UAE: Greek wine and ouzo exports on the rise

Wine and ouzo exports to UAE

A significant upward trend in Greek exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in alcoholic beverages and beer, was recorded last year by the Dubai Economic and Commercial Affairs Office. In the relevant market survey for the spirits industry compiled by the Bureau in December 2023, it is reported that Greece was ranked 16th globally in the UAE wine market, 41st among the most important beer suppliers and 42nd for other alcoholic beverages.

The upward trend in imports of beverages from Greece is mainly attributed to the opening of numerous Greek restaurants and other hotspots of Greek interests in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, demonstrating the potential for greater penetration of Greek alcoholic beverages into the UAE market. The significant increase is due to the increase in Greek exports of wine and ouzo (for 2022, the main Greek exports of alcoholic beverages to the UAE were wine at 78%, ouzo at 15% and beer at just 3%). Based on ten-month 2023 data from the United Nations’ foreign trade platform Comtrade, there is an “explosive increase in beer exports from Greece”, worth around 2.5 million euros. Alcoholic beverage distribution channels are licensed shops, i.e. wineries, as well as licensed restaurants and bars, which are usually located on hotel premises. The online sales channel is also showing strong momentum, with prospects for even greater growth. In terms of brands, it seems that the dominant players are the established multinational brands.

The peculiarities of the alcohol market in the UAE and the alcohol legislation in Dubai

The alcoholic beverage market is tightly controlled because Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol due to the Sharia Law (religion related prohibition). However, new legislation has recently been introduced, focused on the Emirate of Dubai, to relax the restrictions around the supply and consumption of alcohol, in the context of the general policy of extroversion currently followed by the UAE at this time.

In terms of international trade, the UAE re-exports a significant share of its alcohol imports, amounting to around 47% of total import value in 2022. The UAE’s major suppliers are the Netherlands (beer), France (wine) and the United Kingdom (other alcoholic beverages). A significant increase is observed over a five-year period for beer from India and Hong Kong, wine from Italy and Argentina and other alcoholic beverages from France and Mexico.