Wines in Cyprus: A taste of things to come

Follow the wine routes around Cyprus and you'll discover small producers united in their desire to change perceptions about the island's viticulture

In my experience, wine routes can be hit-and-miss affairs. In my last encounter with one, near Sauternes, I spent hours pulling over at vineyards promising vente-dégustation, only to find they were always fermé. At the one domaine I found to be open I was afforded a cursory sip of two wines and enough tacit pressure to ensure that I left with one rather expensive premier cru.

In Cyprus, however, I'd been persuaded that things were otherwise – and that the old idea had a new impetus. Rather than being imposed on established wineries, the island's six wine routes have evolved alongside 40 boutique wineries that are attempting to resurrect almost-forgotten indigenous grape varieties. Production at each winery is between 35,000 and 100,000 bottles a year, so they are not yet commonplace on UK supermarket shelves. Perhaps the wine routes will be the first step along that road.

I selected four award-winning wineries: two from Route Four, which explores the villages to the north-west of Limassol, and two from the Pitsilia region on Route Six that would take me high into the Troodos mountains that occupy the south central part of the island.

Recent archaeological digs suggest that viticulture on Cyprus may be more than 5,000 years old; the island could even be the site of the earliest vine harvests in Europe. Until 70 years ago not much had changed. Wine production was still a household enterprise and almost every home produced at least one large terracotta amphora. The wine was transferred to animal-skin wine bags and carried off by donkeys. Then wine began to be produced in serious quantities, and for the next 30 years Cyprus became a bulk wine producer selling vin ordinaire to British tourists.

My first stop was to visit a man determined to change that perception of Cypriot wine. Costas Tsiakkas gave up his job as a banker to emulate the wine producers of his grandfather's generation and produce authentic Cypriot wines in the vineyards that surround Pelendri.

Situated at an altitude of 1,000m and less than one hour north of Limassol by road, the Tsiakkas face north; even at this altitude the summer sun can be too hot for vines. Costas explained the merits of the indigenous varieties; some young vines have not yet produced a wine that can be bottled but initial results are encouraging.

"These wines can endure prolonged spells of hot dry weather and are thin skinned so they produce a refreshing light-bodied red that is better suited to the Cypriot climate than a full-bodied cabernet sauvignon," he said. He already produces a dry white made from the xinisteri grape that is fruity and refreshing, but the local maratheftiko grapes are proving a rather capricious variety. He has no room for sentiment. "These wines are unique to Cyprus but uniqueness itself is not enough here. There has to be quality too."

To be included in the routes, every winery is obliged to have regular opening hours, an adequate tasting room and someone on hand to meet the public. At my next port of call, Sophocles Vlasidis was building a new winery. When I saw it, it was still a concrete shell but the partially subterranean building will eventually be an architectural statement in itself. Low down in the valley of the river Kryos, the picture windows allow visitors to take in a view that shows both past and future of Cypriot winemaking.

The now empty terraces on the rocky hillside opposite illustrate just how extensive the industry once was. Falling prices and plummeting quality prompted people to abandon their vines and move to the coastal cities. Yet around the winery the future has already arrived. Neat rows of trained vines that can be watered, harvested and pruned efficiently are rapidly replacing the rather more individually appealing bush vines.

In keeping with his name, Sophocles is philosophical. "Promoting wine is a serious business," he said. "You need the correct tasting environment to market the wines – and effective marketing can add at least €2 to the price of a bottle."

My next stop was on the way out of the pretty hill town of Koilani. Here Ioannis Ioannides and his wife Yiannoula Ioannidou – both in their seventies – make their Ayia Mavri mosxatos which won the grand gold at the Muscats du Monde in 2010. The couple insisted their meticulously kept winery is no more than a hobby. However, it was clear that the emotional investment is high. Pouring a glass of sweet, oak-matured xinisteri, Yiannoula explained that the wine is named Nostimon Imar. A quote from Homer, it means "sweet day of the return" and it will be a bottle of this, she said, that they will crack open should the two parts of the divided island be reunited.

My final winery at Kyperounda, 50km inland from Limassol in the Pitsilia region, was a real treat, perched high in the Troodos mountains. Here I was presented with an amber-coloured commandaria – a smooth toffee-flavoured wine with a 2,000-year history that Cypriots hope will one day rival port. Served with haloumi cheese the commandaria had the sweetness of honey and overtones of dried fruit and walnuts.

The wine producers of Cyprus know that it is only through thoughtful production and marketing that their wines will reach a wider market. But from what I have seen, their wine routes are more than just signposts to a brighter future.

Getting there

Paphos airport is served by British Airways (0844 493 0787; from Gatwick; easyJet (0843 104 5000; from Bristol, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Luton, Manchester; Jet2 (0871 226 1737; from East Midlands, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle; Monarch (08719 40 50 40; from Birmingham and Gatwick.

Staying there

Ambelikos Agrohotel, Potamitissa 4879, Limassol (00 357 25 52 22 11; offers doubles from €70, including breakfast.

Stou Kir Yianni Guest House and Restaurant, Linou 15, Omodos (00 357 25 42 21 00; omodosvilla has doubles from €90, including breakfast.

More information

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little