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Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean with an area of 9,251 square kilometers. Situated at the northeastern end of the Mediterranean basin, the country lies at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Due to its geographical position, Cyprus’s history is marked by turbulence and its culture is shaped by different influences—from the Greeks to Phoenicians, Assyrians, Venetians, French, Ottomans, and British.
The rich history of Cyprus is accompanied by the grapevines. Winemaking in Cyprus has enjoyed historical continuity through a period of more than 5,000 years. Today, wine continues to play a role in the Cypriot identity. The country offers a panorama of wine history that puts it—not in the Old World or New World but—in the ‘Ancient World’ of wine.
15 Pointers to Get You Acquainted with the Wines of Cyprus
Here are a few pointers to get you started on the wines of Cyprus. Stay tuned to our website for more articles and videos on the Cypriot wine scene.
- Before 1991, Cyprus used to produce 300 million liters of wine; most of the Cypriot wine was exported to the Soviet Union. Today, the production has dropped to about one-tenth of that.
- Like the former Eastern Bloc, Cyprus’s wine industry had to reinvent itself following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the consequent waning demand for cheap, low-quality wines. The final blow came in 1996 when a new EU directive made it illegal for any fortified wines made outside Jerez to assume the title of sherry. Cyprus gave up its ability to market certain wines as sherry, which further stimulated the drastic restructuring of the Cyprus’s wine industry.
- On 1 May 2004, the country became a full member of the European Union. To bring the wine industry in line with the membership, a controlled appellation scheme was developed. With the collapse of its main export market in the Soviet Union, Cyprus was severely affected by the EU’s Vine Pull Schemes. Many of the old vines were pulled and many vineyards were abandoned as a result.
- Today, the average age of the vines in Cyprus is around 50 to 60 years old. More than 90% of the vines are goblet-trained.
- The emergence of high-quality Cypriot wine reached its tipping point about six years ago, the same time when wine bars started appearing in the cities of Cyprus.
We've been in Cyprus for 10 days now and have tasted through the portfolios of the top 20% wine producers in the country. There are many good Cypriot wines, a few that need a lot of work, a handful of fine wines, and two or three that we would consider collector wines. The thing is that the local market isn't demanding for this sort of age-worthy wines. However, it is necessary for an emerging wine country to have them because these critics' darlings can help to catapult the wine country's name onto the international stage. Here's Matt catching up with the @vlassides.winery maker of the Cypriot "collector-style" wine that we absolutely love and might consider it to be the best Cypriot red we've come across. ❤️Remember to follow us here, Facebook (exotic wine travel), and YouTube.com/exoticwinetravel to catch the upcoming full video! #CypriotWine #VisitCyprus #CyprusInYourHeart
- Cyprus escaped the phylloxera plague, so its rootstocks remain ungrafted; although sometimes, international varieties may be grafted onto the roots of local varieties (where both varieties belong to Vitis vinifera).
- The climate is predominantly Mediterranean. Climate hazards are mostly hail and frost in higher-elevation vineyards. Humidity level is low though some areas have its own microclimate that can develop Botrytis cinerea.
- Cyprus has some of the highest vineyards in Europe, reaching over 1,400 meters above sea level.
- Commandaria—the luscious, sweet wine of Cyprus—is said to be the first wine in history to receive the protection of name and geographical origin. In the 13th to 14th centuries, the Cypriot wine, along with other sweet wines from the east and Italy, fetched higher prices in the English market than the wines of France.
- Up until the late 1980s, almost all the Cypriot wines were made by wineries located near the docks of Limassol or Paphos, namely the big four: Etko, Keo, Loel, and Sodap. Today, the market is wonderfully diverse with over 60 registered wineries. Among those are two registered organic producers and more than a handful of the wineries are run by academically trained viticulturists and enologists.
Based on the initial research we did prior to our trip, we knew that @zambartaswineries is one of the must-visit places in Cyprus. This winery is even mentioned in an article by @jancisrobinson. Compared to the rest of the Cypriot wineries, Zambartas runs on a small production of around 85,000 bottles per year. Our absolute fave from this winery is the Lefkada-Shiraz 2013. ❤️To catch the full upcoming episode of our shoot, follow us here, Facebook (exotic wine travel), and YouTube.com/exoticwinetravel! #CypriotWine #VisitCyprus #CyprusInYourHeart
- Generally, the people in Cyprus do not enjoy oak-induced flavors in wine. As such, you’ll find the market dominated by fresh, unoaked whites (made from the local variety Xynisteri) and reds (usually a blend of local and international varieties). The Cypriots also love both rosés and reds that are slightly tannic.
Who would have thought that it was in Cyprus that we found one of our favorite under €6, food wine. The Ayios Onoyfrios by Vasilikon winery is a blend of Maratheftiko, Lefkada, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Merlot. We absolutely enjoy the smokey, earthy aroma of this wine. That said, it is still fruit-driven. The structure is good, supported by tannins that kick in on the front palate without being overly aggressive; slightly green characteristic on the nose too which perhaps indicates some ripening struggle. But the end product is a delightfully accessible, food-friendly dry wine. #CypriotWineTip 11: The entry-level reds in Cyprus are usually completely dry with close to 0% residual sugar and prominent tannins that contribute to the structure; that is quite unlike the table wines of many other countries where tannins are usually avoided in basic reds and a touch of sweetness makes a simple red more accessible to more people. 🍷Follow us on Facebook (exotic wine travel) for more wine education, travel fun, and of course the upcoming full episode of this preview! 🍷#CyprusInYourHeart #CypriotWine #VisitCyprus
Have you come across a wine grape variety that doesn't seem to make a single bad wine? We think we have now. The Cypriot variety Xinisteri is known to make fresh, fruity, light-bodied white that should be consumed within a year after it is bottled. Even the most basic, homemade Xinisteri wine has been decent to us–quite aromatic and easy-drinking even if it is thin and light bodied. The problem is that the name Xinisteri translates to "no acid", and almost all Cypriot winemakers have to add tartaric acid to balance things out in Xinisteri wine. On a similar note, the Tsangarides Xinisteri is quite a stand-out to us. It is more mineraly than fresh-fruity. The notes of pine, white flower, freshly cut grass, pear, and fruit oil draw us in repeatedly! 🍷Follow us on Facebook (exotic wine travel) for more wine education, travel fun, and of course the upcoming full episode of this preview! 🍷#CyprusInYourHeart #CypriotWine #VisitCyprus
- The total number of indigenous varieties is estimated to be around 70, although only 20 have been registered so far. The indigenous varieties you’ll likely come across are Maratheftiko, Mavro, Morokanella, Ofthalmo, Promara, Spourtiko, Xynisteri, and Yiannoudi. While not entirely indigenous, another variety to look out for is Lefkada. Called Vertzami in Greece, the Lefkada vines arrived in Cyprus in 1956 from the island of Lefkada in Greece. As a variety, Vertzami is mostly used as a blending grape in Greece. However, in Cyprus, you’ll get a chance to try Lefkada as a monovarietal wine.
Yiannoudi is a Cypriot indigenous grape variety that has been discovered only recently. As of now and as far as we know, only 4 wineries are making wine from this variety and one of them is @vounipanayia. We're still working on understanding Yiannoudi but as it seems now, the variety seems to express flavors that are similar to Zinfandel. 🍷Follow us on Facebook (exotic wine travel) and YouTube.com/exoticwinetravel for more wine education, travel fun, and of course the upcoming full episode of this preview! 🍷#CyprusInYourHeart #CypriotWine #VisitCyprus
- Among the international varieties, Shiraz/Syrah is regarded as the best suited for the Cyprus’s climate, although we’ve encountered more interesting Cabernet Sauvignon wines (than Shiraz) that can take on some of its counterparts from California. Other popular international grapes that you can find in Cyprus: Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Franc, Carignan, Chardonnay, Mataro/Mourvedre, Merlot, Muscat of Alexandria, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon.
- There are currently seven “Wine Routes of Cyprus” and they are Laona-Akamas, Vouni Panagias-Ampelitis, Diarizos Valley, Krasochoria of Lemesos, Commadaria, Pitsilia, and Lanarka-Lefkosia.
- Generally, wine prices at the cellar are between €5 and €18, while some vintage Commandaria and sweet wine can go up to €80. The quality-price ratio is startling and, together with its organoleptic merits, makes Cypriot wine a real treat whether you’re a connoisseur or casual wine drinker.
The official languages are Greek and Turkish. English is widely spoken.
There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses in most of the towns and villages along the wine routes.
Visit the tavernas for unique local dishes. More information about the Cypriot cuisine and wine-and-food pairing tips will be available in future articles.
More than 30 airlines operate scheduled flights from and to
1. Larnaca International Airport
– 8 km from Larnaca (Larnaka)
– 50 km from Nicosia (Lefkosia)
– 70 km from Limassol (Lemesos)
– 50 km from Agia Napa
– 140 km from Paphos (Pafos)
2. Paphos Airport
– 15 km from Paphos (Pafos)
– 63 km from Limassol (Lemesos)
– 130 km from Larnaca (Larnaka)
– 50 km from Polis
– 142 km from Nicosia (Lefkosia)
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Disclosure: Our trip was partially sponsored by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, The Annabelle Hotel (Paphos), and Saint Elena Hotel (Larnaca). A few wineries provided us tasting samples, but most of them simply gave us their time. The opinions expressed in this article are our own and we are under no obligation to give favorable reviews.