Vinyards and Grapes
Cyprus is an island of incomparable ancient sites and a wealth of romantic legends. It also has a unique place in the history of wines and the development of the wine trade. In fact our wine traditions go back over 6,000 years, virtually to the dawn of civilization.
One of our wines – Commandaria – is acknowledged to be the oldest in the world and probably the first-ever to be given an ‘Appellation of Origin.”
Cyprus’s Vineyards cover the largest percentage of semi-mountainous and mountainous land. Where not financially viable to cultivate anything else, the vine thrives from sea level up to an altitude of more than 1,500 meters.
Most of the Vineyards are planted in the two main Wine regions of the Island on the western and the south part Paphos and Lemesos, which is perdominantly of Lime, Asbestolithic, but also Volcanic Soil, on the western and southern parts of the Troodos Moutain Range.
The Cyprus Vinyard is composed mostly of Cypus indigenous grape Varieties, such as Mavro, Xynisteri, Maratheftiko, Ofthalmo, but we also have International varieties like Cabernet sauvignon Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Mattaro, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling etc. In general the Cyprus Indigenous varieties outweigh the international by 2:1.
Below you will see the typical Cyprus Vineyards in Cuplike trelises but also more modern vineyards planted in other styles.
Xynisteri (also spelled xynistery, xinisteri; Greek: Ξυνιστέρι) is an indigenous white grape grown on Cyprus. 13% of Cyprus vineyards, or 500 hectares (1250 acres) on the south slopes of the Troodos mountain range are planted with this grape variety. It is used in the production of several local (mainly white) wines. Notably, it is used on its own or blended with Mavro grapes for the production of Commandaria.
Mavro (Greek: Μαύρο, meaning “black”) is an indigenous red grape cultivated on the island of Cyprus. The grape takes its name from its dark colour. The Italian ampelographer, Count Giuseppe di Rovasenda refers to it in 1877 as Cipro Nero (Cyprus black). An ancient variety, its suitability to the hot Cypriot climate has made it the dominant cultivated vine on the island. It accounts for 70% of cultivated vines.
Of note is that Mavro continues to grow on ancient rootstock unlike most mainland European grapes that are grafted on North American rootstock. This is a consequence of Cyprus’s escape from the phylloxera epidemic that had devastated most other European vineyards, in the 19th century.
Mavro grapes are used in the production of several (predominantly red) local wines. Most notably however, Mavro is blended with the Xynisteri grape for the production of Commandaria. It is also used in the production of the spirit zivania.
Harvesting usually takes place in September.
Maratheftiko is an ancient grape variety indigenous to Cyprus.
It is also known locally as Vambakadha (Βαμβακάδα), Vambakina (Βαμβακίνα), Pampakia (Παμπακίνα), Mavrospourtiko (Μαυροσπούρτικο), Aloupostaphylo (Αλουποστάφυλο).
It is grown in sparse quantities around the island but mostly in the Pitsilia region.
In the 1980s, with the revival of the Cyprus Vidiculture this variety was ‘rediscovered’ and its cultivation is slowly on the increase again, as it offers a distinctive character to local wines.
2010 statistics reveal that Marathefriko cultivation covers 150 hectares which represents less than 3% of cultivated vineyards on the island.
In Greece it is usually known as Verzami, and it originates from central Greece, the Peloponnese, and is also grown on the synonymous Ionian island.
Its plantings in Cyprus exceed those in its homeland, and Lefkadha has been adopted as a Native Cypriot red grape.
It produces small bunches of thick-skinned grapes, with resulting wines of a deep colour and excellent structure.
Cypriot wine producers are currently still experimenting with Lefkadha, both bush-trained and trellised, and are in the process of determining its optimum terroir.
At lower, warmer climes, it tends to produce too much alcohol and almost loses its balance of red berries, cherries and its savoury character, whilst at cooler, higher altitudes, Lefkadha struggles to ripen fully, but it exhibits great and explosive aromas of red berries and cherries.
Managing the ‘heavy’ tannins of this grape, especially when it’s young, both in the vineyard and in the winery, will require considerable experimentation, and percistance.
However, Lefkadha shows all the signs of being a very worthwhile investment for Cypriot wine producers, as its aromatic character in red wines, but especially in Roses, are worth all the effort.
International Grape Varieties
Ugni Blanc is France’s most planted white grape variety, particularly important in the Cognac and Armagnac regions, as it is the primary variety for the production of Cognac. It is also known as Trebbiano in Italy.
Most of the resulting table wine is unremarkable and is often blended. In Cyprus it results into an interesting wine with subtle character, and acts as a good basis for quality white blends.
Riesling is a white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity.
Tasting Riesling starts with intense aromas that rise from the glass. This aromatic wine offers primary fruit aromas of orchard fruits like nectarine, apricot, honey-crisp apple, and pear. Besides fruit, you will often find aromas like honeycomb, jasmine, or lime peel, along with a striking aroma that smells similar to petrol or petroleum wax.
Merlot is a dark blue-colored wine grape variety, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec (in Argentina), and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used and it is the most widely planted grape in the World. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many markets.
While Merlot is made across the globe, there tends to be two main styles. The “International style” favored by many Ne World Wine (NWW) regions tends to emphasize late harvesting to gain ripeness and produce inky, purple colored wines that are full in body with high alcohol and lush, velvety tannins with intense, plum and blackberry fruit. While this international style is practiced by many producers, the traditional “Bordeaux style” of Merlot involves harvesting Merlot earlier to maintain acidity and producing more medium-bodied wines with moderate alcohol levels that have fresh, red fruit flavors (raspberries, strawberries) and potentially leafy, vegetal notes.
Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used in the production of white wine. The variety originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France, but is now grown wherever wine is produced. It is vinified in many different styles, from the lean, crisply mineral wines of Chablis, France, to New World Wines with oak, and tropical fruit flavors. In cool climates, Chardonnay tends to be medium to light body with noticeable acidity and flavors of green plum, apple, and pear. In warmer locations , the flavors become more citrus, peach, and melon, while in very warm locations (such as Cyprus), more fig and tropical fruit notes such as banana and mango come out. Wines that have gone through malolactic fermentation tend to have softer acidity and fruit flavors with buttery mouthfeel and hazelnut notes.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. It is grown in nearly every major wine producing country among a diverse spectrum of climates. Since Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in a wide range of climates and regions throughout the world it has varied flavors. Fundamentally speaking, Cab is a full bodied red wine with dark fruit flavours and savory tastes from black pepper to bell pepper.
Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux tastes more like the herbal/floral flavors of graphite, violets and tobacco than fruit. When you smell a Bordeaux, you’ll often get hints of black cherries and licorice along with the earthiness.
Cabernet Sauvignon from New World countries are often a touch fruitier than their Old World cousins. Expect flavors of Black Cherry, Licorice and Black Pepper all wrapped together with a dash of Vanilla. The wines tend to have a little bit less tannin and acidity but also have more alcohol, ranging from 13.5-15.5% by Vol.