Ask Chuck

Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cyprus----Here I Come!

The Adventure Begins: Preamble to Cypus
 Undertaking a working trip to any land involves a reasonable amount of planning. As I recall back in 2009 when the filming of "Adventures in Wine Country" began neither Greg Rist nor I knew what we were in for. As a matter of fact, I recall flying out of  Pearson, in mid-August, for Malta via Rome via Malta with absolutely no idea as to the logistics of our Italian trip to Umbria/Veneto/Lugana. We left on blind faith that the logistics would then come in while we were filming in Malta. Malta worked like clockwork thanks to the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA). However, you must understand that the reason for this was that in mainland Europe August is the time for most businesses to shut down and that means government also. Nothing could but nothing could be arranged. Fortunately, we got our Italian "joining" instructions in during our last week in Malta which was around September 10th. Everything did work like clockwork though I must admit, I was nervous as those who know me know that I prefer things arranged to an "anal" level!
We did not have any problems with the "Two in a Vineyard" series as our hosts were up on things and also our trips to Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Brazil, California and Austria were all dealt with early in the year. However, things went smoothly because both my co-host, Sandie Kraft and Associate Producer/Camera Person Roy Maeder were top professionals when it came to doing the job. They made it fun!
Now I am embarking on an assignment to Cyprus but unfortunately, this time it will be alone due to logistical situations and the fact that the others have other assignments to look after. Thus I am hoping that my writing, columns and camera work will be "up to par".
I have never been to Cyprus. It is not far from my home island of Malta and shares some of the same history to a point. Both are islands in the Mediterranean Sea! Both have histories spanning thousands of years! Both are former British colonies that gained independence (Cyprus 1960; Malta 1964)! Both belong to the British Commonwealth of Nations! Both retained the British practice of driving on the Left Hand side of the road! Both are major tourist attractions with a unique history, culture and cuisine and both have established and budding wine industries with roots that go back thousands of years! Like Malta, Cyprus has one foot implanted in the East and one in the West which makes it all that more interesting.
Cyprus is located in the north-eastern Mediterranean Sea and borders Turkey (75 kilometres) to the north, Syria/Lebanon (about 100 kilometres) to the east, Egypt (about 400 kilometres) to the south and Israel (200 kilometres) to the south-east. The mainland of Greece is about 800 kilometres to the north-west.
At  almost 3600 square miles (9300 kilometres squared), Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. Mountains (Troodos Mountains) cover a great deal of the south-west part of the island. The highest is Mount Olympus at about 6,000 feet in altitude). In the north there is a narrow band of mountains (Kyrenia Mountains) running parallel to the coast itself.  
Between the two mountain systems is the Mesoaria Plain in which can be found the Pedieos River.
The river is the largest in Cyprus and stretches out past Nicosia to the sea at Famagusta Bay.
The Pedieos is important for its irrigation properties and in fact the country seems to be dependent on this important river for a great deal of its food and water sources.
Wine Regions
According to the website "Wines of Cyprus" (, wine has been produced in Cyprus for over 6000 years. In fact, some believe that Cyprus is the oldest wine making country in the Mediterranean and possibly the World.
Ancient indigenous varieties such as Mavro (dark), Xinisteri (white) and Marathefiko (red) still produce outstanding wine. For example: the Xinisteri produces Cyprus's famous sweet white wine known ad Commanderia. In the last few years other grape varieties such as Cabernet, Carignan, Shiraz (Syrah), Mataro (Mourvedre) and Palomino have been successfully introduced.
It seems that most of the quality wine areas are situated near the Troodos Mountains. There are four major quality wine regions.
Quality Levels can be either Regional (where the wines must come from specified regions and vineyards. These vineyards have yield per hectare controls as well as minimum age conditions regarding vines. Red, white and rose wines have alcohol minimums) OR  Appellation Controlled.
Around 2007 a system similar to France's  Appellation d'Origine Controlee (AOC) came into being. It was/is called "The Protected Designation of Origin".
This dictates a higher minimum age of vines, altitude levels of specific registered vineyards, lower yields per hectare and regulations for things such as aging of wines etc. The quality is to be much higher than the regional level.
Quality is what Cyprus intends to produce and quality is what it has in the form of non-phylloxera affected vines. This devastating insect that destroyed much of Europe's vineyards in the 19th century and forced most of the wine producing countries to use grafted vines, somehow did not make it to Cyprus.and thus the vines are phylloxera free. There are many who believe that vines on their own roots---that is to say---not grafted onto phylloxera resistant roots----make higher quality wine. Some may argue but I say natural beats alternatives.
In the coming weeks, there will be follow up blogs concerning my experiences inn Cyprus. I am sure that I will learn much and I am also sure that this will be a journey that I will remember. So will you!