Rarely the history and economy of a place have been linked so closely to an agricultural product like the western Peloponnese region was linked to grapes and raisins. The cultivation of raisins began to take on impressive dimensions since the liberation of Greece in 1830 with great external demand on the European market. Over the next decades, the volume of raisin production has increased tenfold to become in 1860 the main export product of the Greek Kingdom.
The spread of phylloxera (insects that infest the vines) that struck the French vineyards in October 1879 has contributed to the great opening of Greek raisins to the French markets. The Greek agricultural production was adjusted to the increased demand, and ships full of raisins left the Peloponnesian harbors for the major overseas markets.
The entire social and economic structure of the region as well as the infrastructure of the whole country was shaped by the production and trade of raisins. An example that testifies to the bloom and the importance of the grape trade was the construction of the railway.
However, when the newly-planted French vineyards became fruitful, the French market was closed, the demand declined and the famous “Raisin Crisis” broke out in 1890 in Greece. The collapse of raisin trade was catalytic for all raisin-producing regions of the country. The local economies and societies were directly affected and phenomena such as usury and mass migration were now commonplace.
The Greek Government, as part of the implementation of the raisin policy, has tried to protect the production with retention policy (segregation of qualities; best qualities were exported, whereas the lower qualities were disposed in the internal market). The “Raisin Crisis” created the appropriate conditions for the industrial transformation of the unsold stock of raisins. It was when the first wineries and distilleries were created.. It was when the story of Dexamenes began…