Close your eyes and think of Cyprus. Which words spring to mind? I'm sure that sunshine is there and possibly ancient history but how about making wine? Travel writer Karen, aka Ladyhiker, discovers all about it in our next World Travel Blogger post.
The history of making wine on Cyprus is very old – down at the harbour in Paphos, the mosaics dating from the 3rd to the 5th century AD are brimming with scenes of viticulture. In the House of Dionysus is a splendid mosaic; during the God's visit to Athens he was made welcome by a chap called Icarios and in return Dionysus showed Icarios how to cultivate wine. Can't get fairer than that. However, wine making in Cyprus has mainly been a household enterprise for many years.
â€œIt takes a bit of craziness to do what we're doingâ€ admit Akis and Marcos Zambartas. The father and son duo have launched a boutique winery in the tiny village of Agios Amvrosios in the mountains above Limassol. I visited at the end of October, just as the intense activities of harvesting, sorting and separating had come to a close. A tired yet thoroughly engaging Marcos flung open the door: â€œWelcome. Come into my father's house.” We trooped through the lounge and study (what views!) to descend a staircase in the far corner where the rich, yeasty aroma hinted at what was to come.
A door was open and the sun flashed off the rows of steel tanks next to oak barrels stamped with â€œZambartas FMâ€. Marcos smiled â€œIt's not a radio station. Yetâ€
Outside, the machinery was taking a well-earned rest. This is where the handpicked grapes arrive in crates from the nearby fields for Akis and Marcos â€œplus a few willing friendsâ€ to sift out the best. The stems and stalks are separated and given to local shepherds in the area to feed their sheep.
For Akis, it has been a labour of love over many years to discover and classify the grape varieties indigenous to Cyprus. Then there is the planting and the long wait for the vines to mature. Says Marcos: â€œVines are like children. You can't expect too much of them until they are around 3-4 years oldâ€
Time for a tasting. First up was Xynisteri, a fruity white which induced such pleasure that I refused to play properly and spit between tastings. As I tend to choose red or white wine, I was keen to experiment and try the RosÃ©. I also fancied a dabble with trying to detect aromas by sniffing deeply into my gently swirled glass. As luck would have it I'd been gathering pomegranates the previous day and devouring the seeds and I immediately recognised that same scent emanating from the wine. I was right. First time ever.
Picking up one of the reds, I reflected on this truly international bottle: an Italian bottle, sporting a French cork and Greek capsule with an English design produced by a Cypriot printer. Now that's co-operation. The wine was excellent …
And as I reluctantly prepared to leave – the question I had to ask: Can I tread grapes here? It's on my bucket list. To stomp with bare feet and feel the juice burst through my toes. You too? Then you can. Just head to Agios Amvrosios in late August when the fun part of making wine on Cyprus starts. See you there …
Karen Guttridge: fuelled by wanderlust and the odd cake, she likes nothing better than donning boots and rucksack, noseying around the UK and Europe and getting up to endless mischief. Read her blog Ladyhiker and find her on Face Book & Twitter @happy_rambler