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Wines and alcohols

Cultivation of grapevine and wine production in Cyprus has a very long tradition which is 4000 years old. Soil and climatic conditions prevailing on the island were favourable, almost ideal for the cultivation of grapevine and ensured the highest quality of fruit.

 

Long and warm Mediterranean Summer allows the grapes to ripen and gain full flavour and aroma; while mild Winters and winds protect plants against diseases caused by fungus. The grapevine cultivation for wines production concentrate mainly on the southern slopes of the Troodos mountains, species of table grapes that ripen early occupy the riverside, fertile plains from Limassol to Pafos.

 

Total grapevine cultivations in Cyprus presently cover more than 14,000 hectares, from where ca. 60,000 tons of grapes were collected in 2005. More than half of them (31.000 tons) was intended for production of wine.

 

Species of grapevine

 

Both local, typical of Cyprus grapevine strains (more than 11,000 hectares) and international species that perfectly adjusted to the local conditions (about 3,000 hectares) are grown in Cyprus. Among the regional strains, the most important two are: Mavro (with black clusters, from which the red wine is produced) and Xynisteri (clear grapes for production of white wine), also: Maratheftiko, Ofthalmo, Lefkada, Malaga and many others. International species grown here include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Mataro, Merlot Noir, Shiraz, Grenache, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling etc. They are also crossed with the local strains which gives the “world” wines produced on Cyprus a unique local flavour.

 

Wine industry

 

Wine industry in Cyprus is dominated by 4 great manufacturers: KEO ETKO SODAP and LOEL which provide almost 80% of Cypriot wine and alcoholic beverages production. Main plants of these companies are located in Limassol – Cyprus capital of wine. During recent years, they not only make significant investments in modernization of the production process in order to improve the effectiveness and quality of the product, but also the tendencies to transfer the production inside the island in the areas closer to the grapevine cultivations are observed.

 

The remaining part (about 20%) of wine market belongs to smaller, most often family companies whose production is usually based on the clusters from their own vineyards. They are scattered in the areas of the two main regions where the grapevine is grown – in the neighbourhood of Limassol and Pafos. 48 regional wines manufacturers are currently registered in Cyprus, and the production capacities of the largest of them reach 300,000 bottles of wine per year.

 

Regional wine factories produce excellent wines known in many European countries. The quality of products achieved in these, often very modern wineries, production experiences, innovativeness combined with tradition etc. constitutes a great contribution to development of wine industry of Cyprus.

 

All Cypriot wineries are widely open for visiting and guests, it is possible to both try and purchase the selected products there.

 

The authority that supervises the Cypriot wine industry is the semi-governmental institution – The Wine Products Council. No wine can be introduced to the Cypriot market without prior approval of this institution. It is also responsible for implementation of the respective legal regulations.

 

Types of wine

 

    • Traditional – All types of wine are produced in Cyprus: red, white, pink, sparkling; sweet, dry, semi-sweet, semi-dry. Dry wines are usually softer than their equivalents coming from other European countries. Red wines are perfect for meals, especially those of Mediterranean cuisine. White, especially pink – produced of local strains of grapevine , have the natural aroma, delicate nature and mellow taste. Most wines exported from Cyprus are the traditional wines (table or exclusive).

 

    • Commandaria – One of Cyprus symbols. It is probably the oldest known wine in the world. It was described by the ancient (Hezjod, Seneka) and made famous thanks to Red Star Crusaders, who it also owes its name to. Since 1990 it has its own appellation – Appellation d’Origine Controlee. The continuity of quality and flavour is ensured by strictly defined and continuously controlled principles of cultivation and production. Grapes come from the area of eastern slopes of the Troodos mountains, referred to as Commandaria. Local Mavro and Xynisteri strains are grown here on the volcanic soils, poor and weak, consequently giving little fruit, but of high quality. Manually picked grapes are sun-dried from 8 to 15 days, therefore, the content of water in fruit is reduced to the minimum and the sugar content is concentrated. Then the juice squeezed from fruit is left for natural fermentation in wooden barrels where it remains for at least a year. Later the wine is poured into the bottles where it may mature for many years and develop its colour. Commandaria is the sweet wine with amber colour and 15% of alcohol content. It is usually drunk after a meal, to a dessert, necessarily cooled to the temperature of 9°-10°C, followed up with dried fruit such as figs, raisins and almonds.

 

  • Strengthened wines – They are very popular wines from local Cypriot species of sweet grapes. After the collection of grapes and fermentation of juice, the wine is reinforced by adding grape brandy and then the wine matures longer in oak barrels.

 

Other alcohols

 

Apart from wines, other alcohols produced on the basis of grapes are also popular in Cyprus.

 

They are:

 

    • Brandy – Cypriot brandy contains ca. 32-40% of alcohol, it is distilled of the best wines and matures in barrels for many years, while maturing it gains brown colour and pleasant flavour. Cypriot brandy can be compared with the best world brands.

 

  • Zivania – is a traditional Cypriot aperitif produced on the Island since the end of the 14th century. It is distilled from local strains of grapes according to the traditional, same for centuries, technology. It is a colourless beverage, with 45% alcohol content – it is served frozen or with ice, most often it is followed up with appetizers, dried fruit or nuts.

 

Export

 

Although Cyprus is famous for the production of wines, the local consumption is relatively low (about 17 litres per person). The greater part of production is intended for export. Until recently, the bulk wine and grape must had the greatest share in wines export, however, for several years the structure of production and export changes to the benefit of bottled wine. The value of wine export in 2005 amounted to 8,264,767 EUR (17,087,286 litres). The export of other alcohols amounted to EUR 94,695 (19,464 litres).

 

The main ready market are European Union countries such as Great Britain, Germany, France, the export to countries such as Russia and USA is also increasing.

 

More information on the websites:
www.cyprusspirits.com & www.winesofcyprus.co.uk

 

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