Wine is not a new story for Cyprus. Recent archaeological excavations which have been undertaken on the island have confirmed the thinking that this small tranche of earth has been producing wine for almost 5000 years. The discoveries testify that Cyprus may well be the cradle of wine development in the entire Mediterranean basin, from Greece, to Italy and
This historic panorama of continuous wine history that the island possesses is just one of the reasons that make a trip to the wine villages such a fascinating prospect. A second important reason is the wines of today –finding and getting to know our regional wineries, which are mostly small and enchanting.
Remember, though, it is important always to make contact first to arrange your visit. The third and best reason is the wine you will sample during your journeys along the “Wine Routes” of Cyprus. From the traditional indigenous varieties of Mavro (for red and rosι wines) and the white grape Xynisteri, plus the globally unique Koumandaria to well – knownglobal varieties, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Let’s take a wine walk. The wine is waiting for us!
Lemesos, Kolossi, Erimi, Kantou, Souni –
Zanakia, Pano Kivides, Agios Amvrosios,
Lofou, Vouni, Koilani, Pera Pedi, Mandria,
Kato Platres, Omodos, Vasa, Malia, Arsos,
Pachna, Anogyra, Avdimou
As the poet Constantinos Kavafi s said,
“You should want the road to be a long one”.
Here both to travel the route and to arrive are
THE FOOTHILLS OF TROODOS – A LOVELY SIGHT
Spread out over the southern slopes of the Troodos mountain range, majestically overlooking thousands of vineyards, the route of “Krasochoria Lemesou” (Wine Villages of Lemesos) offers the traveller everything. Natural scenery, pretty villages, local produce and, at a break in the journey, rest, relaxation and delicious wines to tempt the palate.
Along this Wine Route there are 20 villages. It is the fourth region of Wines of Controlled Denomination in Cyprus. Large quantities of indigenous grapes are grown here.
This is a Route to savour, so pleasant that the words of the Greek poet Constantinos Kavafi s come to mind: “You should want the road to be a long one”. Here both to travel and to arrive are pleasures. Nature, and man’s cultivation of it are all about. For the lover of history, there is plenty to engage the attention too.
Village life has always included a welcome -even in the poorest times a householder would give his bed and bread to the traveller. There is no need for such gestures today, but everywhere along this route the Cyprus welcome remains warm and friendly. Nowhere is there a warmer welcome than in our wineries. This route has no less than 11 to visit.
Thrust up by a huge volcanic eruption 90 million years ago, the island of Cyprus is dominated by its Troodos range, with its highest point Mount Olympos (1952 m). Below, sloping down to the southern coast, the terrain provides excellent conditions for the cultivation of the vine.
Climate: Winters here can be cold, and part of this route goes up to the snow line (1,100 m), but sunshine is never far away. Autumn is short, but its rains bring spring-like conditions and hosts of wild flowers. Summers are warm to hot, but generally there is a breeze.
Terrain: Hilly, and undulating, often with stepped cultivation. The soil and general “terroir” are very suitable for vines.
Vineyards: The twenty villages that lie along the way belong in the fourth region of the Wines of Controlled Denomination of Origin (WCNO). Twenty three grape varieties are grown.
Red varieties: Mavro, Ofthalmo, Marathefthiko, Carignan Noire, Mataro, Oellade, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Alicante B., Grenache,
Shiraz, Merlot, Lefkada.
White varieties: Xynisteri, Palomino, Malvasia L., Malvasia G., Sauvignon Black, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Semillon, Chardonnay, Malaga.
Taking the A6 Motorway westwards from Lemesos (Limassol), we look out for the exit to Kolossi (about seven kilometres along the way), turn off and drive south a kilometre. Here is a modern, vibrant village spreading northwards from the old Crusader Castle. Not far away are “The Plantations”, where millions of citrus fruits are picked every year and the scent during blossom time is intense. Kolossi offers shops and services of all kinds, traditional and modern alike.
Kolossi Castle recalls the age of the Crusades and one of the Orders, the Koumandaria of the Knights of St. John, that spent many years here. Their period in Cyprus coincided with the international fame of Cyprus’s great sweet wine in the Royal and Ecclesiastical Courts of Europe, and it eventually took their name, becoming“Koumandaria”.
Leaving Kolossi westwards, we soon come to Erimi Village. As we drive down a short slope, opposite a row of shops, on the left is the Wine Museum of Cyprus. Here, in a marvellous building constructed in traditional stone and tile, you can see vine and wine exhibits of historical and current interest, view an audio-visual presentation, taste and buy a range of Cyprus wines
A few metres from the Wine Museum, across the bridge, we turn right on to the E601 road and begin our ascent into the hills. We pass Kantou Village and after about six kilometres, Souni and Zanakia. This is a pleasing countryside location, in which you can refresh mind and body and enjoy a seat under the pine trees in the Zanakia square. Nearby is the first modern winery to be built by the Haggipavlou family in 1893, surrounded by a model vineyard.
As we drive on upwards, we pass the new village of Pano Kivides, with its well laid out streets, neat new houses and nice gardens. The residents were moved here in 1971 from the old village bearing the name because of a severe land-slip, rendering the dwellings unsafe. Shortly after passing the petrol station (which has a fascinating connection with Cyprus’s independence struggles of the 1950s and 60s) and its attached taverna, you may take a right turn down a steep cobbled road to the old village, cradled in an attractive hillside, with a charming little church.
The land is no longer unsafe. From here the more adventurous driver may take fascinating unmade-up tracks through the area, which are quite safe, beautiful and peaceful; and you can’t get lost!
Back on the main road, we drive four km along and down a long slope to the second village of the “Wine Villages Region”, Agios Amvrosios. It repays a stop –surrounded by hillocks and deep little valleys, there are some spectacular drives/walks to be had here. The streets of the village, too, reward the walker-most houses are very well restored and they wind around the slopes delightfully. The main street is lively with its village store, coffee shops and a taverna which has a magnificent old Mulberry tree outside (“Sykaminia” in Greek, which is the name of the taverna).
On the main road is the winery “GAIA OINOTECHNIKI”, established in 1988 and known for its EU-certified organic red and rosι wines. Try the “Ambelida” white, which is a popular wine, with a pleasing flowery nose and fresh taste, made from the Xynisteri variety.
One hundred metres up the road from the
“GAIA OINOTECHNIKI” winery, take the right turn to Vouni Village. In February almond blossoms dot the way – and when you get there you will see that Vouni is covered with almond trees! Nestled in a large hollow in the hillside, the village lies between two rivers and it is noted for its steep, cobbled, narrow streets, with some very interesting old houses with traditional court-yards and Venetian arches at their heart. Everywhere there are balconies to be seen, small and large, all with sensational views. Vouni has trees-lots of them! Big pine trees dot through the buildings, and the fi elds and gardens have almonds, pomegranates, figs, citrus, peach and apricots, whilst just outside there are clusters of cypress and eucalyptus trees. Thirty years ago Vouni had 2,500 inhabitants, but now less than 100 live there permanently. Urbanisation accounted for the loss, but families are returning, if only to restore their old homes for weekends and holidays. In Cyprus, people are very loyal to the villages of their ancestors.
The village has several small ethnic and religious museums, coffee shops and tavernas. It also hosts the Cyprus Donkey Sanctuary, founded in 1994, which looks after more than 120 sick, old or unwanted former working donkeys, as well as operating a health service for those still working. Leaving the village centre eastwards, we can see the old olive press, a recently built small amphitheatre, with attached refreshment booth and children’s playground and the new Lemesos district wine centre. Everywhere there are vineyards, alas many of them now abandoned (most are planted with the Mavro grape, now no longer loved by winemakers) but as we motor on towards Koilani more spaces are cultivated and planted with new grape varieties, supplying the wineries of that village.
Four kilometres lie between Vouni and Koilani -it is a winding road with gorgeous views along the long valley to the right. Koilani is utterly charming with winding shaded streets and some delightful village houses hidden away behind their treelined court-yards. It is a lively busy village with some local industry and commercial activities and includes several wineries.
As a former administrative village of the region, and centre of this “Afames” area, with some of the best red grape vineyards in Cyprus, it is a place to linger awhile in…
The “AGIA MAVRI” winery, started in the 1980s by Dr. and Mrs. Ioannides, makes a large range of wines; dry, medium and sweet. It is one of the latter, the “Mosxatos”, that has made the winery famous internationally through the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals it has won. It is gently sweet, with a dry finish and is a delightful dessert wine. Mrs. Ioannides is the chief winemaker.
In the centre of this hilly village there is the community taverna, a general store and several styles of coffee shop.
Back on the main road you can take in “VARDALIS WINERY”, which welcomes visitors by appointment. Here is another chance for wine buffs to try the Cyprus red grape, the Marathefthiko.
Wine is not the only grape product to be tasted.
“Palouzι” and “Soudjoukos” are Cyprus sweets made from grape juice, boiled in huge copper cauldrons and cleared with “white earth”.
It is then cooled and thickened with flour and brought to the boil once more, sometimes with rose-water or orange water flavouring, to make a blancmange like dessert and a chewy whole almond filled sweet.
In October, on the first weekend, Koilani stages the “Afamia” festival, where palouzι and other delights are off ered for free, among many other attractions. The village also hosts an ecclesiastical Museum which accommodates the skull of Agia Mavri, Patron Saint of the village. A small wine museum is currently being renovated.
Down the road from Koilani is the tiny old Byzantine Church of Agia Mavri which you must stop and see. A big coffee shop / restaurant operates on both sides of the road, part of it in the shade of a huge 800 year old Plane tree. A short drive up a twisting road through a green gorge to Pera Pedi follows.
Pera Pedi Village is equally spread on either side of the Saittas to Mandria road. On the south side the village is old and compact, whilst on the other side, going up the pineclad slopes, the buildings are newer and larger, with some lovely houses hidden away in the pine trees. Apples are a crop here-we are on the snow line; above it apples, below it olives. Here you can see the buildings that comprised the second commercial winery of Cyprus, started in 1894 by the English Chaplin family, and bought by KEO on their formation in 1928. Restoration is a possibility.
Now we take the road to Mandria. After five kilometres or so we bear left down into this pretty village. Rainfall is generally good here, so it is green and well planted. At the bottom of the village, we can visit the “M. ANTONIADES” Winery, another family business, where the winemaker uses the unusual “free flow” system to produce the grape juice (the weight of the grapes in the vat is sufficient to ensure this flow of juice). There are old winemaking implements on show, and a splendid tasting room, with a large balcony giving wonderful views across the landscape. The Antoniades brand name is “Castellani” and you can try both the red
and white wines.
Back on the main road we head north for another five kilometres, when we reach Kato Platres Village. Plenty of hills surround us, with pine trees galore and wonderful air. There is a touristic feeling here and it is popular with Cypriots and foreigners alike.
It is pleasantly cool in high summer.
Along the way near the church is the splendid “Chateau” of “LAMBOURIS WINERY”, where group visitors are welcome. Founded in 1989, from small beginnings making wine in a chilled fruit store, it has become quite a large and successful, exporting producer. Try the Xynisteri, “Lambouri White”, and barrel-fermented Chardonnay.
To get back on to our route we re-trace our path to Mandria Village and head southwest to Omodos. Just before we get there we come upon the family-run “ZENON WINERY”, which is a middle-sized producer. Its premises show off a lot of viticultural and household implements of historical interest.
From the range of wines try Zenon’s fresh and fruity Xynisteri.
After 72 km, so far, our next port-of – call is Omodos, where we leave the car in the ample car park and walk into the pedestrianised village square “Timios Stavros” (Holy Cross), which is bounded by craft and fashion shops, coffee shops and eating places, with the fine monastery building at its foot. The village is bustling and beautifully restored throughout. It lies on the western bank of River Chapotami, at an altitude of 810 metres and is surrounded by hills. Good rainfall ensures much more than just vineyards, with various crops and all kinds of orchard fruit grown. The huge renovated wine press (“Linos) is well worth a visit. Omodos is popular with tourists, so there are plenty of restaurants and several good places to stay.
Leaving Omodos we return to the E601 road to Erimi. Shortly after we do so we spot the “LINOS WINERY”, which welcomes the visitor. Grapes from privately owned vineyards (currently being extended) of both local and foreign varieties make a range of popular table wines. “LINOS” is family-run and the current director is Mr. Herodotos Herodotou. From the winery you can admire the splendid view across the valley to the east and the chalky ridge of Afames with its prominent vineyards. The area is steeped in history, ancient and modern.
Not far along the road, we take a short detour to Vasa village, four kilometres roughly from Omodos. The way in, down a deep little valley with a 180° turn at the bottom, where a charming little chapel has to be seen, is really lovely. Then, upwards into Vasa, yet another rural village, with yet another character all of its own. The products of the good earth have supported this community for hundreds of years and wine has been a commercial business here for a long time as well.
As we arrive, the village church of Agios Georgios dominates the view. Another building that catches the eye is an imposing restored stone house which hosts “VASA WINERY”. This is a ‘boutique’ winery, founded by former international businessman Pambos Argyrides. Pambos has inherited the wine-making mantle of his great grandfather, grandfather and father, turning their traditions into stylish modern wines using Xynisteri and Chardonnay,
Mataro, Cabernet Sauvignon and Marathefthiko. In his complex there reside his forbears’ winemaking tools and the huge terra cotta jars (“Pitharia”) in which the wine was made. Alongside are the gleaming temperature controlled stainless steel
fermenters and storage tanks with today’s vintages in them. Through a doorway and you enter Pambos’s delightful residence, complete with tasting room. Down below are cool cellars, with elegant new French oak barrels maturing Argyrides wines.
Vasa is not a large village, but worth a stroll around its pleasant streets, with several tavernas, shops and coffee shops adorning them. Here, and indeed in virtually all winemaking villages, as you walk the streets you see the huge “Pitharia” close to the houses, in yards and sometimes in the dwellings themselves. They are a reminder that in days gone by every family made its own wine-some for consumption, some for distilling and some for marinating pork meat and sausages, to keep for winter. There is a charming Folklore Museum here as well, with a lot of exhibits and information about vines and wines.
From Vasa take the local, tarmac road to Malia Village, passing along an undulating plateau with a myriad of vineyards. Before the Turkish invasion of 1974 Malia was a bi-communal village and this is evident from the tall Minaret of the village Mosque. Malia Village is one of the vinicultural villages which largely maintains its old character, less touristically developed than Omodos and Vasa. It is most noticeable for the multi-million Euro wine development close by-the “MALIA (KEO)” winery. Originally built in 1930, the chateau-like structure was completely re-built in 1996 and a large modern wine-making plant added. Visits can be arranged by appointment. Around the winery are 50 hectares of model vineyards, planted with a wide variety of indigenous and international grapes. From the range, the “Ktima Malia” Riesling is interesting, because it is one of the few successful manifestations of this grape in Cyprus. The Chardonnay is also worth trying, with characteristic flower and fruit notes of this grape.
Another essentially rural ride takes us four kilometres to Arsos Village. Like so many others it is built on a hill (good for defensive purposes), its streets plunge down into a green valley with a stream at its foot. This provides excellent opportunities for walks. Arsos has a gentrified look about it, with many houses either restored or reconstructed or new ones built in traditional local stone. It is becoming a popular place to live. Along the valley track, or by another road from the village, on the western side, is the “NIKOLETTINO” winery. Its position off ers the visitor and wine taster handsome views to the village and around the countryside. The winery’s grapes are essentially local and from the range you may try the white Xynisteri.
Arsos Village has an ecclesiastical and a folkloric museum, both of which should be visited. In the centre of the village there is an excellent produce shop, where you may buy the fine-quality local olive oil (a fast expanding growth industry in Cyprus, as
befits the move to the healthy Mediterranean diet) and dine well at the local taverna.
From Arsos village go back to the E601 and drive south. After about eight kilometres we take a right turn to Pachna. This is a large and purposeful village, with a lot going on. There is a number of outstanding country walks from here, with churches old and new that demand a visit. After our look around, we go on again, this time on the cross-country gravelled road to Anogyra, a distance of seven km. Olives, vines and goat herds dot the landscape but all are now in carob country! These lovely old trees fight for their existence today, as their crop is desired less and less. As you approach Anogyra on the le_ is the “Oleastro” olive park, with a busy modern olive press at the heart of a complex that includes olive museum, restaurant, art gallery and shop.
Anogyra is a forward-thinking, modern village with a large expatriate population who work with their Cypriot residents on some fine cultural, traditional and artistic programmes.
In a lovely village setting is the “NICOLAIDES” family winery, now run by Mr Nikos Nikolaides, third generation winemaker who graduated in Oenology in France. Nikos has taken traditions and married them to modern techniques. He produces around 100,000 bottles a year from grapes from family vineyards and those of contracted growers. From the reds, taste the Marathefthiko, the white dry Chardonnay and the interesting Rosι. Nicos makes a very good Muscat liqueur wine, too.
Now it is time to descend to sea level, taking the twisting road to Avdimou village. Avdimou is handily placed near the Motorway roughly equidistant from Lemesos and Pafos. It’s a friendly place, an unspoilt place, with a truly Cypriot taverna and coffee shops. From here some excellent beaches (with their ‘resident; tavernas) are but a couple of kilometres away over the Motorway Bridge and following the well signposted tracks.
And so ends this major wine route. At the end of it, one considers the people we have encountered, the sights we have seen in countryside and village, the sounds we have heard, and, of course, the times at the table and tasting room. At this point, so many of us have fallen in love with the real Cyprus, and feel no surprise that so many people, from ancient history onwards have done the same…
Courtesy of the CTO