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.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cyprus, Day Two: Wineries of Cyprus

The Mediterranean Beach Resort
Before I go on any further, I must describe the sheer joy of staying at one of Cyprus's major resorts. The four star Mediterranean Beach Resort is an amazing place to walk into after a long voyage. Excellent and caring staff greet you and introduce you to a part of luxury that you did not anticipate. The look of the hotel as one enters is palatial as it is spacious, well designed and colourful foyer with leather furniture and local stone design.
The gardens are exceptionally well planned and beautiful with lovely rows of palm trees and hibiscus  hedges lining the pathway to the huge swimming pool just below the restaurant level. Stairs lead to the superb beach that houses the crystal clear and warm water of the Mediterranean.
There are several dining areas that one can go to: The Celeste Terrace Restaurant with its extensive service of dinners and buffets; the Aquaria Restaurant where breakfast is always a pleasure; the Nautical Restaurant on the beach; A Japanese style Sushi Bar and an Italian Restaurant called Ristorante Bacco. If that is not enough there are several bars on the premises.
The rooms are exceptional and very comfortable with excellent  balcony views of the complex and come in different sizes and types suited to the needs of the hotel's guests.
For the health conscious there is a full service spa.
This hotel seems to have everything for everybody and I for one was impressed with the layout of the building as well as the courteous and professional staff.
Land of Ancient Wine!            
Cyprus is one of the oldest wine producing nations in the World and in fact is noted to have the oldest named wine anywhere: Commandaria. This dessert wine is made from sun dried grapes and represents a style of wine making that is ancient. The wine was known to Crusaders in the 12th Century and was used at the wedding of Richard the Lion-heart in Limassol. 
Made from local grapes Xynisteri and Mavro, the wine got its name from the Knights Templar since the area that they occupied was called "Commandaria" and was eventually passed onto the wine by those who drank it. The name stuck.
The Wineries 
According to the "Wines of Cyprus" there are some 48 registered wineries in Cyprus with many more "private" home based wineries. Since 2004 legislation was made to classify the wines into quality levels which dictated percentage of grape types in various wines as well as wine making methods and quantity of grape production.
Four major wine appellations were made, these being: Akamas Laona in the north-west, Vouni Panayas-Ambelitis in the west part of the Cyprus, Pitsilia and Limassol.
Since time was a precious commodity our visits were limited to a few representatives of the best wineries.
ETKO Ltd/Olympus Wines
 Christodoulos Hadjipavlou founded ETKO Wines in 1844.The company is still in (6th generation) family hands. I met with Export Manager Olvia Hadjipavlou and discussed the company's wines and future. .ETKO also is largest distillery on the island and is equipped with the most modern and up-to-date plants and equipment.
In  1992 the company started another winery in Omodos, a village in the Troodos Mountains and within the Limassol District. It also purchase a property in the Peleponnese of Greece . The winery which was called Olympus Winery Hellas, has been modernized to make it ultra ready for great wine production.
All wine at ETKO is produced from its own vineyards. Many varieties both native and non native are being grown to produce first class wines.
While at the winery we tried several wines. Of course the Commandaria was superb. I enjoyed the white made from Xynisteri grapes and thoroughly loved the Rose which was a blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan Noir. It was a phenomenal sipping and food wine and I believe a great future.
We also tried the red Maratheftiko which was very young and in need of some age though still impressive. I became a bit "cheeky" and asked to possibly taste an older wine and as I speak, one will soon be delivered for future tasting.
With new cellars, modern equipment, healthy vines of various varieties I can only assume that this winery's history is still quite young and promising.