Cyprus is called “the island bathed in wine”. This definition is completely true. The hot sun, mild climate and mixed soil make the country an excellent place for cultivating about 150 grape varieties and producing quality wine. 55 wineries are engaged in the cultivation of vines, producing more than half a million hectoliters of the noble drink per year.
Cyprus wine classification
The accession of Cyprus to the European Union has brought about significant changes in the country’s wine industry. In 2004, a set of rules was introduced, according to which the production and quality of wines should be controlled on a regional basis. Based on the new legislation, all noble drinks produced on the island began to be divided into three categories:
- Canteens… Sorts with a strength of up to 12% are characterized by a simple bouquet and the absence of additional ingredients. The grapes for their production are grown near the coast. The maturation process of such drinks does not differ for a long time. The cost of such a wine in Cyprus does not exceed 6 € per bottle.
- Local (local). As a raw material for these wines, mature grapes are used, grown on the Troodos mountain slopes, which lie at an altitude of 300-1 300 m above sea level. The vine is at least 4 years old. The strength of the finished drink is not less than 10%, the price per bottle is from 7.5 €.
- Protected by origin… This group includes expensive elite drinks made from grapes harvested from registered highland plantations. The vine must be over 5 years old. The process of processing raw materials implies strict adherence to the recipe and production technology. The cost of such wines starts at 12 €.
Today, about ¾ of the vineyards in Cyprus are accounted for by the largest wine-making corporations (ETKO, LOEL, KEO, Sodap). The remainder is given to small family businesses.
The best representatives of the Cypriot wine family
The mild Mediterranean climate and the abundance of sunny days allow almost all types of grapes to be grown in the country. However, winemakers prefer the endless gifts of the endemic vine cultivated on the island since ancient times. The best red wines in Cyprus are made from the traditional local varieties of Maratheftiko, Ophthalmo and Mavro, while Xynisteri and Spurtiko are used to make whites. What wines are worth trying for a tourist in Cyprus?
The queen of Cyprus wines will be appreciated by those who prefer aged dessert varieties. The drink with a strength of 12-20% has an elegant amber color and a bright nutty-fruity taste without a hint of sourness. The harmonious bouquet is made up of aromas of dried fruits, honey, oak, spices and grape syrup. As an appetizer for Commandaria, you should choose cheeses, sweets or fruits. Price – from 8 €.
The first tasting of Commandaria took place in the 8th century BC. “Divine nectar”, which was mentioned in his epics by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, is considered the oldest variety of wine on the planet.
A delicate aroma with hints of wildflowers, citrus and pear will appeal to lovers of dry white wines with an unobtrusive refreshing aftertaste. Basic notes: green apple, peach, tropical lychee, pineapple. Cypriot cheeses, seafood dishes, fish and white meat will help to shade the delicate sourness of Xynisteri. The cost is about 9 €.
Dry red wine with a “masculine” character is distinguished by moderate acidity and pronounced tannin viscosity. Tart aromas of cherry, plum, spices, blackberry and oak bark are intertwined in a simple but harmonious bouquet. Game, red meat dishes, cold cuts, sweet fruits will be a win-win snack option for Othello. Price – 4-6 €.
A popular semi-sweet white wine in Cyprus, which has gained fame as a ladies’ drink, is suitable for romantic dinners and fun hen parties. The palate is composed of shades of fruit mixed with subtle nuances of freshly cut herbs. Aphrodite is in perfect harmony with seafood, fish dishes, fruit salads and light desserts. The cost of a bottle does not exceed 7 €.
Named after the medieval abbey, the drink is the first among the sparkling wines of Cyprus. This semi-sweet refreshing potion, rich in bubbles, with a golden hue, is especially pleasant to drink in the heat, enjoying the velvety texture and unobtrusive fruity taste. Bellapais is appropriate to serve soft cheese, butter cream, airy desserts, white chocolate and fruits. Average price – 8 €.
Elite wine of maroon color occupies not the last place in the collections of connoisseurs of noble drinks. And this is not surprising: only 2,000 bottles of Maratheftiko Kolios are produced in Cyprus per year. The sophisticated multifaceted taste of this variety is conveyed by the tones of wild berries, oak, pepper, vanilla and black truffle. The aroma contains overflows of prunes, blackberries and cloves. Ideal with meat dishes. The price ranges from 12 to 25 €.
Maratheftiko is hard to find in regular supermarkets. To buy this rare wine, it is best to visit the Kolios Winery located in the southwest of Cyprus (32 km from Paphos).
The Big Four: Cyprus’s Most Popular Private Wineries
A noble drink can be bought on the island in every alcohol shop or supermarket. However, the most worthy specimens are not always presented on store shelves. If you want to bring an interesting variety of wine from Cyprus or taste the divine nectar prepared according to old recipes, go to private wineries.
Mainly wine regions stretch in the vicinity of resort towns: Paphos, Limassol and Larnaca, so the local houses of Dionysus are not only economic, but also the most popular tourist sites. You can visit them both independently and as part of an excursion group.
1. Kyperunda… For the first time, wines from one of the best wineries in Cyprus, located 50 km from Limassol, were bottled in 2003. A year later, the noble drink won bronze at the International Wine Competition in France. Today Kyperunda owns plantations covering an area of 4 hectares and located at an altitude of 1,400 m above sea level. The winery can be visited from Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 15:30.
2. Vouni Panayas (38 km from Paphos), whose vineyards are spread over an area of 25 hectares, bears the title of the largest private winery in Cyprus. Its wine list is represented by seven varieties, each of which can be tasted in the tasting room or local restaurant of national cuisine. Vouni Panayas is open to visitors daily from 9:00 to 16:30.
3. Ktima Christoudia – the best winery in the Larnaca region – produces only a limited number of high-quality drinks (80 thousand bottles per year). The hospitable hosts will show you their property: vineyards, production halls and wine cellars. The winery has a restaurant. You can taste the delicious elixir stored in oak barrels and taste traditional Cypriot dishes every day from 09:00 to 17:00.
4. The pride of Ayia Mavrilocated 40 km from Limassol – Muscat wines of the middle and high price category. A small volume of production (about 50 thousand bottles per year) is not an obstacle to winning international competitions: the winery’s products have already won 13 gold medals. The owners of Ayia Mavri are always glad to have guests: you can taste the drinks produced here for free. However, it is better to inform about your visit in advance by calling +357 25370777.
A great way to get acquainted with the best wines of the island, as well as learn the intricacies of growing vines and producing a drink, is to take part in special wine tours. As part of the excursion program, you will visit several wineries in Cyprus at once.
For true connoisseurs: Festival and Wine Museum
The inhabitants of the island sacredly honor the heritage of their ancestors. In keeping with ancient winemaking traditions, on the penultimate day of summer in Cyprus, the grandiose Wine Festival starts, first organized in 1961. Since then, the landmark event has been celebrated annually. For 10 days, Limassol City Park is an arena for events that would have pleased the god of wine and fun, Dionysus.
The entrance to the festival is paid, but the price (5 €) fully justifies itself. The program of the sparkling holiday includes magic shows, theatrical performances, performances by musical ensembles and dance groups. But the main thing is tasting drinks from the best family wineries and large factories in Cyprus. For starters – grilled meat and traditional delicacies.
13 km from Limassol, in the village of Erimi, there is another must-have for connoisseurs of the “nectar of the gods” – the Wine Museum. Six years of hard work were spent by its creators in the restoration of the premises, decoration of the halls and collection of exhibits. Today, in a traditional stone building, which celebrated its 150th anniversary, artifacts have been collected that tell about the history of winemaking on the island: from the Middle Ages to the present day.
However, it is not only the implements of the 13th century winemakers and original jugs that attract visitors under the arches of the Temple of Dionysus. On the ground floor there is a tasting room for 80 people. Here you can taste the best wines of Cyprus, the names of which are familiar to all fans of the noble drinks of the Mediterranean island.
The hospitable hosts have also taken care of the traditional appetizer: halloumi cheese, taramasalata, suzukos and other national dishes are served in the museum along with dry refreshing Xynisteri and seasoned Commandaria.