There has been a revolution in wine in Cyprus,” declares winemaker Charilaos Athenodorou, while sloshing a zesty white morokanella in a glass and handing it to me to taste. “In 10 years’ time, the wines in Cyprus will be as well known as the wines in Italy.”
Charilaos – whose winery, Ktima Gerolemo, has a sign in the cellar that reads ‘Wine is bottled poetry’ – is not alone in his optimism. Cypriot wines have undergone a transformation over the last couple of decades and the quality is expected to improve even further over the next few years.
That Cyprus, the third-largest island in the Mediterranean, has an impressive wine heritage should not come as a surprise. The country is one of the oldest producers of wine in the world, going back 5,500 years. What might surprise people is the quality of its wines, which are rapidly gaining in reputation – and awards – beyond its shores.
A disastrous attempt to compete with the likes of France and Italy in the mid‑20th century saw native Cypriot vines ripped up and replaced by better-known varietals such as cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, leading to a dramatic decline in the country’s output. But following a shift in policy, and with the help of EU investment and private finances, there are now more than 40 wineries in Cyprus. Many are family-owned and some are run by a younger generation who have studied oenology overseas and returned to test their new-found know-how.
To show off the growing number of vineyards scattered across the island, seven self-drive wine routes invite wine lovers to discover these sites for themselves. Many producers are delighted to show off their wines and offer tastings and tours, and oenophiles used to trawling round more-established wine regions such as Tuscany or the Loire Valley will love the feeling of discovery as they find a winery tucked away at the end of a dusty track.
A good place to begin is the ancient city of Paphos, where even before you set foot in a vineyard you can find traces of Cyprus’s wine history in the unmissable Roman mosaics featuring Dionysus, the god of wine.
Most of Cyprus’s vineyards are spread across the southwest part of the island, with vines stretching over the green countryside and up steep terraces all the way into the Troodos Mountains.
Indeed, if all the sampling gets too much, Troodos, known as ‘the green heart of Cyprus’, has miles of walking and cycling trails, while the sandy beaches around Paphos are worthy of legend (literally – as the goddess Aphrodite was supposedly born here).
Driving through the lush green landscape, with vines stretching as far as the eye can see, is doubly rewarding if you’re en route to sample the wine.
Source: Travel Weekly