Neolithic – Byzantine Cyprus

Cyprus is believed to be one of the oldest wine producing countries (Johnson and Jancis 2001). Archaeological evidence suggests that winemaking has been practiced on the island for at least, 5500 years (Skinner 2008). Several wall mosaics and pots in the city of Paphos indicate the significant role wine had during the Roman period. According to the Jerusalem Talmud, “Cyprus nama” was used in religious rituals for the goddess of love Aphrodite. This was a sweet dessert wine made out of sun-dried grapes. During the 12th century the wine was renamed to Commandaria after the Gran Commanderie, an area located west of Limassol which was the headquarters (Commandaria) of the Knights Templars. During that period, Commandaria became the main source of wealth and prosperity for the knights.

Ottoman Cyprus – Modern Cyprus

During the Turkish Ottoman occupation wine production and development came almost to an end. It was only after Cyprus passed under British control that the wine industry started to remerge. Four big wineries existed during that period which controlled the entire wine industry until the late 1980’s. Unfortunately, back then Cyprus was known to produce low quality wines, mostly sold in bulk to the ex-Soviet Union and as sherry to the United Kingdom. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the registration of Sherry as a Spanish Protected Designation of Origin* product, Cyprus lost its export market. Cyprus was left with huge quantities of low quality grapes and an industry designed to produce bulk wine. To help the industry remerge and turn toward quality, the government of Cyprus gave incentives for the creation of small wineries and introduced new grape varieties proven to produce quality wines. (Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Shiraz).

Cyprus today has over 60 wineries of which 90% are small, family owned. The dramatic increase in competition had a positive effect on quality. Cyprus wines can proudly stand equal next to any other wine of the world. The international wine awards won by Cypriot wines every year are here to justify this. Over the last years the Cyprus wine industry is changing its path. Cypriot winemakers are now focusing on Cypriot indigenous varieties, some of which unknown just a few years ago.

Cyprus wine has found its own unique, distinctive character, one that incorporates in harmony 5500 years of history and a new era driven by confidence, passion and love.

* Protected Designation of Origin: A European Union scheme used to promote and protect names of quality agricultural products and foodstuffs. Another example is Commandaria, it can be only produced in a specific area in Cyprus and with a specific method.

Read about the Indigenous grape varieties of Cyprus >>