Greek winemakers see crisis as glass half-full

Thu May 17, 2012 10:30pm EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Greek winemakers are not pricing their wares in drachmas - yet.

The winemakers, visiting New York as part of an international promotional tour, doubted Athens would leave the euro-zone even after Fitch Ratings Agency downgraded Greece's sovereign debt on Thursday, calling the country's exit from the monetary union "probable.

"No, no, no. That is not going to happen," Stellios Boutaris, whose family owns the Kir-Yianni winery, insisted. "And if that happens, we will have bigger problems than just pricing wine in drachmas."

Boutaris said he was "a guy who always sees the glass half-full...There have been so many journalists coming to talk about Greek wines because they are looking for a positive story about Greece. And right now, it is."

Attempts in Greece to form a new government collapsed this week, jolting the European single currency on prospects Greek leftists opposed to terms of an EU bailout could win a June election and the country could exit the euro.

The Greek winemakers in New York ranged from big producers to boutique vineyards and one-man shops but all said they wanted Greece to keep the single currency because of the cheaper credit and relative economic stability it brought before the current crisis.

Angelos Iatridis, a University of Bordeaux-trained winemaker who worked harvests in France and Spain before buying his own vineyard, Alpha Estate, in 1999, thought the euro's hovering near its 2012 low of $1.2623 [ID:nL1E8GHCNN] was actually good for Greek winemakers.

"It's good for us because we will be able to sell more wine abroad," Iatridis said, noting that he exports approximately 45 percent of the 300,000 bottles he produces annually.   Continued...

A visitor harvests grapes at a vineyard in Pallini, a few kilometres from Athens, September 14, 2008. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis