As the grapes are brought in, some sea­sonal re­flec­tions

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The gen­tle turn in the road from Omo­dos to Episkopi just south of the win­ery at Ayios Amvro­sios is fol­lowed by a long slope up to­wards Ki­vides. It holds sev­eral mem­o­ries for me. It was the scene of a shoot­ing a few years ago, when a man jumped out of some bushes with a sub-ma­chine gun and slaugh­tered another man as he drove round the bend. For­tu­nately, my travel round that bend had been a few min­utes prior. Some years be­fore, I re­call see­ing for the first time the old Bed­ford trucks (used just once or twice a year) loaded to the brim with grapes strug­gling up the hill, with grape juice pour­ing out of the back and run­ning down the road. No won­der Cyprus wines were some­what ox­i­dised and lack­ing fi­nesse in those days.

So, in the north­ern hemi­sphere, these weeks have been and are the time when the grow­ers know what stan­dards of life their fam­i­lies are go­ing to en­joy for the next 12 months. It is harvest time! The (or ‘Tri­gos’).

Those bad old days of grapes wait­ing for col­lec­tion by the road­side, some­times for days, be­fore col­lec­tion by trucks, for trans­port to the four winer­ies in Li­mas­sol of KEO, SODAP, ETKO and LOEL, have gone. The change was brought about by in­de­pen­dent grow­ers and wine­mak­ers who set up in the vil­lages to bring in grapes, fresh and press them quickly to make wine of bet­ter qual­ity in small and medium quan­ti­ties. Then, I wrote about wine ev­ery week in the

and caused the en­mity of sev­eral of the lead­ing lights of the Big Four by cas­ti­gat­ing them in print for the way they treated grapes and for prais­ing the in­de­pen­dents.

“They’re noth­ing”, a wine grandee once told me, “they won’t sur­vive”. Ac­tu­ally, just about all of them did, caus­ing the grandees to change prac­tices.

Of the Big Four, SODAP were the ones who broke the mould, by bring­ing in Aus­tralian wine­mak­ers. These young men and women caused mi­nor may­hem in the hills. They went up there at the crack of dawn to see the vines. “We pick next Tues­day”, one vil­lage told them one day. “No, they won’t be ready un­til Fri­day at least”, a young Aussie said. The Cypriot shrugged his shoul­ders and said “OK, I sell to ****”. Even­tu­ally, a sum a lit­tle above the go­ing rate for a kilo was agreed and for the first time a big win­ery got grapes that were picked when the wine­maker said they were ready. The re­sult­ing wine was called “Is­land

To­day’s “Health & Safety” peo­ple would have shut down winer­ies in France, Aus­tria, Le­banon and Spain where I sipped lus­cious wines in times past. I fear the day will come when most of the wine we drink will taste very much the same.

I give the ex­am­ple of Tavel. This is a mod­est, dusty un­re­mark­able vil­lage in the Rhône whose sur­round­ing land grows some well known and some vir­tu­ally un­known grape va­ri­eties, which hap­pen to blend into a unique, crack­lingly dry rosé. It is, or was, the finest rosé you could wish for. There were at least seven re­mark­able pro­duc­ers, all dif­fer­ent. Then a big Rhône Val­ley wine pro­ducer bought in, and jet­ti­soned the Tavel meth­ods. The re­sult tasted good, but it was like his Rhône val­ley, not Tavel.

“Ah, but you’re ne­glect­ing many new, orig­i­nal, wine­mak­ers”, a friend said when I ad­vanced my view above. “My tast­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is lim­ited these days”, I an­swered, “but I guess I am not, be­cause nowa­days most wine­mak­ers use the same equip­ment, tech­nol­ogy and oenol­ogy. They aim for ‘Robert Parker Stan­dards’.”

All this leads to the mes­sage I want to send to Cyprus wine­mak­ers. It is “Do your own thing. By all means ob­serve stan­dards and guide­lines, but

which re­flects your your tech­niques and your per­son­al­ity”. I wish you

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