In recent years it has been proven that Cyprus was the first wine-making country in the Mediterranean. When Richard the Lionheart came to the island in 1191 with the Crusader Knights of St John, they found that the local wine was a sweet dessert wine. The knights knew much about wine making so they improved the quality of the wine and named it Commandaria after their administrative headquarters (Le Grand Commandarie) which was Kolossi Castle near the town of Limassol.
Commandaria soon became much sought after throughout Europe – particularly in the Venetian court - and it is said that Portuguese traders took cuttings of the vines from Cyprus to the island of Madeira where another popular dessert wine is made.
Commandaria is the wine with the oldest traditions in the world. In 1990 the wine was recognised as having a controlled area of origin.The ‘Commandaria region’ lies in the southern foothills of the Troodos and has 14 villages - Apasia, Ayios Constantinos, Ayios Mamas, Ayios Pavlos Ayios Yeoryios, Dhoros, Gerasa, Kalo Chorio, Kapilio, Lania, Louvaras, Mobnagri, Sylikou and Zoopygi.
Commandaria is made using a high proportion of Xyinisteri to Mavro grapes. The grapes are picked late in the season (end of September) when their sugar content is highest. After picking, the grapes are laid out on fig leaves and left in the sun for a week so that much of their water is evaporated and their sugar content increased further still. The grapes are then fermented and the wine fortified to 15% volume using distilled wine alcohol. The wine is then matured in oak casks for two years in dark cellars before being bottled.
Commandaria should be served chilled (5-10°C) in a glass that slopes inwards so that the wines wonderful bouquet is retained. A glass of Commandaria is the perfect way to end a meal - accompanied by a cheese board.
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Commandaria dessert wine was made and developed in Cyprus by the knights of King John.
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As well as Commandaria, Cyprus has is famous for a whol variety of Cyprus Wine. Find out more about it here.