Pelendri, Lemesos. 1500m. Tsiakkas vineyards and winery. One of the main protagonists of the Cyprus wine revolution ex-banker Kostas Tsiakkas is a man on a mission. His open minded attitude and astute business acumen have been deemed helpful and not only for his own interests. Him and other like minded characters like Minas Mina of the nearby Kyperounda winery, Vlassides, Argyrides are gaining time and traction in pooling research and helping each other on a wide range of issues. This common sense mentality was one of the highlights on my recent visit. The setting is alpine, it feels more like the Dolomites than the highlands of Pitsilia in these eastern foothills of Mount Troodos. It is sunny, not a cloud on the horizon yet the early afternoon ambient temperature was plummeting. Man made terraces look like the ones in the Douro in Portugal. The soils are sandy volcanic. One can only guess wrongly harvest dates in this bucolic setting. Their Xynisteri 2017 was harvested on September 15th. It is crisp, of great purity and long. His Mavro 2017 showed that low yields and slow ripening have more depth punching above it’s known talents. The Yiannoudi 2013 and 2017 were a revelation of what this rising star indigenous grape has to offer. Meantime current star Vamvakada(aka Maratheftiko)2012 was perfumed with an attractive tannic grip. The Commandaria continues in the singularity of this top addresses wines. Kyperounda winery Minas Mina known for his wry humour showed us his iconic Petritis Xynisteri 2017 that sees 20% of new oak. Very well done with crystalline fruit and the oak adding integrated buttery notes. Kyperounda Akti 2017 was a full flavoured rosé made from Lefkada(Vertzami) and 18% Mavro. Their Maratheftiko 2010 had plenty of life with some drying in it’s tannins. We were spoilt with two Commandaria’s, the 2012 and the 2008. First was still in a grapey phase where the older was picking up complexity and texture. The relative recent winery of Constantinou at Pera Pedi was founded by distiller Costas Constantinou who has a following for his famous Orali liquers. His Jaffa orange liquer is one of the finest of their kind. His approach to wine is a breath of fresh air. His off-dry Levanda rosé and the limited production Shiraz are his finest wines.
New to me was a comprehensive first visit in Paphos which broadly lies to the southwest of the island. There are often western winds blowing in from the sea covering the vineyards with maritime humidity and fog. It is greener than the other fine wine producing area of the Pitsilia Comandaria villages. Can one speak of a Paphos terroir? Yes, the wines are different and their distinctive character stands out. Highlights include Tsangarides Winery in Lemonà. They farm organically their own vineyards. Soils here are rocky silt loam and clay loam with an altitude of 400-450m. Their Xinisteri is soft with 10% Chardonnay. Their Shiraz-Maratheftiko is a savoury deeply coloured rosé. The organic Marathefiko 2015 is floral. Their single vineyard organic Mataro 2016 was full of spice and leather notes. They list China amongst their export markets.
The Vasilikon winery at Kathikas founded in 1993 by brothers Heracles, Georgios and Yiannis Kyriakides is one of the heavyweights of the Cyprus wine scene. Their Xynisteri 2016 is one of the most impressive in this crowded category. Sourcing grapes from Laona and Kathikas they are on to a good thing here. Their vineyards are clay and limestone at an altitude of 650-700m.There is more weight, texture and expression coming through. Serious wine with a creamy yeasty dimension. With 16 biotypes of Xynisteri there is much research to do in this age old grape. This winery is also researching the semi aromatic Morokanela grape. Early efforts show promise as they keep and improve for 4-5 years. If you thought that Paphos is all about white wine think again. Perhaps the most consistent and successful red blend on Cyprus, is their Agios Onoufrios 2014. A PGI Paphos with a large cult following. The blend consists of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Lefkada, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Maratheftiko. No grape dominates, they all bring something to the party. Brilliantly crafted, retailing at 6 Euro it is such great value.
Paphos is also home to the tiny Ezousa winery. Situated close to a riverbed surrounded by lush green nature. Soils are volcanic. Their Xynisteri is, yet again, different. Their single vineyard Metharme Maratheftiko displays a shift from the Paphos character towards the next stop of call which is Pano Panayia. These are amongst the highest vineyards scaling 800-1150m. The Vouni Panayia winery specializes only in ungrafted indigenous grape varieties and were amongst the first to plant Maratheftiko in 1996. The mesoclimate of their terraced vineyards are influenced by the protected Life, Natura 2000 park. It is also surrrounded by the Paphos forest, The Cedar valley and the Dam of Kannaviou. Their Alina Xynisteri is from +70 year old vines. It shows. Concentration and texture are on a different, rarely encountered scale. Impressive. The rare Spourtiko has gastronomic talents with it’s lemon grass on the green apple finish. The Promara 2016 is padded with yeasty richness after extended lees stirring. The red Plakota is a tank method blend of indigenous grapes. It’s a rule breaker as it can be served lightly chilled. Barba Yiannis Maratheftiko 2015 shows complexity and polished. Newcomer Yannoudi 2015 reminded me of a Mencia profile, floral, spice and earthy on the finish. They were also pioneers in building a restaurant adjacent to their cellars. Their 15 year cask aged Zivania(tsipouro) is sensationally good – have not enjoyed a grape distillate of this calibre in years. World class is often a misused cliché, not in this instance. Look out for the forthcoming final report on new blood and unusual discoveries in Cyprus rising part 3.