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  1. Wine & Food
July 4, 2024

The sommelier’s view: Cyprus

Eric Zwiebel MS, wine director at the Michelin-starred Samling Hotel in Windermere in the UK’s Lake District, gives his expert opinion on the current state of vinous play in Cyprus.

By Eric Zwiebel MS

Cyprus has a long winemaking tradition, but it is not well-known outside the island.

That’s true. And currently, even the many tourists visiting Cyprus for holidays may not be aware that wine production has evolved significantly. Foreign visitors tend to be more familiar with grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier for white wines, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or Merlot for red wines due to their international recognition.

Would you say that Cyprus’ fortified wines are an exception to this rule?

Yes, I’d say that Commandaria stands out as the only Cypriot wine with an international reputation. This fortified wine holds the title of being the oldest appellation in the world. The vineyards cover approximately 7,196ha (17,782 acres)  with vineyards situated at very high altitudes, making them among the highest in Europe. These vineyards are located in a mountain range known as Troodos, with soils predominantly consisting of calcareous and volcanic materials. The climate is Mediterranean.

What else should we be looking out for?

Regrettably, the current view of Cyprus held by many overlooks the beautiful potential displayed by indigenous grape varieties which local producers are now starting to showcase on an international scale. When I first went to Cyprus, I was introduced to a group of producers by a good friend of mine, the Serbian sommelier, Miroslav Kalinic. These individuals are great personalities who are highly enthusiastic and connoisseurs of gastronomy. Their passion for showcasing their vineyards and wines was immediately evident. Utilizing white wine grapes such as Xynisteri, Promara, Morokanella, Spourtiko, and Vasilissa, and red varieties such as Mavro, Maratheftiko, Ofthalmo, Yiannoudi, and Lefkada. Some of the wines in Commandaria have transitioned to a non-fortified state, enhancing their elegance. This marks a conscious decision by local producers to employ indigenous grape varieties, thereby improving quality and fostering shared experiences. Such practices serve as a notable example for the nation’s future presence on our table

Which producers in Cyprus do you particularly recommend?

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Some of the names I would mention are Zambartas, Argurides, Vlassides, Agia Mavri, Tsiakkas, Kyperounda, Ekfraseis, Vasilikon, Vouni Panayia, Makarounas, Etko, Keo, and Sodap. 

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