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The goddess of love is said to have risen from the foam of the sea before Cyprus. Wine lovers, however, are drawn to the mountains: in the rugged Tróodos Mountains, dedicated winegrowers press amazing wines.

Cyprus' vineyards are up to 1500 metres above sea level.

People go to Cyprus for the most unlikely reasons. One of them just told me that the most beautiful old-timer buses are to be found here. 40-year-old vehicles of the English brand Bedford, even more beautiful than those on Malta. Lovers of antiquity make a pilgrimage to Paphos to admire the remains of villas from Roman times with magnificent floor mosaics - a particularly well-preserved one shows Dionysus together with the Attic king Ikarios, "the first secular wine drinker". Gourmets rave about Cypriot cuisine, which skilfully balances on the fine line between Orient and Occident. The recipes have such exotic-sounding names as "Imam Bayíldí", in German "Der Imam fällt in Fainting". And now this: A local wine merchant praises a Cabernet Sauvignon from Cyprus as the ultimate discovery.

With the bottle on the table, a heretical question is raised: Is this necessary? Another Cabernet from a wine country that, God knows, has enough varieties of its own? To anticipate the answer: Yes, it has to be. Sophocles Vlassides is the name of the winemaker. The 32-year-old studied oenology at the renowned University of Davis in California. In 1998, he returned to Cyprus, worked as a consultant and then founded his own business: a "garage winery" based on the Californian model. His '99 Cabernet Sauvignon, however, shows all the characteristics of a classic Bordeaux: it is a berry-spicy wine with a fleshy, dense structure.

There is no question that this island, which has rested for too long on the dusty glory of its 4000-year wine history, needs such wines. They are door openers. Suddenly there is interest in the new generation of Cypriot winemakers and their mysterious terroirs in the Tróodos Mountains, where grapes ripen at dizzying heights of up to 1500 metres above sea level.

The primeval landscape of wine

The beaches of Paphos are hardly any different from those on Crete or Malta or other places where mass tourism has moved in. Lots of concrete, lots of asphalt. Even at eleven in the morning, the blond hotel animator is annoying with extremely good humour. "Do you want to join my water ballet as a Frank Sinatra copy?" Just not that. At the beach bar, the man behind the counter recommends a local wine called Blonde Lady. It tastes sweet and inconsequential. Where is it, the Cypriot wine miracle?

Well, it's in sight. Behind the narrow coastal plain, the mighty flanks of the Tróodos Mountains shimmer in unfathomable blue-grey. Let's go! Soon the roads are so narrow that the problem of left-hand traffic does not arise. Rural Cyprus is a world of gnarled pines, mulberry and carob trees. In between, prickly bushes and shrubs. And vines rooted in a limestone soil so light that it reflects the light. The small terraces barely stand out against the sparse vegetation. High in the air, a vulture circles. A primeval landscape of wine, ecologically more diverse than almost anywhere else in Europe. And because the vines ripen at various altitudes (250 to 1500 metres above sea level), the harvest here lasts from mid-July to mid-November.

Elsewhere there may be too few opportunities to produce top wines, here in the Tróodos Mountains there are almost too many good things. The winemaker needs a special intuition to recognise which variety ripens best in which location. In addition, the Tróodos Mountains are a secluded world, isolated from the preferences of the wine popes, but for a long time also from new wine knowledge. Not even the common phylloxera has made it here. So the grapes have the privilege of ripening on ungrafted vines.

They celebrated 40 days

If there is a picture-book village in the Tróodos mountains, it is Ómodos, situated at 800 metres. Bus tour operators have long since noticed that the village square, lined with mulberry trees, is one of the most beautiful on the entire island. The Linos Winery of Herodotos Herodotou is enthroned on a promontory above the village. His family has been growing wine in the village for their own consumption since 1825. The 60-year-old has gone down in local history as the head of Limassol's secret police for almost 30 years. During the turbulent period when the Turks occupied the northern part of the island, he had to dissuade many a Greek hothead from going after the Turkish soldiers with a hunting rifle.

The light% stony limestone soils of the Tróodos Mountains are ideal for viticulture

In 1987, Herodotou vinified his first wine in his spare time. Six years later, he retired from the police force to be only a winemaker. Today, he owns 100 hectares of vineyards in the Tróodos Mountains together with his three sons. They press, for example, the aromatic-fresh Linos White, a blend of the local variety Xynisteri (90 percent) and Rhine Riesling (ten percent). The red wines are also soft, elegant and drinkable. This is especially true of the Linos Red, made from the varieties Mavro, Maratheftiko, Grenache and Mataro. Because Herodotou seeks the pure fruit taste, he is still an opponent of barrique ageing.

Those who make good wine in Cyprus have many friends. In 1999, when Herodotou 's eldest son got married, no less than 6,000 well-wishers turned out to congratulate him, in the spirit of an old Cypriot fairy tale: "And they celebrated the wedding for 40 days and 40 nights".

Everyone wants Maratheftiko

If you want to experience the future of Cypriot wine, you have to go back in time, to the tiny, almost abandoned mountain village of Kilani. Here, the old men in their grey suits sit around the fireplace in the cultural club on the village square already in the morning and remain silent. They have said everything to each other for the last 30 years. On the other side of the street, the over 70-year-old village barber stands in front of his windowless, dark shop with a huge razor in his hand and invites his customers to sit on a pre-war barber's chair.

In this film-like setting, young Sophocles Vlassides immediately stands out. He has set up his cellar in the former colonial goods shop of his grandfather, who sold everything from sweet biscuits to toilet brushes here. The man with the alert gaze and the three-day beard has raised the bar with each of the six vintages he pressed after his studies in the USA. His 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon embodies the finest Bordeaux virtues, while the 2002 Shiraz, with sweetly intense fruit and notes of tobacco and spice, proves that Vlassides has also mastered the New World style.

And he is only at the beginning of his journey. By 2005, he wants to build a new winery and increase production to 60,000 bottles. But above all, Vlassides is researching the potential of the individual sites and the local varieties with scientific thoroughness. He has simply written off Mavro, the most common grape in Cyprus. "Too characterless in expression," is his harsh verdict.

Opposite the "garage-winery" of Sophocles Vlassides, the village barber brandishes his knife.

He thinks far more of the white Xynisteri and the red varieties Lefkada and Maratheftiko, although the latter two in particular are difficult to tame, he says. "The Lefkada develops so much tannin that it has to be pressed with a lot of sensitivity. And with Maratheftiko, part of the shoots fall off again after flowering. When new shoots grow back afterwards, you harvest grapes of very different ripeness," says Vlassides. If this weakness could be corrected, the variety could produce wines on a par with a Syrah from the southern Rhone region.

The Maratheftiko. Although very few winegrowers have really got to grips with it, everyone is chasing after it. "Two years ago a kilo cost one and a half euros, now the price has doubled," says 40-year-old Marios Kolios, shaking his head and grumbling: "A crazy price for a crazy grape. Kolios seeks his wine fortune way up in the mountains. His Amforeas winery in Ayios Fotios is about 1000 metres above sea level, the vineyards are even higher. In the adjoining restaurant, where his wife and mother cook, the view stretches endlessly over the rugged mountain peaks. So far, the classic, red-berried, peppery Cabernet Sauvignon has been the flagship of Marios Kolios. But when the wiry man with the moustache talks about his last two Maratheftiko harvests, a satisfied smile flits across his face. A smile that indicates that he has probably come a good deal closer to the secret of this variety.

Culinary paradise

The next day, from a deck chair on the beach of Paphos, in the interchangeable tourist world by the sea, the journey to the wine region seems almost unreal, like an expedition to a distant continent. Just a dream? You look questioningly at the mysteriously shimmering silhouette of the mountains and get no answer. At lunch, the waiter recommends the white Amalthia, a cuvée of Xynisteri and Sémillon, pressed by Theodoros Fikardos, who also belongs to the new generation of winemakers. It is a fresh, lively wine.

Nevertheless, not only in the mountains, but also in the tourist stronghold of Paphos, there are corners where traditional Cyprus breathes. George Demetriades, for example. The former aircraft engineer runs the Seven St. Georges Tavern with his wife Lara. In the tavern, which he built himself according to an old model, the cooking philosopher celebrates original Cypriot cuisine. When you enter, you can already smell the home-smoked and home-dried meat hanging on hooks from the ceiling. Demetriades makes everything himself: Bread, wine, olive oil, vinegar, jams, syrups, pastes, marinades. The barn behind the kitchen, where he makes his specialities, is an elaborate chaos of preserving jars, bundles of herbs and barrels. One imagines oneself in the workshop of a medieval alchemist. And at the back of the garden he has built a system of tunnels and chimneys for perfect smoking. At George 's you can taste real "tsamarélla", a dried meat speciality for which a whole gutted and boned goat is dried in the sun on oregano bushes. His house wines taste impeccably full-bodied and drinkable.

Everything is home-made in the "Seven St. Georges Tavern" in Paphos

This island is a culinary paradise with its countless home recipes from the past and the wines of today. You don't have to be as addicted to Cypriot wines as the poetical Sultan Selim II, who conquered Cyprus for the Ottoman Empire in 1570. Because of his legendary carousals with the island's wine, the Muslim was soon known only as "Selim the Drunkard". In 1574, he had a fatal accident after excessive wine tasting: he slipped in his bath.

The pioneers

In terms of volume, Cypriot viticulture is firmly in the hands of the four large wineries KEO, ETKO, SODAP and LOEL, all of which have their headquarters in the port of Limassol. Although these giants have also done a lot for quality viticulture in recent years (KEO in particular is committed to researching autochthonous varieties), today it is mainly the small wineries that stand out for top wines. A selection:

Herodotos Herodotou

Linos Winery
Herodotos Herodotou
CY-4750 Omodos
Tel. +357-254-227 00
Fax +357-254-213 54

Marios Kolios

Amforeas Winery
Marios Kolios
Statos-Ayios Fotios
CY-8651 Paphos
Tel. +357-269-321 23
Fax +357-262-206 28

Theodoros Fikardos

Fikardos Winery
Theodoros Fikardos
CY-8280 Mesoyi
near Paphos
Tel. +357-269-498 14
Fax +357-269-385 17

Sophocles Vlassides

Vlassides Winery
Sophocles Vlassides
CY-4776 Kilani
phone +357-253-529 97
Fax +357-253-205 13

Local trump cards

In Cyprus, 15 indigenous grape varieties are still cultivated. International varieties such as Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache or Syrah also have a certain importance. Qualitatively, the following two old-established grapes are particularly interesting:


The most common white variety in Cyprus. Also used for the dessert wine Commandaria. Modern vinification produces fresh, fruity, dry white wines with aromas of flowers and herbs reminiscent of certain Provence wines. Xynisteri is vinified both as a single varietal and in cuvées together with Sémillon, Riesling or Chardonnay.


Ancient indigenous red wine variety with exclusively female flowers, which is why the variety is planted scattered in vineyards with Mavro vines. Difficult to
tame, but has enormous quality potential. In the past, Maratheftiko was almost exclusively a component of cuvées, but for some years now it has also been vinified as a single variety.


Kykkos Monastery
CY-1304 Nicosia
Tel. +357-(0)229-427 29
Fax +357-(0)229-427 30

About 20 kilometres west of Pedoulás, amidst vast forests of cedar, pine and pine trees, is the legendary Kykkos Monastery, which once owned lands in Asia Minor and Russia. Founded in the eleventh century by a hermit, the monastery is considered an important spiritual centre of the Orthodox world. Icons, frescoes, antiques and manuscripts can be seen in the museum in the northwest wing. In addition to herbal tea and various liqueurs made from fresh fruit, the monastery also produces wine. A speciality is the dessert wine Kyprion Nama 20 Years old, which was recently discovered in a forgotten barrel and bottled.

Important spiritual centre of the Orthodox world - Kykkos Monastery

On the road in Cyprus

The coastal towns of Limassol and Paphos are good starting points for excursions into the wine region. Taverns with rich food can be found in every village in the wine region. Recommended taverns include "Omodos" and "Ambelothea" (both located just outside Omodos).


Thanos Hotels Ltd.

P.O. Box 66006
CY-8830 Polis
Tel. +357-688-80 00
Fax +357-632-29 00
One of the best hotels in the Mediterranean. Situated directly by the sea.

The Pendeli Hotel
P.O. Box 59045
CY-4825 Platres
Tel. +357-254-217 36
Fax +357-254-218 08
Classic Mediterranean country house in a pine forest in the Tróodos Mountains near the wine region.

Columbia Hotel & Resorts
P.O. Box 54042
CY-3779 Limassol
Tel +357-258-330 00
Fax +357-258-336 88
Village-like resort on Pissouri Bay. Elegant, simple interiors in wood and local stone. Excellent spa.


Neon Phaliron
135, Gladstonos Street
CY-3032 Limassol
Tel. +357-253-657 68
Fax +357-253-417 42
Excellent Cypriot cuisine, good wine list.

Ladas Old Harbour
1, Saadi
CY-3042 Limassol
Tel. +357-253-407 58
Good fish restaurant in a converted warehouse.
Seven St. Georges Tavern
CY-4081 Kato Paphos
Tel. +357-996-558 24
Primitive Cypriot cuisine.

Our tip:

The classic

Cabernet Sauvignon
Vlassides, Kilani

No doubt about it: 32-year-old Sophocles Vlassides is the greatest talent in Cypriot viticulture. From the University of Davis in California, he brought the most modern wine know-how to Cyprus and now combines this with his knowledge of terroirs and native varieties. Vlassides works in the small mountain village of Kilani, but lives with his wife in Limassol. One of his top wines is Cabernet Sauvignon, which also contains some Cabernet franc and Merlot. It is a classic in the best Bordeaux style. (tv)

The Elegant

Ktima Mallia
KEO Ltd, Limassol

The KEO logo is omnipresent in Cyprus: the company produces mineral water, beer and wine. But despite its size, KEO is one of the most innovative wineries on the island.
Because the company headquarters in Limassol is far from the wine region, KEO has set up three smaller wineries in the Tróodos Mountains to produce its growing range of top wines. This cuvée of Chardonnay and the local variety Xynisteri is one of them. It is an elegant wine with juicy-fresh acidity. (tv)

The Unique

Kyprion Nama
20 Years old
Monastery, Kykkos

The mighty Kykkos Monastery has a legendary reputation in the Orthodox world. In 2001, cellar master Costakis Fournaris made a historic find here. In a quiet corner lay several barrels of 20-year-old dessert wine that had simply been forgotten. Like the legendary "Commandaria", the grapes were dried. Later, the fermented wine was enriched to 16 percent by volume. Today, the elixir is deep brown, with aromas of sultanas and coffee and a beautiful balance between sweetness and acidity. (tv)

The above article was kindly made available to us by the Vinum editorial team. Many thanks for this. Please use the following link to order a free sample issue of Vinum:

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