It is thought that grapes were first cultivated in the Black Sea area around 8000 years ago – a practice that spread towards the southeast region, including Cyprus. Although the origins of wine production in Cyprus are unknown, it is believed that the wine trade existed 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 are housed in the Cyprus Museum in their original unwashed state. Dating back to the Chalcolithic period (between 3500BC – 3000BC), the chemical signatures of 18 of these were examined in 2005 by a team of Italian archaeologists led by Maria-Rosaria Belgiorno. Traces of tartaric acid (a component of wine) were observed, proving that the 5,500-year-old containers were used for wine. Evidence suggests that the wine industry in Cyprus existed longer than any other place in the world.
Both legend and ancient history play an integral part in Cyprus’ unique wine culture. The Song of Solomon praises Cyprus wines, and Greek poet Euripides writes of pilgrimages to Cyprus to taste the wine, which at the time was known as “Cyprus Nama.” (Commandaria was known as Nama in antiquity).
Legend has it that Dionysos, the god of wine, taught the first mortal how to make the drink. Ikarios was given the ‘secret’ to produce wine, a scene 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 is showcased 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 exclusive to Cyprus, the rich soil, and the more modern methods now used to produce some of the island’s award-winning wines. More importantly, visitor’s taste buds are given the chance to sample the delicious local tipple.
Wine Tour of the Pafos District
The Pafos Region is renowned for producing some of the world’s most sought-after wines. With a variety of interesting mapped-out wine routes to choose from, visitors will get better acquainted with the art of producing wine and sample the absolute best of Cyprus in a beautiful natural setting. Some of these include:
- Fikardos Winery is a modern and functional winery founded on an industrial estate. Both the hospitality and diverse range of wines are well worth the visit.
- Located in the village of Stroumbi, the Sodap-Kamanterena Winery has been producing wine since 1947.
- Kathikas Village boasts wonderful eateries serving local and international cuisine, and two wineries, Vasilikon Winery and Sterna Winery, that are committed to producing estate grown wines of the highest calibre.
- The Avakas and Kolios Wineries are boutique wineries marrying ancient traditions with modern technologies and offer a wonderful opportunity to sample and purchase the local wines produced in Statos-Ayios Photios.
- The winery at Vouni-Panagia is situated on a hillside location with meticulous wine cellars and tasting facilities.
- The Monastery of Panagia Chrysorrogiatissa makes a delightful visit where wine lovers can witness the oldest regional winery.
- Lagria Winery in Salamiou Village and Nelion Winery in Pretori Village are also worth a visit, as is the award-winning Tsangarides Winery, located off the beaten track in Lemona Village.
Wherever one travels in Pafos, there are coffee shops with a warm welcome, refreshments and complimentary glasses of wine, either made by the owner himself or locally produced in the village. From simple taverns serving up local cuisine, to restaurants catering for the more discerning palette, the omnipresent bottle of wine is the perfect accompaniment that offers a real taste of Cyprus.
Diarizos Valley Wine Route
Take a fascinating journey east of Pafos along the Diarizos River, through beautifully unspoiled green landscapes dotted with picturesque vineyards, where you will discover the hidden wine-producing region of the Diarizos Valley.
The route passes through 14 villages and offers 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 simply remarkable. Further up, you will come across 18 different types of vines, including the indigenous red grape variety known as Mavro.
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 on a panoramic excursion that will lead you through glorious landscapes of majestic mountains, fragrant pine forests, unique flora and fauna reaching an altitude of 800 metres above sea level where an incomparable wine experience awaits.
The Vouni Panagias – Ambelitis Wine Route includes ten diverse wineries producing fine wines that are both rich in aroma and light in body, largely due to the indigenous white grape (Xynisteri) grown in the area. Xynisteri is the main white-wine variety of Cyprus enriched with hints of green apple, peach, and apricot characteristics, while the red Maratheftiko grapes contain traces of red fruit, violets, and roses.
Over twenty varieties of grape are grown in this area, including Carignan Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. The villages within this route also produce some of the best wines made from the red grape variety (Mavro), as the high altitude and mild climate provide favourable conditions for their production.
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 white grape Xynisteri that grows in a climate tempered by the sea breeze. The region also produces some of the best red wines, largely due to the use of the ancient red grape Maratheftiko.
The wine route included four wineries and passes through charming villages abound with culture and lush vineyards. The route offers visitors the change to explore a host of traditional taverns, elevated sites boasting magnificent views, 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.