourself! It is almost certain the world would appear a lot better and brighter after a few sips of the blessed liquid.