Stelios Afxentiou, Ministry of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism
I was met by Stelios Afxentiou of the Cypriot Ministry around 8 am the following day and was impressed by not only his English but also his complete friendliness and, what became apparent as the day wore on, his competence in both job, contacts and wine knowledge. Very affable, it was easy for us to become instant friends which I must say---a friendship that has endured after my arrival back home. He was/is a credit to both his country and government.
Welcome To the Troodos Mountains!
Stretching across the Western part of Cyprus, the above mountain range is an example of what Cyprus has to offer in regards to those seeking to know its historical, geographical, cultural and culinary heritage.
Known scientifically as the Troodos ophiolite complex, the area was
created about 80 million years ago and rose from the sea about 20
million years ago to create the island. Now rising to almost 2000 metres above sea level the various peaks (Mount Olympus is the highest at 1,952 metres) they offer a panoramic view of Cyprus.
Full of quaint and welcoming villages with their unique architecture, gardens and cobbled streets there is something for everyone. The people are super hospitable and the food sumptuous.
Then there are the wineries which are equal to any that I have visited anywhere else int he World. Most are modern (many recently renovated or constructed), innovative and tourist friendly. Many of the wineries are increasingly becoming involved with Agrotourism as part of their offerings.
Considering the wealth of scenery, culinary, ancient/ historical, religious and pictorial sites, I believe that the combination of food, wine and tourism will be a boon to the area.
Zambartas Winery, Ayios Ambrosios Village
Ayios Ambrosios (or Agios Amvosios)
One of the villages mentioned is the village of Ayios or Agios Amvrosios which should not be confused (as I was) by a village of the same name in another part of Cyprus. Small in stature but utterly lovely in itself, the village. Located some 27 kilometres from Limassol it has a historic church, wineries and a geographic phenomena known as "river capture" as points of interest.
With in this village is located a winery that has been in production since 2006.
The Zambartas Winery was quite an attractive sight when we drove up to it. We were greeted by stunningly beautiful Marleen Zambartas Brouwer whose education was in History and International Relations (Masters Degree) but who also amazed me with her depth of knowledge about the wines they produced and about viticulture also.
She told us about her husband who left the corporate field to become a winemaker and how he went to Australia to get his degree and experience. She also told us about the power behind the winery----her father in law, Mr. Akis Zambartas who was Managing Director of one of the biggest wineries in Cyprus plus being its award winning wine maker for many years.
A PHD in Chemistry and a wine degree from France as well as teaching an Oenology course at the University of Limassol, make this man one leading authority on wines in Cyprus.
Son Marcos is not to be outdone as he holds degrees in Chemistry in addition to his wine making degree.
Backed by expert and capable staff the owners have produced a superb winery.
We tasted several wines:
was a lovely wine with citrus, white fruit and spice on the nose and similar flavours on the palate. Light in body and refreshingly nice in acidity it was a hit. The Semilion/Sauvignon
Blanc blend was full of citrus, white and tropical fruit flavours both on the nose and palate. A nice medium body and pleasant acidity added to the finish. The Rose
made from Lefkada and Cabernet franc was amazing with strawberry, raspberry, cherry on the nose and levels of the same on the palate. Its medium body and acidity completed the package. The Maratheftiko
was young with years of life ahead but it already showed a certain elegance with cherry/oak/vanilla flavours on the nose and Black Cherry, Plum and Blackberry flavours. A nice finish indicated that the wine was maturing well but needed more time. The Shiraz/Lefkada
blend was a complexity of nuances on both nose and palate with black fruit, pepper spice, cinnamon, chocolate and leather. The wine had a medium to full body with a great mouth feel. It gave every impression of a first class wine.
We were fortunate to experience these wines and only know that the future here looks great.
However we had other places to go land our hopes were that the next winery would be as good as the last.
Vlassides Winery Ltd., Kilani Village
Kilani (Koilani) Village
Kilani or Koilani is a village some 36 kilometres north west of Limassol. It is located at an altitude of just over 800 metres. Mountain peaks for its neighbouring mountains can be seen from the village which has its feet firmly planted in tradition with earthenware pots, cobbled narrow streets, two story stone houses. The village is known for its wine and food. It is situated on the west bank of the river Kyros which is a tributary to the Kouris river..
A scenic newly constructed winery is the Vlassides Winery which is run by Sophocles Vlassides, a graduate of U of Davis in Oenology and a remarkably welcoming individual. The winery is self sufficient in the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Maratheftiko, Giannoudi, Pomara, and Xynisteri.
The winery is very modernistic in style and construction. Within the winery reception area one can look down via large glass enclosures to the barrel and bottle storage cellars which are built into the mountain. The vineyard elevations range from 800 to 1000 metres and consist of 50 acres.
We tried some of Sophocles wines including some very interesting blends. The wines were all excellent and indicative of the Gold medals they have been winning at expositions such as in Thessaloniki and Brussels.
The winery and its owner look youthful, seasoned and full of potential. They have a great future.
Lunch at Ayia Mavri Restaurant, Kilani
My official guide Stelios took me to this small but ever so beautiful village eatery were we had something to eat. Lunch was an array of various Cypriot dishes ranging from sausages to chicken to lamb and beef. The whole presentation was great and the food was delicious. Nothing tastes better than lamb kabobs that have been freshly cooked on an open flame.
Dessert came in a mixture of sweet custard and sweetened fruit. One of the items was so delicious that I devoured it with glee. It was called Karydaki, which means small (or young) walnut, is one of the best Greek
traditional spoon sweets. The spoon sweet is made with baby green
walnuts in Spring, when the outer shell has not become hard. The
procedure for making it is a bit labour intensive but it is worth
while. Amazing! Demetra, the owner, saw that I enjoyed the dessert so much that she gave me a jar full of it. Just more to add to my already overflowing luggage!
Tsiakkas Winery, Pelendri Village
This picturesque village has existed sine the medieval times. Some of its buildings date back to the 12th Century. The village is some 40 kilometres from the port of Limassol and is surrounded by hills with an altitude of almost 900 metres. While there are some modern buildings, the core of the city is strictly controlled to reserve the unique historical architecture---some of which is Byzantine.
The village's ample rainfall ensures that it supplies itself with most of the vegetables and food needed. A lovely place but---I found that every Cypriot village is unique and lovely
The Tsiakkas Winery was truly an experience. It owner/winemaker, Costas Tsiakkas, so reminded me of one of the "stars" of the movie "The Saint". There was a strong resemblance of the Costas to the actor Rade Serbedztija . The mannerisms were so similar as was the passion. We shared many of Tsiakkas Wines-----one of which, a Chardonnay, was sublime. I kept my remark as Costas mentioned the high ranking given the wine by famed wine writer/author/consultant Robert Parker. The wine was one of the best I have ever tasted. However, what did this have to say about his other wines. Every wine either from domestic or non domestic grapes was a class act. How could such wines have escaped not being included in being exported to other countries.
Shortly after our visit we were off to the last wine
ry of the day and this was to be the highest in elevation.
Vasilikon KyperoundaWinery, Kyperounda Village
At an altitude of 1100-1200 metres Kyperounda or Kyperounta as the third highest village in Cyprus. The village's history goes back to Byzantine times. It is said that the village of about 1400 people derives its name from a plant known as Kyperos or Kypiros that grows wild around the area. The village has a colourful history and has some unique wineries also. It is home to Kyperounda Winery that is reputed to be the highest in Europe and a very serious wine making prospect.
Kyperounda Winery (Also known as Vasiliko(n) Kyperounda Winery)
Minas Mina is a serious person when it comes to wine. According to one writer, his wines have won and continue to win awards but he refuses to put the "stickers" on his wine labels since "------more important is what our customers are saying------competitions are meant to make us better not help promote sales."
Mr. Mina was trained in Greece and the UK in Oenology and Food Biotechnology and has been serving as Kyperounda's Director and Head Of Wine Operations since 2001.
The winery is run by the Photo Photiades Group.
The winery has a reputation for producing superb wines and on this occasion it was apparent that the repute was well earned. The vineyard altitude at 1400 feet gives it a micro climate similar to that of Bordeaux,
We tasted several wines from the winery. The "Petritis" made from the indigenous Xynisteri grape was refreshing with some depth from barrel aging. It impressed me with its lively notes and pleasant character. The "EOS" blend of Chardonnay/Local blend was a wine of premium quality as was the amazing and excellent Chardonnay varietal wine. The Rose made from Grenache/Shiraz(Syrah) was inviting and pleasant as I found most roses of Cyprus to be. The Cabernet Sauvignon was excellent as was the Syrah/Shiraz. Since I enjoy a good Syrah, I truly enjoyed this upscale Syrah/Shiraz. While my interest was to try the indigenous grapes of Cyprus, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this winery and with the very capable Minas Mina. I look forward to hearing about the Kyperounda Wines in the future.
It was the end of a perfect day touring the wine region of the Troodos Mountains. I was tired but happily so. Stelios drove me back to the Mediterranean Beach Hotel for a relaxing evening in the five star resort.
End of Day Two