Cyprus was the first country in the Mediterranean to make wines, it is believed to be as early as 3500BC - long before Dionysus, the God of wine, was depicted in the Paphos mosaics. Recently, the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) published a beautiful colour 24 page A4 guide to the newly-established wine routes of Cyprus which are waiting to be explored by tourists and residents alike.
Entitled Cyprus Wine Routes and available free of charge from all CTO offices, the guide is full of interesting information about the different indigenous grape varieties, how wine was made in the past and how modern manufacturing methods have changed as has the taste of many wines since the introduction of imported grape varieties.
There are five wines routes to explore and the Commandaria route which reveals the secrets of this dessert wine which was enjoyed in courts across Europe in medieval times. The production of Commandaria using sun-dried grapes was perfected by the Crusader Knights of St John in 12th Century, whose headquarters were at Kolossi Castle and today, this famous dessert wine is made in 14 villages.
All of the wine routes are located in the south-west of the island and each is carefully detailed in the guide with an accompanying route plan so that no villages or places of interest are missed.
The routes are each given a name which now correspond with the new brown road signs that have been put in place for quick recognition by drivers. This is because they have an eye-catching motif of a bunch of grapes and route number clearly displayed. The individual character of each route is highlighted in the guide with the villages of the ‘krassichoriâ’ (route number four), being the best known. It also proudly boasts the highest number of wineries producing superb blended wines that incorporate indigenous and imported grape varieties. This route contrasts sharply with route six which is the Pitsilia route and is nicknamed ‘pines and vines‘.
Each route is described in detail - for example the first route which takes travellers to the Laona plateau overlooking the Akamas and includes the well-known wine villages of Inia, Droushia and Kathikas, is the main growing area for the indigenous white grape variety, Xyinisteri, whilst the Dhiarizos Valley (Route Three) is dominated by the black Mavro grape.
This area of Cyprus is relatively new on the wine scene and has been established because of its many small producers who are using new production methods that have totally transformed the wines produced in this area. Those who choose this route are taken on a circular route from Kouklia to Fasoula and Ayios Nikolaos and back via Kelokedera, Salamiou and Nikoklia - certainly a route that includes spectacular scenery, attractive villages and a wealth of different rural architectural styles.
In the final pages of the guide, the reader learns that many of the local wineries have wine tasting facilities and that makers are happy that visitors sample the wines at different stages of their manufacture for example, before and after they are matured in oak barrels. In this way visitors to the winery learn how the character of each wine is developed.
On the final page of the guide, the reader learns about the museums that give a valuable insight into the islands tradition of wine making including the Cyprus Wine Museum at Erimi (west of Limassol and close to Kolossi Castle) and the Archbishop Makarios Museum in his home village of Panayia. For those keen to see the traditional equipment used, there are old wines presses to see in Omodhos and Lania. Certainly the one thing that readers of this guide learn is that wine making is an important and intrinsic part of life in Cyprus.