Driving around the spectacular wine routes in Cyprus takes visitors on a tasty journey back in time - maybe for 5,000 years.
They say the locally-made wine is a taste of Cyprus, but it’s more than that. It’s a taste of ancient history. For archaeologists and scientists have discovered that wine was being made on the island at least 5,000 years ago, and probably long before then.
Grape vines still grow over large areas of the countryside, especially on the valleys and slopes of the Troodos Mountains. There are more than 40 wineries and factories that produce wines that are sold around the world. Many of them welcome visitors.
Road maps are available for the seven well-signposted, self-drive wine routes in the Paphos, Limassol and Larnaca districts. They link picturesque villages, fantastic views and stunning countryside with wineries large and small where you can sample the wares.
Multiple-international awards have been won by Cyprus wines, one of which goes back to the days of the Crusader knights who occupied Cyprus in the 13th century. The knights liked their wine, so they combined their resources in an area they called the Grand Commandery and made a type of dessert wine they called Commandaria. It is still produced today.
A Commandaria wine won the top double gold award at the 2019 Cyprus Wine Competition for a company called Sodap, a wine-growers’ co-operative. It has scooped a large number of international awards over the years.
Sodap’s Kamanterena winery near Stroumbi is one of many that welcomes visitors – and tasters. It uses some of the most modern manufacturing processes in the winemaking world and has distributors in many countries, including the UK. The winery overlooks vineyards and almond orchards and has a small museum. Stroumbi village hosts a Dionyssia grape festival every August.
On the other end of the scale is the quaint Sterna winery built above ancient springs in Kathikas. It produces a handful of different wines for the local market and stores its bottles in a cave, one of 30 in the area that are believed to date back 3,000 years. Visitors get a tour as well as tasting and there is a small museum.
A 150-year-old stone building in the village of Erimi, a few miles west of Limassol, was once an inn that stood on the cross-roads of the Cyprus wine routes. It is now the Cyprus Wine Museum. The exhibits tell the history and culture of wine making on the island and include a traditional wine press, grape grinder, other tools, glassware, photographs and historic clothing.
Coincidentally, soon after the museum opened, scientists and archaeologists were able to prove that fragments of pottery discovered in Erimi decades ago dated back at least 5,000 years. Elsewhere storage jars that once contained wine and grape pips have been dated back to at least 2,000BC.
Although the Crusaders made Cyprus wine popular, the business declined under years of Turkish occupation. It wasn’t until the British took possession of the island in the 19th century that it was re-vitalised, especially the production of sherry that was much-loved by the English. The last couple of decades has seen another resurgence and the introduction of different varieties of Cyprus wines that are now becoming popular all over the world.