Cyprus may not be the first country to spring to mind when thinking about the world’s great wine regions, yet the production of wine on this Mediterranean island has a longer history than almost anywhere else in the world. Recent archaeological discoveries suggest the presence of vineyards on Cyprus as far back as 5,000 years ago.
Quality over quantity
The island of Cyprus is home to a staggering variety of grapes and indeed most of the wines are made from indigenous grapes, ensuring the the taste of the local wines is truly unique. Cyprus has not always had the best of reputations for its wine quality and in the 1980s the only viable market for export was as a very cheap wine to the Soviet Union. Then came a period of reform for the island’s vineyards where emphasis was placed on quality rather than quantity, and new varieties of grapes were introduced that would be able to compete on taste in the established markets of Europe.
While there are four major wine producers on the island, the real excitement for the visitor to Cyprus is to explore the local wineries, often found in beautiful rural settings and in many cases employing the same traditional harvesting techniques that have been used for centuries. Head north of Limassol to the southern slopes of the Troodos mountains and you’ll find the Krassochoria (Wine Villages). Not only will the villages provide an insight and, if you’re lucky a taste, of the local wine produce, but they share many of the secrets of the island’s rich religious and cultural heritage.
Touring the Wine Villages
One of the most popular stops is the village of Omodos, well known for its narrow cobbled streets and its beautiful monastery in its centre. The village, along with Monastery of Stavros (meaning Holy Cross) was once the property of Sir John of Brie, a French nobleman and early Crusader awarded the title Prince of Galilee. It contains old icons, excellent wood carvings and other ecclesiastical objects of interest. A small wine press is open to visitors. If you arrive in August you may be lucky enough to stumble on the annual Omodos wine festival.
Near to Omodos is the lovely village of Koliani. Home to a museum of viniculture, Koliani also boasts the 12th century Agri Mavri church which houses very precious 15th century murals.
Further into the mountains is the wine village of Foini. The village is also home to a private collection of folk art and pottery. As well as its local wines, Foini is also renowned for its production of lokoumi (“Greek delight”).
Hiring a car and driving to the villages is a popular and convenient way to explore this charming area of Cyprus. To really experience the the best these traditional villages you can choose to stay overnight and soak up the the evening atmosphere (and local wines) in the local taverna.
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