Wine is as synonymous with Cyprus as pizza is with Italy.
You’ll feel the love that these people have for their wines when you take a trip through a gorgeous wine village, or you’ll experience it first-hand when having dinner at a local’s house.
The island is one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world, with a very rich history of wine-making that dates back to 3,500 BC.
Thus, the first wines in the Mediterranean region were produced in Cyprus nearly 6,000 years ago and the first named wine in the world came from this very island.
The Grapes Behind the Greatness
The Cypriot winemakers are very serious about their wines. You can be certain that they only use high-quality grapes that’ll produce the highest quality wines. Some of these grapes include:
This ancient red grape variety is sparsely grown at wineries across the island.
Maratheftiko grapes need to be planted next to other varieties that’ll flower at the same time, like Spourtiko, because this variety is unable to self-pollinate.
If you ever tasted a Cyprus wine with a soft floral aroma and chocolate or coffee undertone, these grapes are to thank.
Xynisteri vineyards take up a large portion of Cyprus’ land space as it’s the island’s main white-wine grape variety.
If you have tasted both Xynisteri wines and Commandaria before, you may have noticed the important role that these grapes play in the most popular Cyprus wine.
Mavro is the Greek word for black, which makes the name well-suited to this grape variety.
Mavro, a dark-skinned grape indigenous to Cyprus, also plays a big role in the process of making Commandaria. It’s the most planted grape variety in Cyprus, making it the island’s main wine grape.
Cyprus’ Wine Regions: Where the Magic Happens
There are various regions in Cyprus that play an important part in the island’s wine production. Here are some of those regions:
This historic Cyprus wine region is home to the largest concentration of wine villages, wineries, and vineyards on this Mediterranean island.
You’ll find this region in southern Cyprus, where it surrounds the city of Limassol. One of the most popular Cyprus wine routes, the Krasochoria of Lemesós, runs through this wine region, passing 20 wine villages.
The vineyard-covered slopes around Polemi, Kouklia, and Kathikas are responsible for most of the Paphos region’s wine.
The region is home to some of the island’s prime wine villages, like Inia, and the most esteemed wine routes, like Laona-Akamas.
You could probably guess what this Cyprus wine region is known for.
The ancient amber-colored dessert wine, still in production after nearly 6,000 years, is known as Commandaria. The Commandaria region, situated in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, is home to all 14 of the wine villages that are allowed to produce this well-known wine.
Commandaria: The World’s Oldest Wine
The ancient locals responsible for what we know as Cyprus wine are also the masterminds behind the world’s oldest named wine. What’s more, this dessert wine, widely known as Commandaria, is still in production on the island.
Mavro and Xynisteri grapes are sun-dried to make Commandaria, which is a pretty sweet wine. Before fortification, this Cyprus wine reaches an alcohol content level of 15%. So, don’t be fooled by the sweetness because it can be quite potent.
Commandaria was a popular choice amongst ancient Greeks, who probably partied until sunrise with this dessert wine in hand. In the 12th Century, when King Richard the Lionheart and Berengaria of Navarre tied the knot, they served Commandaria. This is when the king declared this wine as the wine of kings and the king of wines.
Sip Like a Local: Cypriot Wine Etiquette
As with dining and general etiquette, there’s a set way to enjoy Cyprus wine. Here are some of the dos and don’ts when it comes to sipping on wine on this Mediterranean island:
- Binge drinking is a big no and heavily frowned upon by the locals of Cyprus.
- When drinking wine at a dinner, you should always drink at the same pace as the rest of the guests.
- Alcohol is a common beverage choice on special occasions, so don’t be surprised and don’t refuse a glass (unless you really can’t have the wine).
- It’s considered very rude and disrespectful to get drunk while enjoying a meal.
- It’s considered good manners to bring a gift when you are invited to someone’s house and wine is always a good choice.
The Wine Festivals: A Celebration of the Vine
Since wine is so big in Cyprus, it’s only right that the locals celebrate their wine-producing heritage. Here are some popular wine festivals that you should attend when in Cyprus:
Limassol Wine Festival
Limassol’s biggest wine festival is a two-week event that takes place from the end of August to early September.
The festival is a major attraction for both tourists and locals but in the end, it’s held to celebrate Cyprus wine. An average of 15,000 visitors travel to Limassol to attend the celebration every year and if you’re ever in Cyprus during festival time, be sure to stop by.
This Cyprus wine festival is organized by the 14 Commandaria region villages and it’s typically held in mid-September.
The festival is focused on Cyprus’ oldest and most popular wine, Commandaria, and it includes harvesting and wine-pressing events, as well as classes on how to cook with the dessert wine.
Peloponnese Wine Festival
This is a fairly new event and it’s aimed at Greek winemakers showcasing their finest wines to Cypriot professionals and enthusiasts.
The festival is also hosted in Limassol, with 26 Greek winemakers and more than 200 of their best labels that will be available to taste.
Food and Wine: The Perfect Cypriot Pairings
The delicious meals that sprout from Cypriot cuisine taste best when paired with the island’s local wines. Here are some pairings that’ll take your tastebuds straight to heaven:
- Meze and Maratheftiko/Mavro
- Halloumi and Cabernet Sauvignon
- Souvla and Assyrtiko
- Moussaka and Agiorgitiko
- Stifado and Maratheftiko
- Baklava and Xynisteri
Wineries Worth a Visit: From Boutique to Historic
If you ever feel like taking a tasting tour through the valleys of Cyprus, you should check out these standout wineries:
Lambouri Winery is one of Cyprus’ premier Boutique Wineries and it has won more than 100 awards since 2007. Lambouri is home to 8 grape varieties, including Mavro, Xynisteri, Merlot, and Chardonnay. They still use traditional winemaking methods and the legendary Knight’s Legend is a product of this gorgeous winery.
Tsiakkas Winery is located in the jaw-dropping Pitsilia region. Some of Cyprus’ best grape varieties, including Commandaria, Xynisteri, Maratheftiko, and Yiannoudi are found in the high vineyards of this winery. The winery, which now produces more than 200,000 bottles of wine per year, was founded in 1988.
Ayia Mavri Winery
Ayia Mavri was founded in 1983 and today, it’s home to both indigenous grape varieties like Mavro and Xynisteri, as well as international varieties like Shiraz and Cabernet. While still following the traditional beliefs and values of the founders, the winery is using new technology in their production.
The Evolution of Cyprus Wine in Modern Times
It’s the year 2023 and times are changing.
Even the oldest meals and wines are being modernized by chefs and wine-makers. Here are some slight adaptations that are changing the game and adding new layers to traditional Cyprus wine.
International Grape Varieties
Some Cypriot winemakers are incorporating more and more international grape varieties into their wines. It has also become common practice for contemporary winemakers across the world to create new wine recipes by combining different grape varieties, including those found in Cyprus.
Advanced Production Methods
While Cyprus isn’t the most evolved island on the planet, they are incorporating some newer production methods and technologies to their winemaking. Wine-pressing can be done much faster today and sun-drying the grapes isn’t such a lengthy process as it was nearly 6,000 years ago.
Conclusion: Raise a Glass to Cyprus
While there may be some spots on the World Map that are higher up on the list of famous wine-producing countries, Cyprus is without a doubt a must for every wine lover’s bucket list. What sounds better than enjoying a glass of the world’s oldest wine still in production on a gorgeous island?
My Winery Reviews & Tours
- The BEST Cyprus Wineries & Wine Tasting Experiences
- Makarounas Boutique Winery, Paphos
- Wine Tasting at Kolios Winery: The Best Wine on the Island
- Three Wineries in One Day (Cyprus)
- Wine Tasting at Tsangarides Winery, Cyprus
- Wine Tasting at Vasilikon Winery, Cyprus
- Wine Tasting at Vouni Panayia Winery
FAQs: Your Burning Questions About Cyprus Wine Answered
What wine is Cyprus known for?
Cyprus is best known for the delicious 5,000+ year-old dessert wine known as Commandaria. Furthermore, the island is home to many other popular wines, like those produced with the Mavro and Xynisteri grapes.
What is the white wine of Cyprus?
The main white-wine variety in Cyprus is known as Xynisteri, which is a crisp wine produced with the indigenous white Cypriot grape of the same name.
How many wineries are there in Cyprus?
There are a total of 52 wineries in Cyprus. These wineries are responsible for large-scale wine production, while there are a few other small wineries that are responsible for house production wines.