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Modern oenologists, gnarled types, unapologetic traditionalists: the range of winemakers in Cyprus is wide. Around 10,000 families deliver their grapes exclusively to the largest winery, the Sodap cooperative. Many others supply the large producers KEO, LOEL and ETKO, the oldest winegrowing company, which has been in existence since 1844. Some winegrowers still make their own wine in the old-fashioned way, occasionally slightly modernised. And more and more producers, often with international training, but in any case with enthusiasm, are committed to the island's traditional grape varieties as well as to the island's return to the ranks of internationally respected wine regions.

The old clay jugs have had their day (Photo: Zenon Winery)

Slowly but surely: the wine revolution on Cyprus is taking its time.

Yet the island in the eastern Mediterranean, which is visited by many cultural tourists and wine lovers, is not a young wine country - quite the opposite: there is evidence of viticulture in Cyprus as early as 3,000 BC. It is thus considered the motherland of viticulture in the entire Mediterranean region. More and more wines are now being made with state-of-the-art equipment, great oenological expertise and even greater passion. They are still hardly known internationally - apart from the pioneering work of a few importers.

It used to be different: "We drink Cyprians and kiss beautiful girls," says Fiesco in Friedrich Schiller's 1782 tragedy "The Conspiracy of Fiesco". Presumably, the wine-loving poet was thinking of a bottle of the famous dessert wine "Commandaria", which was already considered a noble drink in the 12th century: On the orders of the Knights Templar, who had taken up residence in Kolossi Castle near Limassol, the local inhabitants had to hand over "Commandaria" to the castle commander as a compulsory tax. For centuries, wine made from air-dried grapes stood for the wine island of Cyprus. Under changing political rule - sometimes Greeks and Romans, then Crusaders, Turks and British - the wine culture was neglected. Increasingly, large parts of the production were exported as "substitute sherry" and undemanding bulk wine to Great Britain, Germany and especially to the Soviet Union and other member states of the Warsaw Pact: Hence the early love of Russian tourists for the holiday island, but also the reputation of "Aphrodite's home island" as a mass producer without higher demands. The wine industry was only modernised after the loss of the Soviet Union, which had been the main market for many years.

Vineyards as far as the eye can see

Since then, hundreds of hectares of vineyards have been newly planted, dozens of estates have been founded, vinification in clay jars has been abandoned, cellars have been brought up to the latest standards - and for a few years now, barrique barrels have also been used for ageing. Even though the majority of the grapes, which come mainly from the southern Tróodos Mountains, are still processed by the "big four", around 50 wine-producing companies now show what qualities are possible on the island. Modern wine culture has found its way to Cyprus, but the revolution on the birth island of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, is taking its time. This is shown by a tour in Aphrodite's footsteps through some 20 representative wineries on the island.

Cyprus - between Europe and Asia:

As the easternmost island of the Mediterranean, the 9251 km² island republic of Cyprus is closer to the Asian landmass and the Middle East than to Europe: it is less than 100 km from the Turkish and Syrian coasts. Yet only a few hours separate it from the main European airports. Despite the Turkish occupation of the northern part since 1974, the island was admitted to the European Union in 2004. Due to its varied nature, its rich history with many preserved testimonies of different cultures and epochs, as well as its consistently mild climate, Cyprus is a popular destination for bathing and educational travellers all year round. Holidaymakers will find hotel castles as well as accommodation in small coastal towns; hikers and excursionists will enjoy barren expanses in the Tróodos Mountains and high-altitude forest landscapes. The Mediterranean climate of Cyprus with hot summers and mild winters, in which the average daytime temperatures do not fall below about 17-19°C during the day, is not only found very pleasant by the many holidaymakers on the island. The vines, which have been planted here since the 3rd millennium B.C., also like it so much that the new generation of vintners can press remarkable wines from them with modern technology. The long-established large wine producers have received serious competition from many up-and-coming small estates. The AOC wine regions of the island have meanwhile been systematically developed by a network of wine routes. Information on this can be found, for example, at www.cyprus-rural.com.

In the west of the island - north of Pafos

Theodoros Ficardos

On the south coast southeast of the harbour town of Pafos, in the very west of the island state, Aphrodite is said to have risen from the waters at the rock Pétra toú Romioú. Should the goddess of love leave her beautiful bay today in search of good wines, she could soon find what she is looking for to the west in Mesogi, six kilometres north of Pafos. The Ficardos winery there, owned by former restaurateur Theodoros Ficardos, exemplifies Cyprus' wine revolution.

Ficardos: Rise in the fast lane

What began as a modest hobby in 1988 and led to the founding of a winery two years later, today presents itself as one of the largest regional production companies, although its main market is still in the old district town. Ficardos is one of the few winegrowers without its own vineyards; like so many others, it buys grapes from other producers. His Rosé Valentina stands out from his wide range of products. The fruity, semi-dry cuvée of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Mataro - better known as Mourvèdre - with its refreshing strawberry scent makes it clear why the market share of rosé wines has steadily increased in recent years. His red "Ravanti" from the autochthonous Mataro grape is also impressive, coming across as full-bodied as it is powerful with dark autumn fruits, paprika and pepper notes. In his "Amalthia" cuvée, Ficardos has added a 20-percent share of Sémillon Blanc to Xynisteri, the most widely grown white grape variety in Cyprus. In reductive steel tank ageing, it is aromatic and spicy, with strong acidity and apricot notes, a pleasantly fruity, thoroughly sophisticated everyday wine.

Vasilikon: Modern Craftsmanship

Yiannis Kyriakides

Even further to the northwest, above Pafos in Kathikas, the Vasilikon Winery of brothers Yiannis and Eracles Kyriakides wants to reconcile tradition, regionality and modernity. Like his father, Yiannis Kyriakides loves the craft of winemaking, which should not be absorbed into arbitrariness and mass production. "In the past, traditionally only bad wines were sold," Yannis admits without equivocation; now there are more and more high-quality products, on whose production he has also concentrated. It is true that his own vineyards - 25 hectares after all - currently contain the largest variety of autochthonous vines in Cyprus, which could indicate a willingness to experiment as well as a lack of clarity in the programme. But the autochthonous, rare varieties such as the white Morokanella are merely being tested on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture; the existing area, as well as another 12 hectares currently being prepared for planting, are reserved for better-known indigenous and, of course, international varieties: Xynisteri, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Maratheftiko and Mataro.

Wine production is concentrated on a few lines: The estate is known for its aromatic Agios Onoufrios, a cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, whose mash is fermented "like Beaujolais Nouveau" and without the influence of wood. "We do a microfermentation with whole grapes and slowly heat from 14°-16°C to 20°C, we have that well under control by now." Even more impressive is his 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon "Methy", which exudes aromas of herbs and spices after 16 months of ageing in barrel and another four years in bottle. The success of the local producer, founded in 1993 and thus already "traditional", becomes clear in the planned extensions: In a few months, a wine bar, museum, seminar and tasting rooms will contribute to securing the future of the Kyriakides brothers' winery.

Sodap: Quantity is enough, now it's all about quality

Alexis Machuca

The industrial counterpart to Vasilikon's artisanal operation can be found only about ten kilometres further east in Stroumpi. Kamanterena Winery - named after the region - is the largest operation among the island's four major producers (ETKO, KEO, LOEL and SODAP). Founded in 1947 in Pafos under the name SODAP, the cooperative moved into a new production centre in the mountains of the Pafos district five years ago in order to be able to process the huge quantities of grape material - supplied by 10,000 member families from 144 wine-growing villages. The head enologist Alexis Machuca, who comes from Venezuela, does not seem to see the harvest of so many contract vintners as a burden, however, but rather as an opportunity to produce sophisticated white wines - such as a refreshing Riesling-Xynisteri cuvée that has won several awards - from qualitatively different material.

The country's largest wine exporter produces around 4 million bottles annually - mainly from the red varieties Mavro, Maratheftiko and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the white varieties Xynisteri, Spourtiko and the rather rare Giannoudi. Machuca uses the latest technology for this: In large fermenters, the mash can be continuously mixed with the natural fermentation carbon dioxide - without external mechanical impact or energy input - and the marc cap above can be flooded with juice. New processes are also used in model trials with Shiraz: With great enthusiasm, the passionate oenologist presents cask wine samples whose mash was first cooled to 8° C for five days, then heated to 24° C for five days. The wines actually presented themselves qualitatively changed in the tasting: Rounder, softer and more intense, with greater colour yield and fewer green tannins. Placement in the dynamic wine market of Cyprus with a style of its own is Alexis Machuca's goal anyway: "The quantity is enough, now it's all about quality for us."

Wine region Cyprus - broad, grapevine-free variety spectrum

There are only a few wine regions in the world where phylloxera has not taken hold - Cyprus is one of them. Since time immemorial, the vines in the southern Tróodos Mountains and in the wine regions around Pafos and Limassol have thrived without grafting, but only with cuttings on the predominantly limestone soils. As a result, they have retained their very own aromatic profile. Especially in the south-west of the island, about 12,200 hectares are in production, partly in some of the highest locations in Europe.

Even if the municipality of Visperterminen in the Swiss Oberwallis advertises the supposed European record of 1,150 metres - in the wine region of Kyperounda in the middle of the central Tróodos Mountains, only about 50 kilometres from the port city of Limassol, local as well as international varieties reach good quality up to 1,500 metres above sea level. Since most of the vineyards are located at an altitude of several hundred metres, the grapes are largely protected from the Mediterranean heat; instead, the nightly temperature differences lead to the development of a distinct, refreshing acid profile, especially in the white wines.

The cultivation of the generally poor soils is in part already very close to the conditions of organic viticulture, which is already being practised by the first pioneers in Cyprus: The winegrowers manage almost without fertilisers and pesticides. Irrigation is also largely dispensed with. Only the new plants of mostly demanding winegrowers are irrigated in the first years of growth. With a mostly dry surface, the vines are often able to draw out the necessary water from the deeper, moist limestone layers with their fine root system.

Due to natural fluctuations in the vineyards, which are by no means trimmed for high performance, the annual yields are approximately between 300,000 and 400,000 hectolitres. Among the red varieties, the autochthonous Mavro grape predominates: With about 5,400 hectares, it occupies about 45% of the total planted area. It is quite productive, but not very colourful and is considered rather "limited" in its aromatic possibilities. Carignan has the next largest share with about 850 hectares, followed by Cabernet Franc with 400 and Cabernet Sauvignon with 320 hectares. Mataro - better known as Mourvèdre, which immigrated here - produces full-bodied wines with fruit and tannins, but with 220 hectares it is underrepresented given its rather low-maintenance cultivation. Much more difficult is the autochthonous Maratheftiko.

, with a tendency to trickle and uneven ripeness on the same vine. Despite its structure and aroma, which can be compared with Cabernet Sauvignon, it therefore occupies only one and a half percent of the varietal area with about 180 hectares.

With about 2,400 hectares, the autochthonous Xynisteri grape is the sole leader among the white varieties: with a light colour, light body, low alcohol, but pronounced acidity, it produces fruity, refreshing white wines that are usually drunk young and well chilled. Some winemakers blend it in a cuvée with Sémillon to give the wines more body and structure. The original Greek "Muscatof Alexandria" or "Muscat of Malaga" occupies a small part of the vineyard with around 50 hectares. It produces a typical Cypriot product: highly aromatic, noble sweet dessert wine rich in extract. The most famous sweet wine, however, is the full-bodied dessert wine "Commandaria", which has been known by this name since the 12th century and is made from the extract of sun-dried Xynsteri and Mavro grapes. The export of Cypriot wines has been declining steadily since the island joined the EU in 2004, but on the island itself they are finding more and more fans - not only due to tourism: per capita consumption has risen steadily from 13.2 litres in 1998 to 25 litres in 2008 - almost the same per capita quantity as in Germany.

North-east of Pafos

Tsangarides: high-flyer with organic ambitions

Angelos Tsangarides

Angelos Tsangarides' family can look back on more than a hundred years of winemaking history in the village of Lemona in the Pafos district. Nevertheless, the energetic owner is a high-flyer: no sooner had the new winery of the Tsangarides Winery in the hilly landscape above Pafos, he had already won two gold medals with the first 2005 vintage at Cyprus' national wine competition in 2007. The red Mataro presents itself with a bouquet of profound aromas, round and soft: a splendid specimen of the domesticated Mourvèdre. Highly aromatic, with fruit and silky texture, the second prize-winner, a Cabernet Sauvignon, impresses. His Xynisteri table wine with refreshing citrus and grapefruit notes is just as pleasing as the cuvée of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Mataro, which he characterises as "typically Cypriot", matured in steel tanks and therefore finely fruity.

Despite all his successes, Angelos Tsangarides wants to be modest with an annual production of 50,000 bottles from around 10 hectares of his own land: "I don't want to get any bigger," he says rather serenely. Xynisteri and Shiraz are bought in anyway, Cabernet Sauvignon grows on leased land. More important to him is the ecological orientation of his estate, which is to be completed in three years. All newly planted vineyards are no longer to be cultivated conventionally; Chardonnay and Mataro are already being grown organically. Energy for the temperature-controlled fermentation will soon come from solar panels as well. "Organic is simply my way of life," explains Angelos Tsangarides: "I am convinced that organic wines have a future in Cyprus, besides, there is hardly any competition in this field."

Kolios: Nature lover and self-taught

Marios Kolios

Marios Kolios often enjoys the view from the large windows of his winery. There is also a lot to see: In Statos-Agios Fotios, the highest village in the Pafos region, the passionate nature lover and winemaker built five years ago the Kolios Winery with an adjoining restaurant, which, with its restrained natural stone architecture, blends harmoniously into the landscape like hardly any other establishment. The view from 800 metres above sea level stretches for kilometres, where the self-taught winemaker - "I developed everything on my own, without any oenological consultants" - presses powerful Cabernet Sauvignon, harmonious Maratheftiko and an extract-rich, balanced cuvée "Agios Fotios" from Mavro and Maratheftiko in what is now one of the largest regional wineries. As dry as the region seems, Kolios sees little need for targeted irrigation. In the barrel cellar, he points to a damp wall with a few fine roots sticking out of it: "The limestone stores enough water for the wine," explains the self-contained Marios Kolios. But times were not always so calm for him: until 1999, the then master butcher with his own shop in Pafos was still growing grapes only on the side.

When a supermarket opened next to his butcher's shop and his customers stopped coming, he shifted professionally to what used to be his private passion that same year and started building a winery with his wife. A year after he left, the former customers and even more new ones came back to the still existing family butcher's shop - out of dissatisfaction with the quality of the supermarket's meat, as he tells us today, smiling and shaking his head. From 10 hectares of own vines and additionally purchased grapes, 300,000 bottles are bottled, the rest is sold as cask wine and bag-in-box containers. The company's own sales department also supplies the most remote private households with a box of wine. The continuation of the oenological success story, which goes hand in hand with a successful service concept, has already been taken care of: one of Marios Kolios' sons wants to study viticulture.

Avacas: potential at high altitude

Yiannakis Efstathiou

In Statos-Agios Fotios you will also find the newly built in 2009 Avacas Winery by Yiannakis Efstathiou. The winemaker, who is as friendly as he is reserved, has been making wine for more than 20 years, but it is only in the new building that Efstathiou has enough space for vinification, as well as rooms for a tasting room, a café and a small museum, which are to be added. On his own area of 8 hectares, he mainly grows Maratheftiko and Ophtalmo; from contract vintners he buys the best yields of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Xynisteri, which represents the main share in bottling and also financially. Almost half of the total production of about 200,000 litres goes into bulk wine sales, 120,000 bottles go to supermarkets, restaurants and hotels. He makes 80% of his red wines as a rare cuvée of Maratheftiko, Mataro, Ophtalmo and Mavro.

Striking among the red wines is his semi-dry "Cornelious Medium Sweet", dominated by Maratheftiko, with clear notes of malt, syrup and honey. The white cuvée from Xynisteri and small amounts of Spourtiko and Morocanella presents itself as a refreshing base wine. "Everything is still unfinished," apologises Efstathiou, who does not only want to dedicate himself to wine qualities after the final completion of his winery: his commitment is also to mentally and physically handicapped children in Cyprus, for whom he works "on the side" as vice-chairman of an aid association.

Vouni Panagia: Wine Passion in the High Mountains

Andreas Kyriakides

Even higher than all the other winegrowers in the Pafos region, already on the ridge of the Tróodos Mountains, is that of Andreas Kyriakides. Vouni Panagia Winery of Andreas Kyriakides. At an altitude of 850 metres, just below his own vineyards, which stretch from 900 to 1150 metres, the viticulture official, who used to work for the Ministry of Agriculture for many years, has made his dream come true: To produce independent wines in a lonely location, to develop them in the state-of-the-art cellar and to present them in purist architecture with examples of typical Cypriot cuisine. What today presents itself as a harmonious building complex consisting of a restaurant, production area, tasting rooms and seminar rooms began in 1987 with a hand press in a "garage winery", where up to 80,000 bottles were bottled. Today, there are up to half a million bottles, of which the elegantly fruity Maratheftiko "Barba Yannis", the barrel-aged, powerful cuvée "Kannavera" made of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon as well as the extremely aromatic white Spourtiko are particularly impressive.

In the future, further quality leaps can be expected: Kyriakides was so dissatisfied with the results of the autochthonous red wine grape Mavro that he had it completely grubbed out on his own 20 hectares and replaced by Xynisteri, Maratheftiko and Spourtiko. He belongs to the small minority of winegrowers who dispense with Buscherziehung and prefer instead straight rows of upright vines. They produce "above all better quality, but are also easier to work with and, with the right pruning, allow a better water supply in the frequent water shortage". Until the new vineyards bear fruit, he still buys from contract vintners who are supposed to provide him with the highest possible quality from the meagre but nevertheless productive soils for wine: "The island is blessed by God, but damned by history," is the maxim of Andreas Kyriakides, who prefers to look at the development of the island and the hustle and bustle in the cities calmly "from above". He also has a relaxed, laconic relationship with the international market for his wines, for example Germany: "We are open to importers if the market accepts our prices".

Ezousa: Critic and helper in building up the wine industry

Michalis Constantinides with apprentice

The description of the state of the Cypriot wine industry by the proprietor of the Ezousa Winery in the small village of Kannaviou, Michalis Constantinides, one recognises the business and marketing-minded graduate of beverage and food technology at the University of Athens: "I want to create a really strong Cypriot wine brand, after all, we are still far from having a common Cypriot identity in wine culture". In the international wine industry, Cypriot wine is "not known" - "and where it is known, it does not have a good image". Constantinides is already doing his best to improve the image with his winery, which is located on the Ezousa River and has only been in existence since 2003.

From 4 hectares of his own vineyards - and the grape material of another ten contractually bound producers - the visionary winemaker has not only succeeded in producing outstanding red and white wines. His powerful Maratheftiko convinces with fruit, elegance and an unusually strong tannin structure, the Xynisteri - with 50% the main component in the variety list - animates with dense aromas and texture. In the variant with ten percent ageing in used barriques, citrus notes and tannin presence are added. As if that were not enough, Constantinides was also a rosé pioneer with a salmon-coloured Maratheftiko, which, well chilled with tingling acidity, gives an equally refreshing and tasty impression of the aromatic possibilities of the Maratheftiko grape.

Chrysorrogiátissas Monastery: the legacy of almost three hundred years of winemaking tradition

In the courtyard of the Monastery Iera Moni Chrysorrogiátissassituated at an altitude of 830 metres in Panagiá, the tranquillity of a seemingly enraptured, monkish world reigns. It becomes unexpectedly loud and cheerful when festivities such as the rare visit of the bishop in charge are celebrated - the monastery visitor may then find himself sitting with monks, abbots and their family members at noisy tables in the colourfully painted dining hall and enjoying numerous examples of Cypriot cuisine. This is also accompanied by monastery wine, for example the white Xynisteri "Titus Andronicos", which appears uncharacteristically soft with restrained acidity and is reminiscent of the aromas of pickled yellow fruits such as peaches and apricots. The monastery's flagship wine, the powerful cuvée "Agios Elias" made from Mavro, Maratheftiko and the autochthonous Ophtalmo grape, which is rare on the island, with its aromas of dark forest fruits, animal notes and ripe acidity, keeps pace even with the strongest roast lamb served in the monastery kitchen and the restaurant outside. When monastery warden Dionysios, a venerable respecter with a flowing white beard, recounts the monastery's rich history with much humour, its special place in Cyprus' winemaking history quickly becomes clear.

Entrance to the chapel of Chrysorrogíátissas Monastery

Wine-growing has been documented in the monastery, founded in 1152, since 1725. In the wine cellar, old tools still bear witness to the hardships of monastic viticulture - including a 700-litre clay jug ("pitharis") dating from 1791, in which the mash fermented in many estates until a few decades ago. After various attempts to revive wine production in the 1930s, Abbot Dionysios began making his own wines again in 1982: oenologists and agronomists from France and Canada had advised him to do so. With the first wines of 1982 and the purchase of the first mechanical press, the monastery was the first winery to focus on independent viticulture alongside the big producers. The need for it was actually always there, says the abbot with a smile: after all, wine "is still a ritual part of worship today. After the spiritual purification and elevation of the believer, sweet wine is served to him." In 1999, the decision was made to move the winery 500 metres away, as the necessary technical innovations would have changed the monastery too much. Since then, Andreas Fetas, the oenologist involved in the winery, has taken care of continuing the old wine tradition. Today, around 150,000 bottles are produced from local (Mavro, Maratheftiko, Xynisteri) and international varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot), including an organic Riesling, on around 20 hectares of their own land.

Vineyards in the Tróodos Mountains

Northwest of Limassol

Northwest of Limassol, the lively harbour city in the middle of the southern coast of Cyprus, you will find the centre of Cypriot wine production after driving about 25 kilometres through the southern foothills of the Tróodos Mountains. Numerous traditional, but also newly founded estates with great ambitions are located around the beautiful wine village of Ómodos.

Nicolaides: The art is not only on the label

Nicos Nicolaides

In the middle between Pafos and Limassol, in the little wine village of Anogyra, lies the Winery from Nicos Nicolaides. A graduate of the renowned viticulture school in Montpellier, France, the determined winemaker successfully undertook to produce high-quality wines at the winery, which was founded in 1986 and is now in its third generation. The leap was great: father and uncle had still used the bulbous, 700-litre clay jugs for mash fermentation. First, new varieties had to be planted and the cellar modernised with steel tanks, cooling systems and bottling equipment. Four hectares of vineyards are now cultivated at an altitude of about 800 metres.

Nicos Nicolaides succeeds in creating a style all his own. For example, he has endowed the Xynisteri with less fruit, but more acidity and minerality. For the red cuvée of Mourvèdre, Grenache and Mataro, he refrains from using wood so as not to mask the fruity notes between the naturally strong tannins. After a long maceration and 13 months of barrel ageing, the Maratheftiko exudes animalistic and powerful aromas such as mocha, malt, rum and bacon. How much Nicolaides seeks to combine the inspiration for his unconventional wine profiles with modern winemaking methods is demonstrated by his special label design for the dry white and red wines: they are adorned with paintings by the English painter John Corbidge, who lived in Cyprus for many years and received numerous impulses for his work not only from the landscape but also from the Turkish occupation of the northern part of the island. According to Nico Nicolaides, nothing but quality can come from the combination of inspiration, passion and knowledge.

Zambartas: moderniser with Australian impulses

Marcos Zambartas

"Cypriot wines go well with the oily cuisine of our country," enthuses the 29-year-old owner of the Zambartas Wineries in Limassol, Marcos Zambartas. One can well imagine this in view of his sparklingly clean wines, sparkling with freshness and lively acidity. The winemaker, who is as warm as he is open-minded, stands, as he himself emphasises, for the uncomplicated combination of new and old world, of local and international grape varieties, which should always find their common aromatic expression in cuvées. His modern wine style is unmistakably marked by his rich oenological experience, which he gained after studying chemistry in London while studying oenology in Adelaide, Australia, and until a year ago while practising viticulture in New Zealand and Australia.

When working on his first vintage in 2008, "there were always discussions with the father, sometimes even a fight against the father," Marcos Zambartas says unconcernedly. In any case, the differences were very fruitful: on only 3 hectares of land, one of which he owns himself, Zambartas manages to produce some of the purest, most refreshing white wines in Cyprus from vines that are up to 75 years old. The tropical aromas of the Sémillon grape and the lemon notes of the Xynisteri ensure complexity and aromatic richness in his cuvées. Depending on the proportion of Sémillon, the wines, which are always to be drunk young, can be light and fruity or mineral and acidic. His rosé, matured in steel tanks, brings fruit ripeness and freshness to the animating point and can be regarded as a prime example of a modern Cypriot rosé wine. Among the red wines, Lefkada, a grape variety introduced 80 years ago and perfectly adapted to the Cypriot soils, is particularly pleasing. Both as a solo wine and as a cuvée with Shiraz or Cabernet Franc, it impresses with its powerful aroma and firm acid structure. His annual production of 25,000 bottles is always sold out, but he does not want to rush growth: in the long term, the limit of the winery, which was only built in 2008, should be reached at 50,000 bottles at the latest.

Gaia Oinotechniki: The eco-pioneer

Ioanna Panagiotou

Ioanna Panagiotou, owner of the only organic winery in Cyprus to date, is so petite that at first you can't help but notice her ambition, Gaia Oinotechnikithat one might at first overlook her single-mindedness. From the very beginning, "health and quality" have been her constantly pursued "organic philosophy", says the 44-year-old winemaker, who took over the winery in 1988 at the age of 23. At an altitude of 600 metres, on 5 hectares of her own vineyards, she grows the Mavro, which is more suitable for organic cultivation, but also the "somewhat difficult to handle" Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz and Carignan. She gets Xynisteri grapes from the area around Pafos, and organically grown Maratheftiko comes from the high slopes of the village of Kyperounda. Since the yields achieved without any irrigation are even lower than the already low average of Cypriot wine production, Ioanna Panagiotou is dependent on additional purchases from contract winegrowers. These are increasing, but so are the costs: the price of 80 cents for a kilogramme of organically produced grapes is a quarter higher than that of conventionally produced grapes.

In addition to two conventionally produced wines, Ioanna Panagiotou's individual organic profile is evident in four organic wines. Of these, the dry Grenache rosé "Oenanthi" - an aromatic strawberry-raspberry fruit bomb with a slender body - and the elegant Cabernet Sauvignon "Kylix", reminiscent of dark berries and coffee, are particularly appealing. The "tasting bowl" - as it is translated - could be filled with them frequently. For the red wines, she takes a lot of time anyway: they usually only come onto the market after two to two and a half years. Her political commitment is also an expression of her consistently ecological profile: as secretary general of the Cypriot Greens, she represents the eco-party as the only one among 56 members of parliament in Nicosia.

Vasa: A fanatic for quality at home

Pambos Argyrides

A special position in the Cypriot vanguard of winegrowers is also occupied by the Vasa Winery in the village of Vasa Koilaniou, 25 kilometres from Limassol. Owner Pambos Argyrides is currently the only winemaker on Cyprus who works exclusively with his own vineyards - he does not want to be exposed to the imponderables of yields from leased vineyards. In his 200-year-old, completely restored house, the well-travelled, internationally successful businessman and tradition-conscious quality fanatic, who is nevertheless very close to home, points to a clay jug for mash fermentation dating back to 1873: "We still used it until 1995," says Argyrides. Today, he produces 30,000 bottles a year from the grapes of his 11 hectares of vines in state-of-the-art steel tanks, uses gravity for the mash transport and lets all the wines mature in barriques made of Alliers and Nevers oak after the fermentation tanks. "We need a lot of experience, and we need know-how for the vines and for the cellar." In the past, in the last 50 years, it was different: "The monopoly of the big four didn't allow any competition." Now the competition is there, but also the willingness to profit from the skills of the great innovators of Cypriot wine culture and to be advised by them.

Under the oenological expertise of the renowned winemaker and consultant Sophocles Vlassides, wines are produced in the cellar of the Vasa Winery with a style that need not fear international comparison, as the extensive export to the USA, Great Britain and Switzerland shows. The elegant and powerful Mataro, the harmonious Maratheftiko, the fruit-explosive Cabernet Sauvignon or the complex Mourvèdre - all barrique-aged for 12 to 18 months - are not sold to supermarkets, but only to selected specialist retailers and top hotels. Not surprisingly, Pambos Argyrides also still wants to control distribution closely - "so we set up our own company to sell in Cyprus."

Vlassides: Internationally influenced signpost

Sophocles Vlassides

There is hardly any other winemaker's name that is so closely associated with Cyprus' wine revolution as Sophocles Vlassides. The openness to new trends in viticulture was probably already inherent in the family: The father of the exceptional winemaker had planted the vineyards with international grape varieties in the 1970s for "experimental reasons". After studying chemistry in London and oenology at the renowned Davis University in California, Vlassides started in 1998 in the small home village of Kilani, a mountain and wine village characterised by rural exodus. From the beginning, Sophocles Vlassides imported new insights into viticultural methods. He introduced the use of oak barrels for the maturation of red wines and successfully promoted to many of his colleagues to devote much more care to the vineyard: With systematic irrigation during the long dry periods and consistent foliage work. "The grapes have to be as good as possible," Vlassides affirms, in order to achieve the highest possible initial quality for quality-oriented ageing in the cellar. He succeeds impressively, as shown, for example, by the unfiltered Maratheftiko, powerfully endowed with roasted aromas, or the silky texture of the Shiraz with coffee and pepper flavours.

A testament to his Californian apprenticeship years is also the Cabernet Sauvignon, which after 14 months of barrel ageing exudes cassis and spice aromas and lingers long on the palate. "Achieving phenolic ripeness here is very difficult," explains Vlassides, "the vines have to be pruned for this by a trained team. I showed them how to do it, now they know how to do it". His internationally influenced style is reflected in the range of varieties: Shiraz is grown on 50% of the acreage, with about 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Xynisteri as well as Merlot and other varieties such as Cabernet Franc on the rest. Vlassides attests to the potential of the local Xynisteri grape for "very fresh, young wines", but unfortunately they have a permanent "five-euro image" - his winery is simply "too small" for such wines. For the Cypriot market, they are certainly "OK", but he has to finance his production with Shiraz, of which he currently sells 20,000 bottles a year out of a total production of around 50,000. Sophocles Vlassides is bursting with ideas and seems to vibrate with impatience to use his knowledge and his love of experimentation for the good of the Cypriot wine industry. But first, the 25 sites that currently cover the 12 hectares of vineyards in his winery are to be consolidated as much as possible in the future to make work easier.

Ayia Mavri: The impulse came from Austria

Yiannoula Ioannidou and Dr. Ioannis Ioannides

The couple Ioannis Ioannides and Yiannoula Ioannidou had their awakening experience for their winemaking career not in Cyprus, but during a wine trip to the Austrian Burgenland 30 years ago: The sight of "Buschenschänken", where small wineries draw attention to their private bar with posted branches, had spontaneously convinced the current owners of the Ayia Mavri Winery spontaneously convinced. Why shouldn't it also be possible in Cyprus to pursue the love of wine professionally, to produce regional wine in the local wine village of Kilani like their neighbours - and to sell it themselves? Already five years later, the bottling of the estate began, with the main work lying with the self-taught Yiannoula Ioannidou - husband Ioannis Ioannides still runs a polyclinic in Limassol as a specialist in heart diseases. Today, 4.5 hectares are cultivated with an annual production of about 50,000 bottles.

The wines of Ayia Mavri - the name comes from the neighbouring chapel Hagia Mavri, which dates back to the 12th century - quickly found numerous buyers. The cuvée "Esperino" (evening mass) made of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc pleases with a strong structure and peppery notes, a white cuvée made of Xynisteri and Muscat irresistibly flatters as a semi-dry, mirabelle-scented aperitif. The slender and elegant Xynisteri is refreshing and is recommended to be drunk soon after bottling. But Ayia Mavri has achieved a real coup de grâce with its noble sweet Moscato: Three times in recent years, gold medals have been awarded from Greece, Cyprus and France for a dessert wine with a harmonious sweet-acid play and exuberant aroma. A visit to the friendly winemaking couple of Ayia Mavri should be combined with a tour of the tranquil Kilani, which suffers from a strong rural exodus: The former capital of the wine region east of Ómodos now has only 250 inhabitants instead of 2000.

Stronghold of wine culture: wine village Ómodos

Linos: Secret service agent as lateral entrant

Erodotos Erodotou

This story could only be written in Cyprus: in 1974, the year of the Turkish occupation of the northern part of the island, the secret policeman Erodotos Erodotou fled with his wife from the north to the south, to his birthplace Ómodos. Years later, Mrs Erodotou pleads to get professionally involved in wine. The former part-time winegrower joined in and in 1988 founded the Ómodos vineyard at an altitude of 900 metres. Linos Winerywhich today produces around 200,000 bottles a year from 22 hectares - 12 of which it owns. Direct sales are the main source of income, but smaller quantities are also sold in supermarkets. While at high altitudes varieties such as the white Sultanina tend to turn out pale, the unconventionally gnarled side entrant succeeds in combining the powerful acidity of the Xynisteri with the aromas of the Riesling, which thrives well at this altitude, in the powerful cuvée "Linos" - ancient Greek for "wine press".

Temperature differences between day and night of 10 to 12 degrees do not allow many grapes to ripen completely, so they remain on the vine until late in the year and are then sold as table grapes. What is not harvested is left hanging for guests who come to the estate every year on 4 December, the feast of St Barbara, for the grape harvest. The Mavro, on the other hand, loves the limestone soils and temperature differences so much that it turns out light and fruity and is bought by other winegrowers for blending into their wines. Erodotou, who by no means comes across as a secretive man, but rather as a mischievous representative of the old winemaking class, takes one rule for ageing particularly to heart: "I am against any kind of wood use, as it only adulterates the wine".

Zenon: tradition and obstinacy

Zenon Zenonos

Zenon Zenonos is not only a traditionalist like no other winemaker, but also idiosyncratic: for many years, the producer and grape supplier had to be patient after the harvest until he could sell his grapes to large producers. In 1998, that was the end of it: He built his modern winery at an altitude of 900 metres on the main road to Ómodos. Zenon Winery and now bottles the yields from 15 hectares of his own vineyards and about one and a half hectares of rented vineyards into an annual production of around 50,000 bottles. The self-taught Zenonos, who was often called in by the government as an advisor in the past because of his knowledge, can now give free rein to his viticultural and cellar-technical obstinacy. He undauntedly relies on the indigenous Mavro grape as the basis for all red cuvées, which, like the white Xynisteri, are vinified both dry and semi-dry and are as aromatic as they are rich in extract. He never lets the temperature of the red wine mash rise above 25 degrees, otherwise the aromas would be "destroyed". The cuvée of Shiraz and Maratheftiko convinces with fruit and substance, acidic yet balanced. The bottled wines also receive special treatment at Zenon Zenonos: after filling, they are left to stand for three days and then cooled to 15 degrees at 70% humidity for storage. In addition, Zenon Zenonos deliberately takes the risk of harvesting the white grape varieties only in October: "They give more aromas, acidity and alcohol then," he is convinced.

As modern as the winery presents itself, the memories of the old family winemaking practices remain ever present: in the sales room, he likes to show the 700-litre clay jug for mash fermentation, which his grandmother still made herself and brought into the marriage as her only dowry: "That was all she had." Until 1998, when his own winery was completed, the jug was still used with many others on the farm premises: The mash filled into the huge vessel was sealed with a marble slab and plaster, stood in it for 12 days and was then drawn off with immersed baskets. The tradition is also symbolised by the pomace brandy Zivania, whose production licence is held only by the Zenon winery and the Kýkko monastery in addition to the "Big Four".

Olympus: A successful balancing act

Olvia Haggipavlou and Themis Themistocleous

The winery, which belongs to ETKO, Cyprus' oldest winery dating back to 1844, was founded in Olympus Winery was founded in Ómodos in 1992 as a "second branch" next to the parent company in Limassol. Especially since the new winery building, built in 2007, now successfully tries the balancing act of large production volumes and quality wines. The ETKO parent company with its owner Antonis Haggipavlou was successful for decades with the export of bulk wines and cheap bottled wines, especially to the former Soviet Union. Today, Olympus is a "big player" with 50 hectares of its own vineyards and is not only successful on the domestic market, but also supplies Kenya and Uganda as well as Sweden, Great Britain and Australia with a 50% export share. In the ultra-modern winery with an annual capacity of about three quarters of a million bottles, its technical director, Themis Themistocleous, produces only Xynisteri and Maratheftiko as local varieties; the dessert wine Commandaria is also produced. However, sales of sweet wine continue to decline, explains export manager Olvia Haggipavlou.

Olympus now wants to hold its own in the international competition above all with the "cosmopolitan varieties" Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. With two hectares of organically grown Merlot, Olympus now also belongs to the still small but fine group of organic wine pioneers in Cyprus. Olympus products are "not competitive" with wines on the "lower supermarket shelf", Olvia Haggipavlou affirms. The wines of this qualitatively ambitious company really don't belong there: The Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé convinces with fruity aromas, finesse and persistence, the cuvée "Keller 62" from 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, Mataro, Grenache and Carignan pleases with blackberry and cassis notes. A fine example of the new style is also a Merlot that is as powerful as it is fruity, which was allowed to mature for four months in new barriques.

Kyperounda: Dynamic winegrowers' society at lofty heights

Minas Mina

Located in the central Tróodos Mountains in the village of Kyperounda, the eponymous winery was already among the top Cypriot wine producers just a few years after its founding in 1998. It is not only its ownership structure that is unusual: while 70% of the shares are held by the Cypriot beverage group Photo Photiades Group, 30% of the company belongs to 40 winegrowers from the region around Kyperounda. Their yields, however, are only taken over on a case-by-case basis after prior quality control. Most of them grow the red Mavro anyway, of which oenologist Minas Mina, one of the most successful in Cyprus, thinks little and which he therefore does not cultivate: "Thin skin, a lot of juice, no extract, these are only table grapes". The estate's altitude - 1140 metres - and the vineyards, which here range from 1200 to 1500 metres, are outstanding: "If you disregard a few ares on the Canary Islands, we have the highest vineyards in Europe," says Minas Mina. However, since the estate currently only has 4 hectares of its own in production and 18 leased hectares have only recently been planted with xynisteri, the grapes for the annual production of around 300,000 bottles come from

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