Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wines of Cyprus

With a history of wine making going back to at least 2000 BC, it is hardly surprising that the Cypriots know more than a thing or two about viticulture. In the past, Cyprus’ wine was considered to be so delectable that the Pharoahs of Egypt consumed it, King Solomon praised it in his poems and its fine quality did not go unnoticed by the ancient Greeks and Romans. In fact, great wines such as Madeira, Masala and Hungarian Tokey are said to have originated from transplanted Cyprus wines. Today in Cyprus, grapes still play a major part in agriculture. With the reliable climate of long, hot summers to ripen the grapes, it is not surprising that vines thrive. But up until thirty years ago all the wine was made from just two grape types, Mavro, a black grape for red wine, and Xynisteri for white wine. Since the 1950’s the Government has introduced a range of new grapes to Cyprus and the customer can now choose between a large range of wines from light sparkling whites to full bodied red wines. The vast majority of grapes grown in Cyprus are processed by four large ultra modern wineries in Limassol – Keo, Etko, Loel and Sodap. Experts in oenology monitor the progress of the grapes from the first pressing up to the ageing of the bottled wines in isothermic cellars. But there are some breakaway groups of wine producers who are practicing wine making on a smaller scale, and many villages now produce and market their own wines as do some of the monasteries. The most ancient wine of Cyprus is undoubtedly the wine now as Commandaria, which, in the distant past, was consumed in great quantities at the springtime festivals of Aphrodite. The world’s oldest named wine, Commandaria derived its name from the Grand, Commandarie a huge estate at Kolossi belonging to the Knights Hospitallers of the 12th -14th centuries. Richard the Lionheart enjoyed the wine so much that he called it “The Wine of Kings and the King of Wines”. Commandaria is a sweet dessert wine, and is made in a designated region in the foothill mountain villages of the southern Troodos range. The grapes are picked late and dried in the sun to enchance their sugar content and give the wine that mature, almost burnt flavor. Peculiar to Cyprus, Commandaria is certainly worth a taste, but then so are so many of the Cyprus wines, and at very reasonable prices, so I suggest you try a range. Stin iya sou, skol, health to you… the wine industry in Cyprus is definitely looking rosy.

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