The seven wine routes of Cyprus

By | Category: Travel destinations

commandaria

Cyprus is home to the world’s oldest named wine still in production; ‘Commandaria’, which Richard the Lionheart described as the “wine of the kings and the king of the wines.”

But many people overlook the wines of Cyprus even if they are unavailable in the wines section of their supermarket or wine shop. In fact most supermarkets don’t even give Cypriot wines their own shelf, linking them together with “other European” wines. Cypriot wine-makers still cultivate the same ancient grape varieties but now combine old traditions with modern technology to create a diverse product offering: red, rose, white, dessert wine, Zivania and the legendary Commandaria itself.

There are seven wine routes that have been collated by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation.

  1. Route: Commandaria 

This route unveils all the secrets of Cyprus’ world-renowned Koumandaria (or Commandaria) which won the first recorded wine-tasting competition in history. The sweet dessert wine dates back to 1192AD when it was being produced and exported by the Knights of St. John. Cyprus’ indigenous Mavro (red) and Xynisteri (white) grapes are picked late in the season and dried in the sun to enhance their sugar content. This is what makes the wine much sweeter and gives a distinctive taste. The grapes are then pressed with the run-off collected and fermented in tanks or huge, traditional earthenware jars.

The route goes through Limassol, Kolossi, Erimi, Monagri, Agios Georgios, Silikou, Doros, Laneia, Trimilkini, Agios Mamas, Kapileio, Zoopigi, Kalo Chorio, Agios Pavlos, Agios Konstantinos, Louvaras, Gerasa and Apsiou. 

  1. Route: Diarizos Valley

This route takes you off the beaten track along the Diarizos river passing lush, unspoiled landscapes dotted with beautiful vineyards. This is one of the lesser-known wine-making areas as it’s situated at a much lower altitude however, modern technology has made it a competitive wine-making region. There are 18 different types of vine in this region but the most predominant variety is the local Mavro (red) grape.

The route takes you through Pafos, Acheleia, Kouklia, Nikokleia, Choletria, Stavrokonnou, Kelokedara, Salamiou, Mesana, Arminou, Filousa, Agios Nikolaos, Praitori, Kedares, Agios Georgios, Mamonia and Fasoula. 

the clear Zivania

  1. Route: Krasochoria of Lemesos (Limassol)

The ‘Krasochoria’ (translated as ‘wine villages’ in English) located on the Southern slopes of the Troodos mountain range have the greatest concentration of wineries in Cyprus. There are 20 picturesque villages in total with traditional Cypriot architecture, narrow cobblestoned passageways and 16 wineries between them. The dry climate makes for first-rate wines with the main varieties being produced  from the local grape varieties Xynisteri (white) and Mavro (red), as well as around 23 imported varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Mataro, Grenache and Syrah.

The route takes you through Lemesos, Kolossi, Erimi (where the Cyprus Wine Museum is), Kantou, Souni-Zanakia, Pano Kivides, Agios Amvrosios, Lofou, Vouni, Koilani, Pera Pedi, Mandria, Kato Platres, Omodos, Vasa, Malia, Arsos, Pachna, Anogyra and Avdimou. 

  1. Route: Laona to Akamas

This wine route is situated on the north-western shores of Cyprus and is home to the full-bodied, indigenous Xynisteri grape variety. It is said that it groes well her dur to the temperate climate and sea breeze. The wines produced here are among the best white wines produced on the island as well. The area isn’t exclusively given over to whites. There are also some of the best reds which come from the rare Maratheftiko grape.

The route goes through Paphos, Mesogi, Tsada, Stroumbi, Kathikas, Akourdaleia, Pano Arodes, Kato Arodes, Ineia, Drouseia, Polis and Pegeia. 

  1. Route: Mountainous Larnaka (Larnaca) to Lefkosia (Nicosia)

This route will take you through three wineries and ten villages as well as a selection of museums and workshops. There are a wide range of grapes growing here including the white varieties of Assyrtiko, Malvasia Aromatica, Chardonnay Xynisteri and Sauvignon Blanc, and the red varieties of Maratheftiko, Cabernet and Merlot.

A journey along this route takes you through Lefkosia, Skarinou, Lefkara, Kato Drys, Vavla, Ora, Odou, Farmakas, Gourri, Fikardou (you’ll see one of the oldest traditional wine presses in Cyprus here) and Kalo Chorio. 

  1. Route: Pitsilia

Amongst the villages scattered amongst the mountain peaks of Madari, Machairas and Papoutsa, much richer wines are produced. The high altitude contributes to the high-quality grapes which mature more slowly and the arid, sloping ground forces the vines to grow together. But as you travel, the views and the landscape may attract as much of your attention as the vineyards. Pisilia, one of the 11 renowned villages along this route, is a winner of the Nom d’Origine.

The route passes through Limassol, Trimiklini, Pelendri, Potamitissa, Dymes, Kyperounta, Chandria, Polystypos, Alona, Agros, Agios Ioannis and Agios Theodoros. 

  1. Route: Vouni Panagias to Ambelitis

 At 2,400 feet above sea level with plenty of pine forests that you’ll pass through during your journey, this area produces delicate white wines which taste of peaches, green apples and apricots. The 10 wineries in this route produce 27 varieties of grape, mainly the local Xynisteri grape as well as the Maratheftiko and Mavro (red) grapes, Carignan Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The route takes you through Paphos, Mesogi, Tsada, Stroumbi, Polemi, Psathi, Kannaviou, Asprogia, Pano Panagia, Chrysorrogiatissa, Agia Moni, Statos-Agios Fotios, Koilineia, Galataria, Pentalia, Amargeti, Eledio, Agia Varvara and Acheleia or Choulou, Lemona, Kourdaka, Letymvou and Kallepeia.

The Limassol Wine Festival takes place in the Limassol Municipal Gardens in August/September each year so you could time your holiday to dovetail in with this event. As yet, it isn’t a big, overpowering event but one that enables all those who go to enjoy themselves.  Each evening, about 15,000 visitors come to join the Dionysiac celebrations and sample the local wine and delicious Cypriot dishes as well as enjoying singing, dancing, poetry and drama.

If you want to sample Cypriot wines before you visit Cyprus, the best place to start would be the Cypriot Wine Festival, which takes place each year in the UK and which always has a large number Cypriot companies in attendance along with their UK importers.

Most of the two million tourists that visit Cyprus each year (and a large proportion are Britons and Irish because of the close links that have existed for centuries) visit for the beaches, the sunshine and the water activities. You’ll leave them far behind if you follow the wine routes and see more of the traditional and heritage side of the country.

For more about Cyprus, click here.

Images courtesy Cyrus Tourism Organisation.

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