It’s thought that grapes were cultivated in the Black Sea area around 8,000 years ago, a practice that spread south-eastwards to surrounding areas, including Cyprus. Exactly how far back wine production in Cyprus goes is unknown, but wine was being traded at least as early as 2300 BC.
Dr. Porphyrios Dikaios, a major figure in Cypriot archaeology and once curator of the Cyprus Museum, carried out excavations on the outskirts of Erimi village between 1932 and 1935. During these excavations, several fragments of round flasks were unearthed and stored in the Cyprus Museum, still unwashed. They were dated to the chalcolithic period (between 3500BC – 3000BC). In 2005, the chemical signatures of 18 of these were examined by a team of Italian archaeologists led by Maria-Rosaria Belgiorno. Twelve showed traces of tartaric acid (a component of wine) proving that the 5,500-year-old containers were used for wine.
Evidence now suggests that there has been a wine industry in Cyprus continuously longer than anywhere else in the world.
Facts are supported by legend and ancient history. The Song of Solomon praises Cyprus wines. The Greek poet Euripides writes of pilgrimages to Cyprus to taste the wine, which at the time was known as “Cyprus Nama”.
Legend has it that Dionysos, the god of wine, taught the first mortal to make wine: this was Ikarios, and the scene is depicted in a mosaic in the House of Dionysos in Pafos where other wine-related scenes also appear. Further archaeological evidence of viticulture and winemaking can be seen in museums around the island.
Cyprus is said to have produced the oldest known wine in history, “Cyprus Nama”, used in celebrations by worshippers of Aphrodite.
King Richard the Lionheart made the local wines famous during the Crusades by exporting them for the first time to England. “I must return to Cyprus if only to taste this wine again”, he is reported to have said.
Similar praise came from Sultan Selim in the 16th century. “We must capture Cyprus”, he told his generals as he sipped Commandaria. “Within this island there is a treasure which only the king of kings is worthy of possessing”.
Visitors to the island find tours of the different wineries fascinating, learning about the grape varieties, the soil, the more modern methods now used to produce some very fine wines – and, of course, tasting the wines
Wine Tour of the Pafos District
There are several wine tours to choose from in the Pafos district, which nowadays produces some of the most sought-after wines. For a longer tour, head northwards, along the road to Polis, to the Mesogi Industrial Estate, which is clearly signposted.
The Fikardos winery on this industrial estate is modern and functional, and the warm welcome and range of wines well worth the journey. Kathikas, with several excellent eating places, has two wineries, K and K Vasilikon and the Sterna winery. At Statos, you may visit the Avakas and Amforeas wineries to look, taste and buy. Further into the hills, the winery at Vouni – Panagia is impressively sited and its cellars and tasting facilities are equally so. Nearby is the lovely Chrysorrogiatissa monastery, which makes a delightful visit, where you may also look at the winemaking plant, which is the oldest regional winery. The Lagria winery in Salamiou village and Nelion winery in Pretori village are also worth a visit, as is the award-winning Tsangarides winery, located very much off the beaten track in Lemona village.
Wherever you travel there are coffee shops with a warm welcome, refreshments and a complimentary glass of wine either made by the owner himself or locally produced in the village. Places to eat range from the very simple taverna where charcoal grilled meat is the staple dish, to restaurants catering for all tastes. And, of course, there is wine everywhere, so you can get the real taste of Cyprus.
Kilada Diarizou Wine Route
Take a fascinating journey along the Diarizos River, through beautifully unspoiled green landscapes dotted with picturesque vineyards, where you will discover the lesser-known wine-producing region of the Diarizos Valley, located east of Pafos.
The route passes through 14 villages, with an opportunity to visit two significant wineries that are placing the area firmly on the island’s wine-producing map.
Situated at a lower altitude than the other main winegrowing areas, the wines produced in the area are remarkable. Climbing upwards, you will come across 18 different types of vines, but predominately the local Mavro (red) grape variety.
This verdant route passes through: Pafos, Acheleia, Kouklia, Nikokleia, Choletria, Stavrokonnou, Kelokedara, Salamiou, Mesana, Arminou, Filousa, Agios Nikolaos, Praitori, Kedares, Agios Georgios, Mamonia and Fasoula.
Vouni Panagias – Ambelitis Wine Route
Embark upon a panoramic excursion into a glorious inland landscape on the Vouni Panagias – Ambelitis wine route, accompanied by the delights of the locally produced wines.
In the western part of the island, east of the Pafos (Paphos) mountainous area, the route unfolds at an altitude of 800 metres to offer an unparalleled wine experience. Along the way, visitors will delight in also discovering fragrant pine forests, unique flora and a variety of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds.
The 10 wineries of the route are diverse and produce white wines of particular fineness in aroma and lightness of body, thanks to the local Xynisteri (white) grape variety that predominantly grows here. Hints of green apple, peach and apricot characterise the white wines of the area, whilst the ancient – and rare – red Maratheftiko grapes are enriched by red fruit, violets and roses.
If you embark on the Vouni Panagias – Ambelitis wine route you will encounter an excursion into a glorious inland landscape accompanied by the delights of the locally produced wines.
The route unfolds at an altitude of 800 metres and, along the way, you will discover fragrant pine forests, unique flora and a variety of mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds.
The 10 wineries on this route produce particularly fine white wines thanks to the local Xynisteri (white) grape variety that predominantly grows here. Hints of green apple, peach and apricot characterise these wines, while the ancient red Maratheftiko grape lends hints of red fruit, violets and roses to the red wines.
27 varieties of grape are grown in this area, including Carignan Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. The villages on this route also produce some of the best wines made from the indigenous red Mavro grape, thanks to the relatively high altitude and mild climate, which result in sought after red and rose wines.
This picturesque route can end in different places, either passing through Pafos, Mesogi, Tsada, Stroumbi, Polemi, Psathi, Kannaviou, Asprogia, Pano Panagia, Chrysorrogiatissa, Agia Moni, Statos-Agios Fotios, Koilineia, Galataria, Pentalia, Amargeti, Eledio, Agia Varvara and Acheleia or through Choulou, Lemona, Kourdaka, Letymvou and Kallepeia.
Laona Akamas Wine Route
Some of the best white wines on the island are produced here from the indigenous Xynisteri grape that grows in a climate tempered by the sea breeze. The region also produces some of the best red wines, thanks to the use of the ancient Maratheftiko grape.
You will travel through charming villages abundant with culture and lush vines.
Aside from a visit to four wineries, the area offers a host of traditional tavernas, elevated views, natural beauty and the opportunity to visit the stunning Akamas Peninsula.
This rugged route passes through: Pafos, Mesogi, Tsada, Stroumbi, Kathikas, Akourdaleia, Pano Arodes, Kato Arodes, Ineia, Drouseia, Polis and Pegeia.