2014 – The Wine Year In Review
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!