The Wonderful Wines

The Wonderful Wines

of Cyprus


If you go to the Cyprus Wine Museum in Erimi just outside of Limassol you can see a photo of a reconstructed flask for storing wine. It dates back to 3500 BC according to the scientists and archaeologists. I have never quite understood how these matters of Carbon-dating and DNA work, but that is what they tell us. The shape itself, though, of the jar gives us some clues. It is of narrower shape than an Amphora and this type of jar was 2000 years older than the Amphoras. Another factor that helps the dating here is the location of the discovery. A total of 18 jars were found in the chalco-lithic settlement of Erimi and the fact that they were in this area gives a big clue to the date.

Clearly Cyprus has many years of experience of wine making in a long tradition going back at least 5500 years. Historians such as Herodotus mention the quality of Cyprus wine in ancient times. However, it is probably the last twenty years that have seen numerous family vineyard owners inspired to strive for really top quality wine-production in their family wineries. Today Cyprus regularly wins medals at international wine competitions.

It has its own indigenous grape varieties, the three main ones being Xinisteri for the whites and Maratheftiko and Mavro for the reds.  But there are others. Vouni Panagia Winery has sought out and cultivated the rare Cyprus variety, Promara. Then we have Ofthalmo, Spourtiko and Palomino. The Cyprus Terroir is very suitable for some of the internationally known varieties such as Shiraz and Chardonnay and Cyprus produces a fair amount of both. Kolios Winery wins gold and silver medals in international competitions year after year for its Shiraz and it is indeed quite exceptional.

Maratheftiko  sports a quite distinctive character – relatively robust, very fruity, deep purple, typically aromas of violets and cherries. This used to be the most prevalent black grape variety on the island, but soulless bureaucrats pursued a policy of funding its uprooting. However, boutique wineries are increasingly bringing back this delightful variety.

My personal favourite Maratheftiko is actually a blend of Maratheftiko, Shiraz and Grenache produced by Aes Ambelis. Makkas produces a very nice Maratheftiko. What is quite extraordinary there is that he makes and bottles his excellent wine out of an extension of his house in a very tight space. Although more and more wineries are replanting Maratheftiko, Mavro is now the red variety most found here.

Of whites, Xinisteri is the grape you will generally find indicated on your bottle. One of my photos here show three different Xinisteri wines that I like very much: the one from Tsangarides Winery, the Alina Medium Dry from Vouni Panagia and Persephoni from Kolios Wines.

Dafermou Winery near Lefkara produces several interesting wines. It is the only winery in Cyprus to grow Assyrtiko, Santorini’s iconic wine. He doesn’t use it to make a varietal wine, but a blend of Assyrtico, Chardonnay and a touch of Malvasia. If you visit that winery do take some of their Rosé. It is also quite exceptional.

Of the international grape varieties, I really rate the Constantino Cabernet Sauvignon from Erimoudes Winery Winery in Kilani – not to be confused with Constantinou Winery in Peri Pedi – also a producer of great, medal-winning wines from both indigenous and international grape varieties.

There are so many lovely wines made in this sun-drenched Island, chosen by the Goddess Aphrodite for her skinny-dipping off a large shell. I feel almost apologetic to all those wonderful wine producers I have not mentioned.

One object that you will repeatedly see in Cyprus is one that serves as a constant reminder of the Island’s Wine-making history. It is the “Pithari” or “Pitharka” in Cyprus dialect - The large earthenware storage jars that are now used for ornamental purposes, but which even thirty years ago were used for collecting the juice of grapes that were being manually pressed. I remember the owner of Agia Mavri (producers of a truly superb Moschato) telling me that his grandparents used to use 100 such jars to collect their grape juice.

If you feel inspired to want know more about the Wonderful Wines of Cyprus, why not consider a conducted wine tour? The video clip at the top is taken during a "Winery Experience" day at Christoudias Winery near Lefkara. You can find many options at . There are also periodic one-day tours such as the taster-tour on the 31st of May for just €45

The Wonderful Wines

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