2014 – The Wine Year In Re­view

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Skin­ner

Once upon a time… Cyprus wine was a joke. The “lead­ing” white wines, made in fac­to­ries in Li­mas­sol, were largely stale, flat and well on the way to ox­i­di­s­a­tion. The reds, mostly made from Mavro, were dull and life­less. The rea­son, of course, was that grapes were grown as a cash crop by vil­lage peo­ple who only made wine in Pithari, but who sold most of their grapes to winer­ies 40 kilo­me­tres away. The crop of­ten lan­guished in pan­niers and other con­tain­ers for days by the road­side await­ing trans­port.

In the 1970s just one white wine stood out from the rest, “Ayios An­dron­i­cos”, from Chrysor­royi­atissa monastery. At the end of a visit then, I took sev­eral bot­tles back to Eng­land. One evening we were in­vited to a small Cypriot restau­rant in south London, which had no al­co­hol li­cence, so I took along some Ayios An­dron­i­cos. On tast­ing it, the chef-pro­pri­etor re­fused to be­lieve it was from Cyprus. Mostly Xynis­teri, it demon­strated, all those years ago, that our in­dige­nous white grape could make good white wine, and was one of the fac­tors that made me its strong ad­vo­cate when I took up res­i­dence in 1991 and started writ­ing about wine and food.

This story shows how far our wine has come in a few decades. I was re­minded of it when I read vin­tage re­ports for 2014 sent to me by some of our best wine­mak­ers. What they demon­strate is that grow­ing vines and mak­ing wine is not some­thing you do is you want con­sis­tent in­come and prof­itabil­ity. It is a tough business and Cyprus wine­mak­ers are a won­der­ful, ded­i­cated group of peo­ple, who de­serve our support.

Which means, buy our own wines, be­cause they are good!

to­wards bet­ter and bet­ter qual­ity. We have in­vested heav­ily in new vine­yards and are not shy to ad­mit our mis­takes, cor­rect them and move for­ward”.

Of the 2014 har­vest Costas re­ports: “The qual­ity was good but not su­per. There was hail in Omo­dos and Vasa, which de­stroyed the Caber­net we were get­ting from there, so we had to rely only on grapes from Pe­len­dri and Agros. Our vine­yards at the win­ery sur­prised us with a good and plen­ti­ful quan­tity of Sau­vi­gnon, so this year’s pro­duc­tion has a great per­cent­age of our own grapes”.

“The 2014 Yian­noudi is our best this year. We do not know the grape very well yet but it seems to be very promis­ing. Our 2014 pro­duc­tion is 35,000 bot­tles of Xynis­teri, 28,000 Rosé, 10,000 Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, 5,000 Mer­lot, 35,000 Porfy­ros, 4,000 Vam­vakada (Maratheftiko), 1000 Yian­noudi, 20,000 Sau­vi­gnon Blanc, 10,000 Chardonnay, 3,000 Com­man­daria and 3000 Zi­va­nia

“We will be in the mar­ket with this year’s Xynis­teri, Sau­vi­gnon Blanc, Chardonnay and Rodi­nos by De­cem­ber 2014. We are now sell­ing 2012 Caber­net, 2012 Mer­lot, 2012 Vam­vakada and 2013 Porfy­ros. This year we hired a viti­cul­tur­ist just for the sum­mer months, which we will re­peat next year. It re­ally helped us and al­lowed us to pay more at­ten­tion to de­tail”.

Like most of our winer­ies, pur­sues its own in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic path, as an up-mar­ket rather bou­tique-style win­ery. In a shorter time than many of its com­peti­tors it has es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion for classy, qual­ity, mid to high price wines. Un­til the un­timely pass­ing of Akis Zam­bar­tas on Mon­day, news of which only reached me as I sent in this ar­ti­cle, this has al­ways been a fa­ther-son set-up, with for­mer KEO M.D. Akis start­ing things rolling, whilst son Mar­cos com­pleted his oenol­ogy de­gree and hands-on learn­ing in var­ied vine­yards and winer­ies around the world.

Mar­cos, who has been full-time for sev­eral years, now as­sumes sole lead­er­ship of this es­sen­tially fam­ily en­ter­prise. Zam­bar­tas’ seven wines have es­tab­lished a niche in the mar­ket at lead­ing ho­tels and restau­rants, as well as se­lected re­tail out­lets. Mar­cos tells me that in ad­di­tion to the “reg­u­lar” seven of their wines, this year they are mak­ing a small quan­tity of “sin­gle vine­yard” Xynis­teri from a plot they own in Man­dria. Now is one I must taste!


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