The island of Cyprus has a long and important history when it comes to the world of wine. Many centuries ago, the island was one of the largest and most famous exporters of high-quality dessert wine.
While Cyprus is no longer a major player on the international wine scene, there are a number of different high-quality wines being produced on the island that are worth exploring.
Dessert wines from Cyprus have gained the most international acclaim and attention of any style, though many other types of wine are produced there today.
Everything from ancient indigenous wine grapes to internationally famous varietals is being grown on the island of Cyprus today, and there are many high-quality producers working to increase overall quality.
A Guide to the Wines of Cyprus
We will take a closer look at the five most important wines of Cyprus, along with our top recommendations for you to try for yourself.
Commandaria is a style of dessert wine that is very sweet and fairly high in alcohol. They are primarily made using the Marvo grape, though limited amounts of Xynisteri are also permitted for mixing and balance.
There are two special processes that are important in making this signature style of luscious, dark-colored dessert wines. The first is a special drying process that works to concentrate the sweetness and flavor of the wine grapes. The second is a special type of fortification with spirits.
The Marvo wine grape is fairly high in sugar, to begin with, especially when produced in warm weather-growing regions like Cyprus. The residual sugar levels of the grapes are further heightened by the drying of the wine grapes before pressing.
By pressing and fermenting wine grapes that have been dried, winemakers are able to produce wine that is very sweet and contains elevated levels of flavor. The next step winemakers take is fortification with grape spirits to make the wines stronger and take better to cellar aging.
While the high alcohol content in Commandaria dessert wines is a result of fortification, no additional sugar is added to the wine. The drying of the wine grapes is the only extra step taken in the production of these wines, and the rest of the sweetness is a direct result of the grape.
Keo St.John Commandaria is by far the most famous and recognizable bottle of this unique and rare dessert wine. It has received a number of prestigious wine awards and accolades, including a gold medal at the 2009 International Wine Challenge.
Etko Winery St. Nicholas Commandaria is another well-known example of Commandaria dessert wine that is well regarded for providing exceptional taste and balance at a reasonable price point. A bottle usually costs around $20, and many believe it tastes much more expensive.
Marvo is a historic red wine grape that is primarily planted on the island of Cyprus today, though small amounts can be found in remote areas of Greece. It is the most commonly planted grape varietal on the island today and is planted in some of the area’s best vineyard sites.
While the Marvo wine grape is most often used on the island of Cyprus in the production of high-quality dessert wines, it can also be used to make strong and delicious bottles of single varietal dry red wine.
This is the most famous wine grape on the island of Cyprus, many wine enthusiasts are unaware that other grape varietals are even grown in the region. Due to the fact that it is most often used in dessert wines of another name, the Marvo grape is relatively unknown worldwide.
Keo Othello is one of the most popular bottles of dry red wine from Cyprus that is made using the Marvo grape. It is a blend that is produced using a mixture of Marvo and Grenache and provides the full body and strong flavors one would expect from this warm-weather wine region.
Tsiakkas Winery Mouklos is one of the best examples of single varietal wine made using the Marvo grape on the island of Cyprus today. It received a score of 87 at the Decanter Wine Awards in 2020 and has seen a significant spike in popularity ever since.
Xynisteri is the most prolific and important white wine grape on the island of Cyprus, and it is used in small amounts to balance out the Marvo grape in the famous Commandaria dessert wines. It is also used to make high-quality bottles of single varietal white wine.
The most important wine-growing areas on the island of Cyprus feature limestone-based soils that impart a strong element of minerality into the finished wines. This is especially helpful for achieving balance in warm weather wine-producing climates such as Cyprus.
The tasting notes of this rare white wine grape are often compared to citrus fruit such as lemon or lime, and many wine enthusiasts also report “nutty” tasting notes. The most highly regarded Xynisteri grapes on the island of Cyprus are grown on some of its highest altitude vineyards.
Kolios Winery Persefoni is an affordable bottle of white wine produced using the Xynisteri grape that has become very popular over the past decade. It is both easy to drink and refined, making it a fantastic summertime wine that is sure to please all crowds.
Vouni Panayia ‘Alina’ Xynisteri is another trendy bottle of white wine that has helped to put the island of Cyprus on the map for many dry white wine enthusiasts. It is produced by the oldest privately owned estate on the entire island and is increasing in popularity every year.
International Red Wine Grapes
While ancient and historic local wine grapes are the most famous and important in terms of the current production on the island of Cyprus, there are also a variety of internationally famous red wine grapes that are becoming increasingly important every year.
The famous French wine grape of Syrah is called Shiraz when produced on the island of Cyprus, and it has grown to be one of the most important foreign red wine grapes on the entire island. This “peppery” red wine grape is fairly thick-skinned and contains strong grippy tannins.
Vlassides Winery Shiraz is not only one of the most popular bottles of Shiraz being produced in Cyprus today, but it is also one of the most popular bottles on the entire island regardless of grape varietal. At around $15 per bottle, it represents a fantastic value for a bottle of high-quality wine.
One of the most interesting bottles of wine being produced on the island of Cyprus today using the Shiraz grape is a pink wine called Kyperounda Rosé. It is produced using a blend of Shiraz and Grenache grapes and uses light skin contact to produce a beautiful pink color.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular wine grape in the entire world, and it is no surprise that the adaptable red wine grape has found a home in Cyprus. The warm weather and limestone soils of the island make it perfectly suited for the famous and thick-skinned grape.
Vlassides Winery Cabernet Sauvignon is a very highly regarded bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the island of Cyprus that is very popular both domestically and abroad. It is a staple at local restaurants and one of the most recommended bottles by local sommeliers.
International White Wine Grapes
A handful of internationally recognizable white wine grapes have also made their way to this Mediterranean island country, and certain varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Riesling have thrived.
While the local Xynisteri grape dominates overall white wine plantings in Cyprus, there are a growing number of other white grapes that seem to be popping up in the area every single year. The most successful plantings are found on some of the area’s highest elevation vineyards.
Zambartas Wineries Semillon – Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most interesting bottles of white wine being made in Cyprus today. By combining the world-famous grape varietals of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, the winemaker has achieved a very unique tasting profile.
Vasa Winery Vineyards Argyrides Viognier is a high-quality bottle of Viognier that is produced in the Limassol area of Cyprus. It is a fantastic value for an interesting high-quality bottle of wine at under $20 per bottle and can be found internationally at a number of online retailers.
Wines Of Cyprus – Conclusion
Hundreds of years ago, Cyprus was well known worldwide as an important wine producer. Today, the island is considered a small wine producer and primarily focuses on high-quality bottles of dessert wine.
There are a number of different production styles and unique wine grapes that can only be found on this Mediterranean island, and certain labels have become very recognizable across Europe.
Also, check out our list of wine regions to help deepen your knowledge of wine!