Sending Valentine’s Day best wishes. Thank you for following my blog,
A large package arrives from Decanter Magazine.
It’s the ledger of winners of the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017.
In equal measure, I feel interested to see the results and dismayed at the size of the package: 306 pages of dense information. How to make sense of the results without spending hours and hours reading the ledger word for word?
Going back to basics makes the most sense. I ask myself: what are the key messages from the wine awards?
Here are my three take-aways from the report
The value placed by Decanter magazine on the consumer benefits of identifying and promoting wine quality,
spotlighting lesser known wines and/or wine regions.
Recognizing the expansion of the wine industry into many more countries and wine regions than I would generally consider. Literally A to Z from Albania to Veneto. I count 68 countries and wine regions in total. (Countries and wine regions are counted separately, for example: New Zealand is 1 entry and there are 6 French wine regions noted).
Who would have thought a few years ago about wines from new and exciting regions, or “lesser known areas” as Decanter discreetly states, entering these global competitive processes?
This point is exemplified in the list of countries represented in the description of Platinum Best in Show wines. In the Decanter World Wine Awards, Platinum Best in Show is the highest accolade possible. All Platinum Best in Category winners from around the world are pitted against each other to win the Platinum Best in Show. There are 34 wines in this category which triumphed over 17,229 entrants to the competitive process. Some of the countries these wines are from are: Moravia (Czech Replublic), Canada, England, Uraguay, Austria, Portugal, Corsica, Luxembourg as well as the usual suspects France, Italy, Australia, South Africa, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand.
Acknowledging the rich diversity of grape varieties and wine styles around the globe together with the complexity of wine production with issues of sustainability and environmental considerations in an ever changing world.
In this context, the wine industry is an increasingly crowded market place with all that it implies in terms of running a business and succeeding; the risk and reward considerations are daunting.
As I continue reviewing the report, I recognize many wines in the ledger of winners. One I am particularly delighted to see is the Best Value Cypriot White; Vouni Panayia, Alina Xynisteri, from the Paphos region, Cyprus that I wrote about in my most recent post after our visit there in the early Spring this year.
At the end of the day, over dinner, we discuss the report and in general the challenges of making wine and running a Winery. Clearly, the imperative is to make the highest quality wine possible and this is all good news for the consumer.
Our choice of wine to accompany dinner is new to us: Painted Rock Estate Winery from the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia. We enjoy one of their acclaimed reds, a Merlot: dark fruit flavours with a touch of spice and chocolate that lingered well on the palate and paired well with a small tenderloin steak with sautéed mushrooms in a red wine and mustard sauce.
The 306 pages of the DWWA 2017 report don’t look so intimidating now and I certainly appreciate the opportunity to discover more about the diversity of award winning wines, wine makers and wine making trends. For me, the real value in this competitive process is the increasing emphasis on and encouragement for high quality wines.
The Decanter World Wine Awards 2017 competitive process together with all tasting notes and related information can be found at http://www.Decanter.com/dwwa
I’ve decided I like goats.
Not in the same way I like dogs and not as pets. More as a metaphor for Cyprus as I remember it when I first starting visiting 16 years ago. Then goats sometimes jumped into our garden, which was on the edge of farmland and goats were herded between pastures near us. Goats and sometimes sheep were a common sight but less so now. The sound of their bells is a wonderful auditory memory.
“There are two goats in the garden!” I remember exclaiming, being quite startled and delighted at the same time.
The mountain sheep, called a Mouflon, is a protected animal that technically is a sub species of the wild sheep called Ovis Ories but looks more like a goat to me. It is the emblem of Vouni Winery, situated near the village of Panayia, which is our destination for the day of sightseeing with friends visiting from Switzerland. The Vouni Winery bottle labels all feature a distinctive image of the Moufflon.
Mouflon are important because they are an endangered species, rarely seen. The Cyprus Mouflon, also called Agrino, is found mainly in the Paphos Forest, which is an area adjacent to Panayia.
From Paphos on the southwest coast, the drive to Panayia is all-uphill as we climb the foothills of the Troodos Mountains to 1000 metres, increasingly among loosely woven pine forests so different to the seemingly impenetrable wall of west coast forests in British Columbia.
We decide to show our visiting friends a different perspective of Cyprus, away from the usual attractions of beaches and archeological remains, beautiful and interesting as they are.
Vouni Winery, a family run enterprise, makes both red and white wines including Alina, from Xynisteri grapes and a recent red wine discovery for us, Barba Yiannis, made from Maratheftiko red grapes. Both Xynisteri and Maratheftiko grapes are indigenous grape varieties. Vouni Winery makes wines from other indigenous grapes such as Promara and Spourtiko white varieties and Yiannoudi and Ntopio Mavro red varieties.
Together with several other Cyprus wineries, Vouni Winery is steadily gaining greater recognition for its wines, including winning several awards and the only gold medal for Cyprus wines at the Decanter Wines of the World 2016 competition.
Vouni Winery benefits from a unique high altitude terroir in the shadow of the Troodos Mountains. Xynisteri grapes seem particularly well suited to the high altitude and produce a white wine of floral and fruity aromas, minerality and enough acidity to make it refreshing. The Vouni Alina wine from Xynisteri is one of our favourite white wines in Cyprus. The Barba Yiannis red wine is made from Maratheftiko, which is generally regarded as the best red wine variety in Cyprus. This wine is another of our Cyprus wine favourites: a rich wine with soft tannins, so it’s easy to enjoy with its aromas of cherries and black chocolate. Something I particularly appreciate at Vouni Winery is that the back labels on the wine bottles provide all details of the wine production.
Leaving Vouni to drive into Panayia village, we see signs for the birthplace and childhood home of Archbishop Macharios (1913-1977), the first President of the independent Republic of Cyprus from 1960 until his death in 1977. The opportunity to visit these places is an added bonus of local history as we haven’t realized or maybe we have forgotten that Panayia was the birthplace of Archbishop Macharios.
We park the car and first enter the small museum to Archbishop Macharios and see a collection of many photographs and memorabilia of his remarkable life. Then, we walk around the corner and enter the small courtyard and the house where he was brought up as a young child. Evocatively furnished with simple furniture and pottery, the earthen floor and attached animal barn of the stone house speak to the humble early life of this man who rubbed shoulders with world leaders and took his prominent place in the history of Cyprus.
As a young person growing up in the United Kingdom in the 1960’s, I remember hearing Archbishop Marcharios’s name frequently in the news. Little did I imagine that one day I would visit his family home.
Wine tasting and learning about local history always seems to create an appetite!
We adjourn to the nearby Oniro restaurant, which we remember from a visit several years ago. Its early February, cool yet sunny. Perfect winter weather. Wearing sweaters, we sit on the patio and enjoy home made fresh lemonade: an Oniro specialty. We order a meze lunch, meaning a progression of local dishes which are presented as they are made: grilled halloumi, hummous, sun-ripened black olives, pita bread, fava beans in tomato sauce, arugula salad, feta with drizzled olive oil and oregano, aromatic sliced tomatoes, calamari…
Simple, nourishing, healthy: delicious.
At the end of our sightseeing day, we drive back to Paphos the long route, enjoying the seemingly remote countryside on our way. In one area that we pass, I hear that charismatic tinkling, jingling sound of small bells and know a shepherd with his goats and sheep is nearby.
Map of area:
Enjoying a morning coffee at our regular coffee bar in the Port area of Paphos is one of our favourite Sunday morning pastimes when in Cyprus.
Needless to say, this is after a good walk along the roughly paved sea walk that surrounds the Paphos Archeological Park.
Buying fruit and vegetables from the friendly stall holders at the Saturday morning Paphos market is another pleasure.
We have been shopping here for years now and there is always a sense of mutual satisfaction when we return: the same warm, comforting smiles and gestures reciprocated as we recognize each other. “Ah, you are back/ Ah, you are still here”, we collectively murmur from the heart.
This year during our visit I pay more attention to the wild flowers increasingly in bloom from February on. The tall, spikey Asphodels that I see everywhere. The anemone, a loner elegant in lilac blue. The mandrake, purple blue amid shiny leaves, reminiscent of spooky stories. The stately giant orchid. Perhaps above all I am drawn to the pink or white almond blossom buzzing with all manner of pollinators. For me, the sweetly scented flowers are the harbinger of spring.
But what about wine?
Next time, I will write about a Cyprus wine we enjoy that I haven’t mentioned before.
Now back in Vancouver, with a rain-filled charcoal grey sky overhead, its good to bring these memories of Cyprus back to life.
As I walk to the restaurant table at Minthis Hills Golf Club to enjoy a St Valentine’s Day lunch near Paphos in Cyprus, I am already anticipating having a glass of something sparkling. I know I will be the only one at our table making this choice today, so I am pleased to see on offer a 200ml bottle of Familglia Zonin Prosecco. This is a good start as I am a fan of small bottles of wine for individual consumption.
While I await the arrival of the flute glass and the mini bottle, I remind myself that I am quite cautious about Prosecco in general as I have experienced some overly sweet examples in the past. Also, I have to admit to not being familiar with the Famiglia Zonin wines.
All reservations are set aside as I taste this dry, slightly almondy, fresh sparkling wine. It was exactly what I was looking for to celebrate St Valentine’s Day. Sparkling wines are so versatile with food selections that I continue to drink this with my meal of ravioli filled with halloumi cheese, ground almonds and walnuts served with a mint pesto sauce. An interesting menu selection which captures my eye and translates into a successful food and wine pairing.
St Valentine’s Day belated best wishes to the readers of elizabethsvines.
Reference: Casa Vinicola Zonin SPA – Zonin Wines zoninprosecco.com
Minthis Hills Golf Club. www.minthishills.com
I open the car door outside the Tsangarides Winery and savour the fresh February village air of Lemona, this small hamlet in the Troodos foothills.
It’s been a year since our last visit and we’re looking forward to renewing our acquaintance with Angelos Tsangarides, co-proprietor with his sister of the winery. We are introduced to Angelos’s father who is also at the winery this day. We follow Angelos upstairs to a large tasting room overlooking almond and clementine trees. Today the room is warmed by a wood burning stove, necessary on this chilly morning.
Over a Cyprus coffee, metrios style, like a medium sweet thick expresso served with a glass of water on the side, we chat about wine, wine making, local grape varieties, tourism and developments at Tsangarides. Over the past year, Angelos has been consolidating winery activities, investing in new equipment and restructuring operations by taking on the role of wine maker himself with the advice of a wine consultant. He is very much enjoying this development.
Angelos is a keen advocate of the local grape varieties, Xinisteri white grapes and Maratheftiko black grapes. He explains that Xinisteri is typically blended with a small percentage of either Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. He favours Chardonnay in the blend.
A new development is that Angelos is now producing a Muscat dessert wine.
After our metrios coffee and chat, Angelos takes us to visit the cellars and
the bottling area. We buy some wine to enjoy over dinner with friends and he generously gives us a bottle of his Shiraz Rosé bottled this very day to taste.
Angelos tells us that he woke really early this morning, excited about the prospect of bottling the 2015 Rosé. As he tells us this, his face lights up and he is smiling the smile of someone who loves what he is doing. He says that he is very happy that he made the switch from the strictly business world he was working in previously to work in the family winery, that he loves what he does and finds it rewarding and satisfying.
As we say farewell to Angelos so he can get on with the rest of his busy day, he asks me to let him know what we think of these wines and we promise to share our wine tasting notes with him.
Here are the tasting notes I emailed to Angelos after we enjoyed the wines one evening soon afterwards with friends:
“Hello Angelos, We have tasted the wines from our visit to you and here are some comments:
2014 Maratheftiko organic wine
Good colour and clean on the nose with some fruit/floral aromas.
While young, a very drinkable smooth wine now. Soft tannins, some drying from the tannins but what one wants in this kind of wine, with complex black fruit and floral tones.
It’s the tannins which provide the health enhancing characteristics of red wine apparently, so good to be aware of the tannins.
One of our guests said that the wine would benefit from ageing – yes, undoubtedly but very drinkable and enjoyable now.
Given the fairly high alc 14.5% VOL, I feel it has a freshness and lightness to it.
We all enjoyed it. Very good flavours for an organic wine which sometimes produce different flavours to what one expects
One of our guests said. ‘I adore this wine’
What I particularly liked about this wine is that it has fresh and robust acidity so that although the wine has the characteristic aromas and flavours of a sweet wine, it wasn’t sweet. This is important when enjoyed with cheese as well as a dessert and it means that it complements rather than overwhelms the food flavours
Very popular and all drunk very quickly by our guests
2015 Shiraz Rosé
Bright rich red colour, clean on the nose with light fruit aromas
Delicious taste with dark fruit with touch of peach and quite spicy. Almost has a bit of fizz /bubbly effect so a lighthearted wine but I could feel the heat of the wine.
Very enjoyable. Will be a popular choice for the spring and summer
Thanks, Angelos. We enjoyed these wines as you can see and also the Xinistiri which is a favourite on the white wine side. “
We subsequently enjoy lunch one day at Minthis Hills Golf Club and restaurant in the countryside above Paphos. We order a glass of Tsangarides Xinisteri each and it arrives in aviation bottles of 187 ml. which we really appreciate as this is preferable to having a glass poured from an already open bottle. I have written before supporting smaller bottle sizes as options for wine lovers so I really am pleased to see this Tsangarides offering. Angelos subsequently mentions to me that these aviation bottles of Xinisteri are extremely popular.
In reflecting upon our visit to Angelos and his comments about the rewarding nature of his work, I wonder if this is the portrait of a happy man: working in a business alongside his family, in a beautiful rural setting, learning new skills, feeling he is making progress, being his own boss and doing something he loves, which is making wine.
Much has been written recently about this elusive emotion called Happiness and how to achieve it. After reviewing several sources in search of a succinct statement to describe the connection between work and happiness that would resonate with Angelos’s comments, the following statement by the late Steve Jobs of Apple Corporation seems to fit the bill:
“ Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do…”
Sounds like Angelos Tsangarides – a fortunate man.
Reference: Tsangarides Winery. www.tsangarideswinery.com. Organically produced wine
Metrios Cyprus wine www.cyprusisland.net
Minthis Hills Golf Club. www.minthishills.com.
Quote from the late Steve Jobs: Stanford Commencement Speech 2006
We’re back in Cyprus, land of mythology, of Aphrodite rising from the waves. The goddess of love, known as Aphrodite to the Greeks and Venus to the Romans, was believed to have risen from the sea foam near Paphos at Pétra tou Romioú.
I remember seeing Sandro Botticelli’s renowned painting of the Birth of Venus (mid 1480’s) at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and am delighted to think I have seen both the painted interpretation and the physical site of the legend.
In this ancient land of Cyprus, where there are records of settlement at the site of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Kouklia, site of Old Paphos, dating from the 15th century BC, and where it seems that often the blue of the sky and the blue of the sea merge into one, the imagination can take flight and anything seems possible.
Cyprus is a treasure trove of archeological sites with their ancient history. We enjoy visiting these places, and stand in awe of the work and artistry of the people who accomplished so much in those ancient times. In January and March 2013, I wrote about the history of wine making in Cyprus and the mosaics in New Paphos at the Archaeological Park by the sea and those posts are in elizabethsvines archives.
Well preserved and in situ, the Paphos mosaics provide insight into life on the island mainly in the Roman period although there are also examples of pebble mosaics from the much earlier Hellenistic period. Not only do the mosaics illustrate flora and fauna, they also illustrate work related to wine making.
I am so interested in mosaics as an art form that I am learning the basics of mosaic making with Sharen Taylor, a highly skilled mosaic artist and conservationist resident in Cyprus. First coming to the island to undertake professional conservation work, she subsequently conducted a two year historical research project of the Paphos mosaics. Now she dedicates herself to the “cultural heritage of mosaic making” working on commissions and teaching students at her studio in Paphos.
I have been spending hours practising the seven most used cutting techniques for tesserae ( a small block of stone, glass or wood used in mosaic making) and making a sample board, in much the same way my grandmother would have made a sample project of various needlework stitches. My grandmother was an accomplished needlewoman, as I think the expression goes. I won’t make the same claim for my tesserae/glass cutting skills but it’s fun to learn and try: more importantly it’s humbling to appreciate the immense amount of skill required to make the mosaics of people, animals, and life scenes evident at the archeological sites.
All this thinking about mythology, archeology and mosaic making hasn’t dulled my interest in local wines and the local grape varieties of Xinisteri, white grapes and Maratheftiko, black grapes. We will be visiting some local wineries to see how wine making is progressing on the island. In keeping with the art of the possible, the wine industry in Cyprus is enjoying a renaissance and I will share Cyprus wine experiences next time I write.
Mosaic artist and conservationist: Sharen Taylor. www.sharentaylor.com
Paphos Archeological Park www.visitpafos.org.cy
Kouklia Archeological Site http://www.visitpafos.org.cy
Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Uffizi Gallery, Florence. www.uffizi.org ( I found it worth checking several sites including Wikipedia to learn more of the story of the painting)