THE CYPRUS SOMMELIER ASSOCIATION & CYPRIOT WINE
The Cyprus Sommeliers Association (CY SOMMS) was founded in 2001 and is considered Cyprus’ leading association of professionals in the hotel and restaurant industry. A member of ASI since 2003 the Association has been present in all activities of ASI including participation in the Best Sommelier of Europe and World contests. Led initially by Dr. Andreas Emmanuel and later by Iraklis Christoforou and its current President Georgios Kassianos, the association is the advocate of Cyprus’ sommeliers, aiming to promote the art and profession of sommelier in Cyprus.
Cyprus – the Mediterranean island in the sun-drenched southeast of Europe – is often considered one of the pioneers in winemaking. Archaeological evidence suggests that wine has been made on the island for more than 5000 years. In ancient times, Cyprus was amongst the noteworthy producers of wine and had high prestige in the Roman and Byzantine Empires and during the Middle Ages.
The sweet Commandaria of Cyprus is a testament of that. It has a reputation as one of the classic, sweet wines of the world. Created by the 12th century Order of the Knights Templar, its name was officially registered in 1990 as a Protected Designation of Origin and is produced by only 14 villages. The native varieties Mavro and Xynisteri blended give the wines colour ranging from amber to almost deep red, with aromas and flavours of sweet preserves, dried fruits, nuts, bitter chocolate, caramel, honey, vanilla, pepper, coffee and sweet spices. A rich, velvety palate with a balanced taste and a long aromatic aftertaste. . Excellent as a dessert wine, it accompanies products of grape must such as soutzoukos (traditional, chewy sweet made from grape juice) and kiofteri (a Cypriot traditional handmade seasonal product from grape juice and flour) as well as dry nuts, sweet delicacies based on chocolate or caramel, with baklava or fruit cake, with Anari cheese and carob syrup or honey and aged savoury cheeses.
While Cyprus has an ancient winemaking history, the current situation presents a contrast to Cyprus’ wine heritage. Modern wines are beginning to emerge from Cyprus and the rest of the world is appreciating them for their uniqueness. Cypriot wine is part of a growing trend of regions producing top quality wines from indigenous varietals. Leading the charge for Cyprus is Xynestri for white wines while reds are led quantitatively by Ntopio Mavro while varietals such as Maratheftiko and Yiannoudi are proving to be very interesting…
Cyprus is home to several native grape varieties, which account for the vast majority of the production, and provide truly unique wines with distinct tastes and aroma profiles. There are approximately 15 indigenous varieties of which the most largely cultivated are the following.
White varietals include Xynisteri which is one of the most characteristic and the most widely planted from Cypriot whites. It is used for making dry and sweet wines, from Commandaria (in combination with the Ntopio Mavro grape) and in the production of Zivania. Zivania is known as the drink of the passionate, the company and the meze lover. Zivania is a wine pomace distillate of transparent color, with a high alcohol content. Other important indigenous white varietals include Promara (known for producing wine that is characterized by freshness both from lemony and exotic fruit aromas and flavours such as mango, melon, banana, citrus, as well as herbs, tobacco and vanilla (when matured in oak barrels) and finally mineral notes) along with Spourtiko (producing light-bodied, low acid wines with floral, citrus, herb and mineral notes), Morokanella (a rare variety producing medium to full-bodied wines with aromas include sweet stone fruits, citrus peels, quince, almond and white flowers and Vasilissa (gives round but fresh wines with a soft yellow green colour, with an intense and expressive nose with sweet aromas of powdered sugar and Yeroskipos delights, stone fruits, peach, citrus peels and white flowers).
As for red varietals, Ntopio Mavro is the most widely planted, indigenous variety of Cyprus and one of the two that are involved in the production of Commandaria and Zivania. Mavro is not a dynamic variety but gives table wines for early consumption, wines with moderate colour density, mild acidity, mild aromas and light taste. Maratheftiko, on the other hand is the most dynamic, indigenous variety of Cyprus, with the ability to produce full and aromatic wines, with round tannins and ageing possibilities. Similarly Yiannoudi has the potential to produce high quality medium to full-bodied wines, with cellar potential when aged in oak barrels. It gives both light as well as full body wines, thus covering all the preferences of demanding consumers. Finally Opthalmo (often blended with Mavro and Maratheftiko – two better known native grapes – is used to make approachable red wines for easy consumption.
QUALITY LEVELS AND APPELLATION SYSTEM
The Cyprus Vine Products council has based their wine appellation system on European Union law and now the Viticulture and Oenology Sector of the Ministry of Agriculture Rural Development and Environment is responsible for enforcing the regulations.
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI/ΠΓΕ) Regulations state that 85% of the grapes used in the production of such wine originates form the specific geographical regions and from the registered vineyards. Vines must be more than 4 years old with a controlled annual yield per cultivated hectare (55hl/hectare or 70 hl/hectare depending on grape variety. Red wine must have a minimum of 11% alcohol content whilst rose and white minimum of 10%.
There are four designated areas (PGI) are:
LEFKOSIA, LEMESOS, LARNACA & PAFOS
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO/ΠΟΠ) is the most prestigious designation and in theory indicates a higher quality product. Wines with this designation must originate from registered vineyards of an altitude above 600 or 750 meters depending on location. Vines should be more than 5 years old, and yield is restricted to 36 or 45 hl per hectare depending on grape variety or 2200 plants per hectare in low cup-shaped or linear configuration. There are further regulations dictating the grape composition and ageing process. Irrigation is allowed until one month before harvesting, at which grapes must be capable of producing wines with a minimum alcohol content of 12% for red and 11% for white wines. Grapes intended for PDO appellation must be placed in suitable plastic crates to avoid pressing and crushing and mist be carried to winery’s premises without delay. Also, to qualify for PDO appellation bottle ageing for at least six months is necessary.
There are five regions are recognized as protected designations of origin (PDO’s):
COMMANDARIA, KRASOCHORIA LEMESOU, LAONA AKAMAS, VOUNI PANAYIA-AMPELITIS AND PITSILIA