4000 Years of Wine Making
With an area of 9,250 sq. kilometres and a population of only 837,000, Cyprus may be described as the most viticultural country in the world. Archaeological and historical evidence shows that wines have been abundant throughout the island’s long history. As the eminent Cypriot Archaeologist Dr Vassos Karageorghis has noted “the archaeological evidence permits us to say that the cultivation of the grape vine started in Cyprus some time early in the second millennium B.C.”.
Today, with a 4,000 year tradition behind us, we have under cultivation some 14,000 hectares of vines of all kinds, with an annual production of 60,000 tones of grapes.
Ideal Geology and Climate
It is not by mere chance that Cyprus has this long tradition in grape growing. The reasons are obvious: climate and soil are the chief determinants for the production of good quality grapes. The wine vineyards of Cyprus are mostly on the southern slopes of the Troodos mountain range, whilst our table varieties, which are early maturing, thrive on the fertile coastal plains, stretching from Limassol to Paphos. The long sunny Mediterranean summers are a great asset; they ripen the fruit and give it its full flavour. The winters are mild and the gentle winds and breezes check the frosts, dispel the fogs and protect the vines and grapes from fungus diseases.
In Cyprus, the wonderful and full of potentials, native varieties like Mavro (Local Black), Xynisteri, Maratheftiko, Ofthalmo, Lefkada, Muscat of Alexandria as well as a number of well-known international ones like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Mataro, Merlot Noir, Shiraz, Grenache, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, etc are well adapted to our climate and soil conditions. As a result, a great deal of continuous research is carried out, in order to help Cypriot oenologists produce wines that reach the international standards with a local flavour.
The big four wineries of the island (ETKO, KEO, LOEL and SODAP) control the majority of production (24,521 tonnes between them). They have developed new vineyards, of their own and through purchase. They have planted hundreds of thousands of new vines of well-known varieties and re-discovered old Cyprus types. They have built new or restored old wineries in the hills, and enhanced their plants in Limassol. Their laboratories have researched new production techniques and their oenologists have introduced new styles and new brands.
In the early 1980’s the Cyprus government encouraged small enterprises to establish and operate wineries of 50,000 to 300,000 bottles-a-year capacity, in the hill villages of the grape growing regions. The first of these was at Chrysorrogiatissa Monastery in the Pafos District. Today there are 48 registered regional wineries. Their contribution to the diversification of style and development of new wines has been immense. Each year brings advances in quality and the introduction of exciting new wines using local as well as famous international varieties of grapes.
The combined talents of the large companies and the smaller regional wineries are giving the Cyprus industry bright prospects for the future, especially now that the country has joined the European Union.