There is evidence that Cyprus has been producing wine for over 6000 years. The oldest wine, which was proclaimed by Richard the Lionheart, as the wine of kings, is a sweet fortified wine called Commandaria. This wine which is considered to be the oldest named wine worldwide, won the ‘Battle of the Wines’, which is the first recorded wine tasting competition which took place in 1878. Commandaria is still produced to this day, using the same ancient grape varieties.
The first winery to be built in Cyprus in 1940, was ETKO followed by KEO, SODAP and LOEL. These are considered to be the ‘BIG 4’ wineries in Cyprus, and they produce the bulk of Cypriot wines. Wines were produced with the Xinisteri and Mavro grape variety, but with the cultivation of new grape varieties, which include, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carignan noir and Palomino, the quality and variety of wines available have shown a significant improvement. The new generation of oenologists that are now active in the wine industry, has resulted in the most amazing boutique wineries which produce excellent wine. There are 41 modern wineries situated in beautiful surroundings in the Paphos, Limassol and Nicosia areas. A visit to the wineries can be combined with a meal as some of the wineries offer genuine Cypriot cuisine to be enjoyed with your wine tasting.
The Cyprus Tourism Organisation has put together 7 Cyprus Wine Routes which you can follow on your own, or by joining an organized tour. The Wine Routes cover most of the wineries and you will be welcomed and given wine to taste in abundance. A short description of the wine routes follows, if you need more information you will find it on the Cyprus Tourism Organisations website.
1 - LAONA – AKAMAS WINE ROUTE
This route will take you from Paphos to the unspoiled Akamas area, visiting 4 wineries on your way. This scenic route passes through rugged coastline and quaint villages which are steeped in culture and traditions. While in this area you will find many excellent traditional tavernas and also have the opportunity to visit the magnificent Akamas Peninsula.
2 - VOUNI PANAGIAS – AMBELITIS WINE ROUTE
Take to the mountains on this panoramic route and visit some of the best wineries on the island. Situated in the Paphos area, on the western side of the island, these wineries are at an altitude of 2,400 feet above sea level. There are 10 wineries on this route some with their own restaurants serving traditional local cuisine to pair with your wine tasting. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Chrysorrogiatissa Monastery and its unique church which is on this route.
3 - DIARIZOS VALLEY WINE ROUTE
This route will take you east of Paphos town following the scenic route of the Diarizos River, which passes by 14 sleepy mountainous villages steeped in history and tradition. The two wineries on this route produce some remarkable red wine due to the 18 different grape varieties grown in this area. Stop at some of the villages and experience firsthand the hospitality of the locals. You will find some local coffee shops and tavernas to enjoy an authentic Cypriot meal.
4 - KRASOCHORIA LIMASSOL WINE ROUTE
The word ‘Krasochoria’ literally means ‘wine villages’ and this route will take you passed 20 unspoiled villages that are well known for their winemaking traditions. The location of these wineries, which are in the Limassol district, has the greatest concentration of wineries on the island. This is a stunning area with over 23 varieties of grapes cultivated. This has resulted in some of the best wines produced on the island. All 16 wineries in this area are worth visiting as they are built amongst the most amazing surroundings. Some of the best tavernas can also be found on this route and the best way to enjoy the wines is with some local cuisine, you will not be disappointed.
5 - COMMANDARIA WINE ROUTE
On this route you will step back in time as the 14 Commandaria villages on this route, date back to the 12th century. This area which is now a protected zone, is where the world renowned Commandaria is produced. On this route you will find the Laneia wine press which is centuries old and the medieval castle of Kolossi, which was once inhabited by the knights of St. John. You will find 4 wineries in this area as you travel the panoramic route up to the Troodos Mountains.
6 - PITSILIA WINE ROUTE
This route will take you up to the mountain peaks of Madari and Machairas through pine forests and quaint villages that are scattered on the mountainside. The altitude and geology of the area has contributed to the quality of the wines in this area, resulting in full bodied red wines that are amongst the best on the island. There are two wineries in this area who are well established and definitely worth visiting to try their excellent vintages and the local cuisine. The drive up to the wineries passes through forests and natural habitat that is unique to this area.
7 - NICOSIA-LARNAKA WINE ROUTE
In the mountainous areas of Nicosia and Larnaca are 3 boutique wineries that have been producing award winning wines. A visit to these wineries will include small museums and workshops that are very interesting. This route will take you past the village of Lefkara which is well known for its silver filigree ornaments as well as their unique handmade lace items. Another of the villages on the way to the wineries which is well worth visiting is Fikardou which has the oldest traditional wine press in Cyprus.