Distribution of Wine in Greece

Practical Guide

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Opportunities of the wine market in Greece

Greece is undoubtedly a complex economy; a fact with tremendous repercussions for its market. The country scores poorly on a number of widely used business and investment climate scorecards, reflecting a commercial environment that is burdensome for business, imports and exports. Nevertheless, the market poses significant opportunities to those how can navigate it successfully.

The average Greek consumer can, generally speaking, be described as demanding with an average level of attention when it comes to purchasing decisions. Greek consumers tend to stay loyal to brands they trust, giving special attention to the origin and quality of goods. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that due to the recent recession, Greek consumers have radically changed their spending habits and have become extremely price-conscious.

When it comes to the levels of alcohol consumption, Greece holds the 28th place among 53 European countries with a wine consumption of 47.3% among persons (age 15+). The average annual wine production has dropped significantly, especially in the last decade, with more than 60% of the wine produced being without specific indication of origin (P.D.O or P.G.I.).

How to protect your trademark in Greece

The Greek wine industry is a traditional industry of the Greek primary sector including a few large wineries, many medium-sized as well as local wineries and associations of agricultural cooperatives. Wine imports from abroad are limited, whereas in the domestic market the large wineries control the biggest share of bottled wine sales, offering their products through extensive distribution networks throughout the country. Counterfeiting is a problem, also when it comes to alcoholic beverages. Especially in the wine sector, the selling, import- export and distribution of ‘fake wines’ is quite common. Trade mark registration and enforcement are naturally considered the most effective solutions against counterfeiting. Therefore, registering trademarks is of paramount importance.

A trade mark is a valuable asset that mainly serves as a source identifier and it can be protected following its registration. Since trade mark protection is territorial, a trade mark registered in Greece will only be valid and protected within the country. However, a trade mark can enjoy protection in the 28 countries of the EU with a single application to the EUIPO, or even internationally, by registration at the WIPO.

In case registration is sought for a national trade mark, the procedure is usually completed within 6-9 months whereas the official fees for a trademark application amount to € 110,00 for the first class and € 20,00 for each subsequent class. The registration can last indefinitely, provided that the trade mark is renewed every 10 years following its filing. In order to avoid rejection, the trademark should not be devoid of any distinctive character or descriptive, i.e. only describe the kind, quality, quantity, intended purpose, value, geographical origin or the time of production of the goods or other characteristics of the goods or services that it covers and shouldn’t have become customary in the current language or in the bona fide and the established practices of trade.

In Greece, counterfeiting is prohibited and punishable by both civil and criminal law. Once a trademark has been registered, it confers to its proprietor the exclusive right to affix the sign to his goods and/or their packaging, to place the goods on the market and to prevent all third parties not having his consent from using in the course of trade, any sign which is identical to his registered trademark, but also to prohibit the mere transit through Greek territory of counterfeit products that have another country as their final destination.

The applicable legislation concerning the customs enforcement of Intellectual Property rights, grants the power to Customs Authorities, where there are valid suspicions regarding the infringement of IP rights, to suspend the release of the goods or detain them. The customs authorities may proceed to the destruction of the goods, if the rights holder confirms within 10 days (or 3 days for perishable goods) in writing, that in his view an IPR is being infringed and that he agrees to the destruction of the goods.

The label for alcoholic beverages in Greece

Generally speaking, the current legislation which sets the rules for labelling in Greece requires that the products have on their packaging or on a label, at the moment they reach the consumer, at least the following information:

  • the name of the category/type of the wine product; (i.e. Wine, Sparkling wine etc.)
  • the NET quantity of the product (container volume) (i.e. 0.75 l, 750 ml etc.).
  • the actual alcoholic strength by volume (i.e. 12% vol, alc 12% vol, etc.).
  • possible presence of certain allergenic substances (i.e. SO2), written in Greek.
  • a source indicator (i.e. produced in Greece, Bulgarian product, Greek wine etc.)
  • information about the bottler (name and address) and in the case of sparkling wines, the name of the producer or the seller.
  • the importer’s name and address.
  • for sparkling wines, the indication of the sugar content (i.e. Brut, Sec, Demi-sec etc.)
  • for wines protected as P.D.Os or P.G.Is, the sign ‘P.D.O.’ or ‘P.G.I.’ and the name of the protected designation of origin or geographical indication (the latter written in Greek): (i.e. PROTECTED GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION ΘΕΣΣΑΛΙΑ/ THESSALIA etc.)
  • the batch numbers. Special requirements may apply depending on the type and characteristics of each wine.

Taxation for the sale of wine in Greece

Tax legislation in Greece is rather complex and constantly changing. Tariffs and duty rates are constantly revised and are subject to change without notice. Currently, the taxation on wine products in Greece includes:

  • value added tax (VAT): Currently, the value added tax for wines is 24%. The Independent Authority for Public Revenue and the competent customs and tax offices are in charge of levying the tax.
  • excise duty: The excise duty on alcoholic beverages is ‘0 EUR’ for simple ‘still wine’ and ‘sparkling wine’,
  • common customs tariff: Since the completion of the internal market, goods can circulate freely between Member States. The 'Common Customs Tariff' (CCT) therefore applies to the import of goods across the external borders of the EU. The tariff is common to all EU members, but the rates of duty differ from one kind of import to another depending on what they are and where they come from. The rates depend on the economic sensitivity of products.

Wine trends in Greece: The thirst for knowledge

The characteristics of wine consumers in Greece have evolved along with the production of quality wines. For an average Greek consumer, the certification, geographical association and traceability have a significant effect on purchase decisions. An average Greek consumer would pay more for a bottle of wine if its origin is guaranteed and if there is sufficient available information about the product. Since price, origin, quality and good packaging are the most important factors in relation to the Greek market, wine knowledge and wine tasting have become a trend in the country. Courses, events and wine tasting experiences are more in demand than ever, as Greek consumers want to know more about the wine they are drinking. This has resulted in the appearance of a great number of wine bars, which have become very popular, as they offer wine tasting experiences and introduce consumers to wines. The same can be said for wine tourism, as winery tours in Greece have become a collateral activity for visitors, who are mostly domestic travellers, constituting more than 2/3 of total winery visitors in Greece.

Based on these trends and in order to enter a market where consumers opt for affordable quality, it is essential to pay specific attention to the origin and quality of the products, the protection of the brand, as well as the creation of strong relationships with distributors and trading partners for the successful promotion and sale of the products.

Contracts for the distribution of wine in Greece

With regard to distribution agreements, it is advisable to seek legal advice in order to have the appropriate contract drafted by including the provisions which best address your interests.

Basic provisions: Generally speaking, the agreement includes all the basic provisions (for example the name of the supplier/distributor, the date, duration and termination of the agreement, the rights granted, payment, warranties, the products concerned, the territory and exclusivity/non-exclusivity). With reference to the latter, it is essential to clearly define which products, territories and distribution channels it concerns and, moreover, it is suggested to tie it to a minimum turnover, in order to avoid that the exclusive distributor "blocks" some channels or territories without actively promoting and developing product sales.

Trademarks: The agreement should explicitly state that the rights in the trademarks under which the products are sold remain the absolute property of the proprietor and that the distributor acknowledges that he will not acquire any right, title or interest in the trademarks or use them as part of his firm or business name but only to designate the products. Also, it is important that the distributor agrees to give prompt notice in writing to the proprietor if he becomes aware of any third-party infringements.

Applicable law and jurisdiction: Depending on the case, it is advisable that an expert lawyer should assess the client on the decision on whether or not to provide in the agreement that the laws of Greece shall apply and that the Greek Courts will be exclusively competent to solve any dispute between the parties deriving from the contract.

Special provisions: Another important provision that works in favor of suppliers, is to allow distributors to apply their own commercial policy, by further specifying that it will not be subjected to the supplier’s instructions. This is usually included in the distribution agreements in Greece in order to exclude the supplier’s liability and relief the supplier from the statutory obligation to compensate the distributor in the case the contract is terminated.

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