Last month’s blog featuring the beautiful 18th Century Cyprus enamel wine labels generated more fascinating information. It is so interesting when wine intersects with social history!
18th Century enamel wine label.
Photo of Mr. Christie’s poster advertising Port style wines including Cyprus wine by auction in 1822.
Dr. Richard Wells, whose labels I included in my last post, kindly forwarded a photograph of this La Comenderie enamel label from his collection. This is a late 18th Century English label, made possibly for the French market or to use the French translation of the word. This label demonstrates how broadly the Cyprus fortified wine Commanderia was exported over the centuries and in this case in the late 1700’s.
Following the publication of my last blog post, a friend kindly sent me a photo of this fascinating poster that they have had for many years, of a wine auction to be held on Thursday, February 7th, 1822 to be conducted by Mr. Christie in Pall Mall, London. Yes! 199 years ago next week! Careful review of the list of, “excellent and well-flavoured Old Port” to be auctioned, identifies Cyprus among the 125 dozens to be sold, even though Commanderia isn’t technically a Port, but a fortified wine. It’s also worth noting that the wines are sold in Pint quantities, as that was the measure for wine at the time. A pint is 0.5 litres. The decanters used to serve these wines in the 19th Century would have been much smaller than those made today.
In the 18th and 19th centuries Port was a very popular drink. This was influenced by the Treaty of Methuen in 1703, which was a military and commercial agreement between Portugal and England, resulting in the import of various wines from Portugal including several listed on the auction poster, for example: Madeira, Lisbon, Calcavella.
During this period, Port became known as a drink with medicinal virtues, in particular for gout. Presumably, similar fortified wine was swept up in this popularity and Cyprus’s Commanderia wine benefitted from this fashion.
It was common at the time to drink these wines heavily every day and people became known as a ‘Three Bottle Man’ or a ‘Four Bottle Man’. A bottle contained 350 millilitres. Therefore, a Three Bottle Man drank slightly less than 2 pints of Port a day, or just over 1 litre in today’s terms.
An example of a Three Bottle Man in British history is William Pitt the Younger, who was the youngest Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1783. He suffered from poor health and to address this problem, his physician recommended that he drink three bottles of Port a day!
Commanderia has been recognized as a popular wine since mediaeval times. Today, sadly,the market for Cyprus’ Commandaria wine has diminished, whereas Port continues to be widely enjoyed, even if far less than in the days of Three Bottle Men!
The beautiful La Comenderie enamel label together with the intriguing wine auction poster provide a fascinating glimpse into the past.
References: Thanks to Dr. R. Wells, drrwells.com Enamel Wine Labels
With thanks to Suekatunda for permission to include the photo of the Christie’s poster.
Lamb and feta cheese seems an unusual combination when I first hear of this a few years ago from Swiss/Austrian friends who serve us delicious lamb and feta burgers.
Lamb and Feta Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce
In a Covid culinary moment, I decide to see if I can replicate this combination and search for a recipe for a meatloaf with lamb and feta. To my amazement, I discover a January 1997 recipe for Lamb Meat Loaf with Feta Cheese on the Southern Living website, a magazine I haven’t seen for many years in Vancouver but I see is still very active and interesting.
I made this meatloaf twice, the second time with great success. The first time, it does a belly flop when I turn it out of the pan.
Lamb and Feta Meatloaf slices well and freezes perfectly
Here’s how I modify the recipe to my taste: replace the green bell pepper with red pepper, added more fresh herbs, particularly rosemary, add chopped black olives and make a fresh tomato sauce, ‘Classic Tomato Sauce’ from the Epicurious site, rather than a bought sauce as suggested. Additionally, to avoid the belly-flop routine, I make the full recipe, which is for 8 servings and put all the ingredients including the toasted pine nuts but not the feta cheese and olives, in the food processor for two spins to fully integrate all the ingredients before I layer the pan with the mixture and the feta cheese and olives. A big bonus with this recipe is that it freezes really well, so I slice the meatloaf and individually pack slices for the freezer.
The big decision, of course, is what wine to serve with it.
Ktima Karipidis Nebbiolo
Ktima Karipidis Nebbiolo
My thoughts turn to a Nebbiolo wine from Greece that we enjoy in Nicosia, Cyprus earlier in the year. This delicious Nebbiolo from the organic vineyards of Ktima Karipidis in Thessalia, Greece with its full body tannins, high acidity and distinctive scent of fruit and liquorice would be a good match with the lamb and feta meatloaf with its tomato sauce. In my mind’s eye, I see myself enjoying this Greek Nebbiolo with my newly discovered meatloaf!. Fantastic!
I have not been to the Thessaly area of Greece but I read that the area is bordered by Greek Macedonia and the Aegean Sea and has a thriving viticulture industry. The wine waiter at Beba Restaurant, Nicosia, recommends this wine to us. It was a good recommendation, which we thoroughly enjoy. The Nebbiolo grape is usually associated with high quality wines from the Piedmont area of Italy.
Closer to home here on the West Coast, we enjoy the meatloaf with our house Pinot Noir, which is from the Meyer Family Vineyard in Okanagan Falls, B.C: also a good choice with the lamb and feta.
Taking time to discover new recipes and imagining wine pairings is enjoyable and creative in these unusual times and brings a smile to my face.
Perhaps the Heartman says it best with his inspiring ♥️ heart creations.
The Heartman creates an inspiring flower heart. Photographed with his permission.
The sense of wonder I feel when I look at antique mosaics made in Roman times; around the 2nd Century AD or about 1,800 years ago, and that they have survived,
The artistry in the designs, whether geometric, non figurative or figurative – which still appeal to the modern viewer and are influential in today’s decorative styles,
The craftsmanship in making polychromatic illustrations from tiny cubes – 1 cm each side – of natural stone (called tesserae); usually limestone or marble of different colours which remain as vibrant today as the day the stones were laid. In particular, the skill in applying the stones to the mosaic design in such a way as to provide perspective, texture, and nuance of colour, size and scale,
The size of either floor or wall mosaics, which provide the opportunity to tell a story in stone; reflecting contemporary interests in nature, flora and fauna, spectacle, myths, gods and goddesses,
The way in which mosaics inform us about the lifestyle, the social and economic standing of the people who lived so long ago in houses and communities decorated in such beautiful ways; where beauty was a value they appreciated.
In other words, antique mosaics are masterpieces of the ancient world.
In today’s world, Sharen Taylor is inspired to help people appreciate the mosaic art form and also create mosaics with modern materials. While this is her focus, her creative approach is grounded in the depth and breadth of her knowledge and experience of art history and archeological conservation that she brings to her modern expression of an ancient art.
Illustrations of Mosaics made by Sharen
Sharen Taylor with her mosaics
Sharen making us coffee in her studio
Sharen Taylor in her studio demonstrating how to cut tesserae
Sharen graduated from Exeter University with a BA in Fine Arts with a specialty in sculpture. An interest in antiquities and conservation work led her to a job with the British Museum in London. While working there, she was sponsored for a Diploma in Archeological Conservation at the Institute of Archeology, London University.
Coming to Cyprus in 1987, she worked on the excavation work at Lemba, near Paphos. She conducted the conservation work on the cult bowl and figurines found at Kissonerga, which are on permanent display at the Archeological Museum in Nicosia. During a recent visit to that museum, I took this photograph, thinking how fortunate I am to know the person who did the conservation work on these important artifacts dating back over 4,000 years.
The Lemba cult bowl and figurines on which Sharen conducted conservation work. On display at the Cyprus Archaeological Museum, Nicosia
Following this exciting work, Sharen stayed on in Cyprus and worked for the Department of Antiquities as a consultant, including with the Leventis Museum, focusing on metal work and mediaeval pottery. She also worked for various foreign missions coming to Cyprus on archeological expeditions. Through this work, Sharen joined the Getty Conservation Institute as a Consultant and Coordinator for Site Conservation training, which focused on conservation on site; important for the integrity of archeological expeditions. Because of Cyprus’s location at the centre of the Eastern Mediterranean with major archeological finds throughout this geographic area, site conservation training was centred in Cyprus.
Sharen’s professional interest shifted to mosaics when she was asked to conduct a historical survey of the wine harvest mosaic in the atrium of the House of Dionysius at the Nea Pafos Archeological Site, a World Heritage Site, adjacent to the Paphos old Port. She analyzed each stone in that mosaic! In this photo, she shows her detailed mapping and analysis of those mosaics.
Sharen explains the historical analysis she conducted of the Roman wine harvest mosaics at the House of Dionysius, Paphos Archeological Park.
Sharen presented her findings at a conference of the International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics in Arles, France in 1999.
She started her mosaic workshop in 2000 and moved to the beautiful, light and airy new building in the Hani Ibrahim Khan Centre near the Municipal Market in Paphos in 2018. As soon as we entered to workshop to meet with Sharen, I could feel the good energy there. She focuses on commissions for organizations and private individuals and also teaches children and adults mosaic making, which is how I first became aware of her work.
Coincidentally, in 2013, I wrote about the wine harvest mosaics in a series of 5 posts about Cyprus in which I made the connection between my interest in wine expressed through my wine blog and the wine harvest mosaics! ( See: Cyprus Wine Making – the ancient world meets the 21st Century: Part One)
Earlier in this post, I outlined the main reasons that ancient mosaics fascinate me.
A visit to the Nea Pafos Archeological Site illustrates all these aspects. Each time I visit Cyprus, I take time to enjoy these mosaics, both those in the open air and those in the various excavated houses, including the House of Dionysius, where the wine harvest mosaics pave the atrium.
Nea Pafos Archeological Site, Paphos
Imagine welcoming guests to your house if you were the prosperous citizen of Paphos living in this Roman villa. Your guests would admire these and other mosaic illustrations as they walked across the floor.
Sometimes, I wish I could be a time traveller to quietly observe these scenes!
Any visitor to the Nea Pafos Archeological Site is privileged to be able to see these world heritage mosaics in situ.
Prior to the 1960’s, geometric and non-figurative mosaics were frequently considered of little importance. Generally, there has been ongoing deterioration and loss of mosaics. There was a view that there are so many antique mosaics in the Mediterranean region where mosaics are numerous that conservation wasn’t important.
Now there is recognition that cultural heritage is increasingly threatened by rapidly changing physical and geopolitical currents around the world and this emphasizes the need to protect antique sites.
Under the authority of the Department of Antiquities, Republic of Cyprus, systematic excavations started at Neo Pafos in 1962. In 1980, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. Nea Pafos continues as a centre of excavation and research by many foreign archeological missions from universities and schools.
As mentioned previously, Sharen presented her paper on the Paphos wine harvest mosaics at The International Committee for the Conservation of Mosaics (ICCM) Conference in 1999, entitled: Mosaics, Conserve to Display. The ICCM, founded in Rome in 1977, is a voluntary organization registered in Cyprus as a legal entity. Their role and objectives are, “promoting the broader evolution in the philosophy and practice of heritage conservation in the field of mosaics”. It is an organization that brings together conservators, archeologists, art historians and architects. I am grateful to Sharen for making me aware of this organization and its work.
Experiencing antique mosaics connects us to the ancient past at various levels: physical, emotional and at the level of beliefs and values through the stories they tell and the designs they illustrate.
Sharen Taylor, through her knowledge, experience and creativity pays that cultural heritage forward by teaching children to appreciate and create mosaics. The Hani Ibrahim Khan colourful and imaginative wall mosaic created by children with aged 7 – 11 is a great illustration of this.
Past, present and future: the cultural tradition of mosaics continues…
Mosaic made by children aged 7-11 years for the opening of the new Centre in Paphos.
Sharen Taylor Mosaics, 15 To Hani Ibraham Khan, 40 Konstantinou Kanari Paphos
Accessible Website via Facebook Google Sharen Taylor Mosaics.
Department of Antiquities, Republic of Cyprus www.mcw.gov.cy see this site for lots of relevant information including the Neo Paphos Archeological Park
International Committee for Conservation of Mosaics (ICCM)
Xynisteri, an indigenous grape in Cyprus makes one of my all time favourite white wines for the summer. Refreshing, with lemon/lime, grapefruit and apple notes and balanced on the acidic side with flavours of tropical stone fruits; think mango and also apricots and peaches. On the nose, there are floral and fruity tones.
Four Cyprus wine producers of Xynisteri White wine
It’s a great sipping wine for the patio, yet also perfect in food pairings such as fish, white meat and even salads with fruit.
I have my favourite four producers: their wines are similar yet with nuanced, discernable differences.
Here is the line-up of these four producers including the name of their Xynisteri wine,
Vouni Panayia Winery, Alina Xynisteri. I have written about Vouni Panayia before. They were awarded Decanter Platinum Award as best value Cypriot White wine for their Alina Xynisteri 2016.
Vasilikon winery, Xynisteri
Tsangarides Winery, Xynisteri – I have written about Tsangarides Winery previously as well.
Kolios Winery, Persephone Xynisteri
I should add that there are other producers of Xynisteri wines who I am not yet familiar with.
Xynisteri is a robust grape variety that grows well at high altitudes. Xynisteri is the main white grape variety grown in Cyprus. It is one of the two indigenous grape varieties used in the production of Commandaria, the amber-coloured sweet Cypriot dessert wine. Commandaria’s heritage dates back to 800 BC and has the distinction of being the world’s oldest named wine still in production. Xynisteri is also used for the production of the local spirit, Zivania.
If you are in Cyprus as a visitor, or resident, I suggest you look for these Xynisteri wines on restaurant wine lists and try them all over time and see which you prefer.
This seems like a perfect occupation when enjoying sunny days in Cyprus.
It’s the ledger of winners of the Decanter World Wine Awards 2017.
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.
Painted Rock Merlot, British Columbia
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
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.
Goats grazing in Cyprus
“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.
Award winning Xynisteri white wine from Vouni Winery
Xynisteri wine from Vouni Winery in Panayia
Barba Yiannis from Maratheftiko grapes
The entrance to Vouni Winery, Panayia, Cyprus
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.
Archbishop Macharios, first President of the independent Republic of Cyprus, outside the Macharios Museum, Panayia.
The doorway into the courtyard and childhood home of Archbishop Macharios
Archbishop Macharios’ childhood home in Panayia, Cyprus
The family home of Archbishop Macharios
The family home of Archbishop Macharios
Inside the Macharios family home
The door opening into the animal barn: childhood home of President Macharios.
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.
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.
Coffee at the Port, Paphos
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.
Umbrellas protect the fruit and vegetable stands from the spring sun, Paphos
Paphos fruit and. Vegetable market
Fresh from the Market, Paphos
My painting of fruits from the Paphos market
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.
Almond blossom near Paphos
Common Asphodel – Asphodelus aestivus
Mandrake – Mandragora officinarum
Giant Orchid – Barlia robertiana
Anemone coronaria – Crown Anemone
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.
St Valentine’s Day choice: Prosecco Zonin.
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.
A rose for St Valentine’s
Reference: Casa Vinicola Zonin SPA – Zonin Wines zoninprosecco.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.
Tsangarides Winery, Lemona on a chilly February morning
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.
Tsangarides Winery Muscat wine
After our metrios coffee and chat, Angelos takes us to visit the cellars and
Tsangarides Winery Maratheftiko organic wine
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 winesas 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.
Could this be Aphrodite’s sea foam?
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.
Kouklia Archeological site
Kouklia Archeological site
Kouklia Archeological Site
Kouklia Archeological Site
Kouklia Archeological Site
Kouklia Archeological site
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.
Pafos Archeological Site – UNESCO World Heritage Site
Entrance to Pafos Archeological site
Pafos Archeological site – site map
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.
Mosaic tesserae/glass cutting techniques
Work in progress – learning mosaic making
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
It’s a very rainy Cyprus day in February after a dry January. Highlighting the contrast between a wet today and many dry yesterdays, the heavy rain seems oppressive as we drive along the highway to the Limassol area.
We arrive in the village of Agios Amvrosios looking for Zambartas Wineries. I phone to check their location in the village and am told the person we are scheduled to meet had to go to Nicosia urgently. My heart sinks as we have been looking forward to this visit.
Map of Cyprus
Agios Amvrosios, location of Zambartas Wineries
Fortunately, all is not lost as the man on the phone invites us to continue with our visit. He will show us around. This is not only good; it’s fantastic when I realize that our host is Dr. Akis Zambartas, the founder of the winery. The stars have aligned to make this a memorable visit with one of the gurus of wine making in Cyprus.
Zambartas Wineries is a boutique winery founded in 2006 by Dr. Akis Zambartas in the Krasochoria Wine Region on the south facing slopes of the Troodos Mountains. The focus is on the production of quality wines while employing environmentally friendly practices. Akis has been joined in this enterprise by his son Marcos and daughter in law, Marleen.
Father and son are highly qualified scientists. Both are chemists with further degrees in oenology. Akis took his Ph.D. in chemistry at Lyon University in France followed by a degree in oenology from Montpelier University, famous for its oenology program. Not only is Akis a scientist he also has a wealth of business experience from a previous role as a chief executive officer in the wine and spirit industry in Cyprus. He has also been a pioneer in the discovery of Cyprus grape varieties. Marcos took a graduate degree in chemistry from Imperial College, London, followed by a degree in oenology from the School of Oenology, Adelaide University.
Dr. Akis Zambartas opening wine during our visit
After our mutual introductions, we tour the winery and meet Stefan another key member of the team. We move to the Tasting Room overlooking the winery and begin our exploration of the suite of Zambartas wines, which include several indigenous varieties. We enjoy them all. The ones that capture our attention are:
Zambartas Rosé. This is their flagship wine. It is a blend of Lefkada (a local indigenous variety) and Cabernet Franc. This is a ripe, red berry and strawberry style Rosé with cherry flavours on the nose, good acidity and freshness.
Xynisteri white wine
Lefkada-Cabernet Franc Rosé
Maratheftiko red wine – indigenous variety
Zambartas Xynisteri is a white wine from the Xynisteri indigenous grape. I increasingly enjoy this indigenous variety. For my palate, the experience is like having a glass of Sauvignon Blanc with traces of Pinot Grigio. The lemony, white fruit and honeyed fresh flavour with good acidity makes this my favourite glass of wine at lunchtime with a fig and Cyprus goat cheese salad.
Zambartas Maratheftiko is a red wine from the Maratheftiko indigenous vine. These vines can be challenging to grow yet the resulting wine is worth the efforts of the winemakers. There are subtle herbal flavours as well as those of violets. It’s a more delicate wine than its full colour would suggest and requires some thoughtful food pairing. Cheese, veal would be good choices.
In challenging economic times in Cyprus, Akis and Marcos have been enterprising in their marketing. They have remained true to their vision of making quality wine at Zambartas Wineries and steadily increasing their production and expanding their markets. Their boutique winery of currently 60,000 bottles per year has increased both its domestic and export reach.
Most exciting for wine drinkers in the UK is that Berry Bros and Rudd, the oldest wine and spirit merchants in the UK who have had their offices at No.3, St. James’s, London since 1698, now list Zambartas Maratheftiko.
Not only is Berry Bros and Rudd representing their Maratheftiko but Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Guide 2014 also mentions Zambartas Wineries. There appears to be increasing interest in “island wines” and Zambartas Wineries is riding this wave.
We spend a very enjoyable hour or so talking with Akis who is able to describe complex matters in straightforward terms. We hear about their environmental practices, how they apply science to their viticulture decisions, the locations of their parcels of vines, the geology of different sites, their sustainability objectives as well as their efforts to support important initiatives in the evolution of Cyprus wine making.
I ask Akis for his thoughts on the future of wine making in Cyprus. He says it will be important to continue the modernization of practices and to use and apply knowledge: both the academic knowledge of science and oenology and also the intuitive connection and experiential knowledge of the land and the vines. Akis says that the future of Zambartas Wineries is with his son, Marcos. This is another example of the power of intergenerational legacies in the wine-making world that we have seen elsewhere.
The heaviness of the rain at the beginning of our visit lifts and soon the sunshine returns. The almond blossom, harbinger of Spring in Cyprus, opens in the orchards and the annual renewal of nature begins.
The arrival of Spring – Paphos area
Back in British Columbia and it turns out we have another interest in common: TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) whose vision is generating “ideas worth spreading”.
Zambartas Wineries was a sponsor of a TEDX Nicosia event. These are locally organized events held under a TED license to start a community conversation about issues of concern. Followers of TED will know that the TED 2014 Conference was recently held in Vancouver. We watched some of the live sessions broadcast for free to local residents via the library system.
We greatly enjoyed our visit to the Zambartas Wineries and our time with Akis. Whenever I think of our visit, I feel inspired by the dynamism, sense of purpose and the results the family has achieved in a relatively short period of time.
References: www.zambartaswineries.com., www.bbr.com (Berry Bros and Rudd)
A slight breeze accompanied the rhythmic chatter of the wine bottling machine as we sat in the spring morning sunshine on the deck of the Tsangarides Winery. This family owned winery is in the village of Lemona at the south end of the Troodos Mountains and about half an hour from Paphos. Angelos Tsangarides offered us our favourite Cyprus coffee, Metrios with its usual glass of water, as we joined him to chat and catch up winery news.
Over the past few years we’ve had the good fortune to meet Angelos and his sister Loukia who both run this boutique winery started by their great, great grandfather. We were introduced to them by a retired businessman friend who lives in the village. A few years ago he bought a couple of parcels of land with old Cabernet Sauvignon vines which are now being brought into production by the Tsangarides Winery. We have visited these parcels of vines situated in a silent sun drenched valley near the village. Since then, these rejuvenated vines have been joined by recently planted Xinisterii vines also being nurtured in the same way.
On a previous visit with our friend, we had the opportunity to taste the Tsangarides suite of wines which were offered with a plate of local feta cheese on top of slices of cool cucumber, a delightfully fresh combination of flavours to cleanse the palate between tastings. The Xinisteri Dry White is a particlar favourite and it won a silver medal in the 2012 Cyprus wine competition. Xinisteri (sometimes spelt Ynisteri) is a local Cyprus grape which can produce mouth-wateringly crisp and fruity wine with hints of green apple, apricot and lemon. Agios Efrem, a red wine, is another favourite with a combination of berries, coffee and pepper aromas. This is a blend of Mataro, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
On this day, as we sip our Metrios, the conversation turns to the innovative approaches being taken by the Tsangarides winery. Their aim is to produce ever higher quality wines through modernization, greater efficiencies, certified organic wine making approaches and the use of ancient Cyprus local grapes with international grape varieties. This integration of the winery legacy with new approaches is a particular interest of the Tsangarides family. These approaches seem to be the way forward in an increasingly competitive and global industry.
It feels invigorating to sit outside in the warm February sunshine taking in the sights and sounds of the village and the winery and hear the enthusiasm of Angelos as he talks about their business. We enjoy the view of palm and olive trees surrounding the winery with the Troodos mountains in the distance. The almond tree opposite the entrance is in full pink splendour. Our visit provided an interesting and enjoyable insight into contemporary wine making in Cyprus.
High trellis planting of vines – mainly for table grapes
It’s February and pale pink, delicately scented almond blossom is suddenly opening on the almond trees. The soft scent encourages a deep inhalation of the perfumed air. The island seems to be bursting with colour. The Cyprus countryside between Paphos and Polis on the west side of the island is a vision of mandarin and citrus orange, almond and cyclamen pink, olive tree silver-grey, broom yellow and winter wheat green. The gnarled brown bush planted vines still appear dormant and the high trellis vines mainly for table grapes show the occasional touch of green. Nature is responding to the warmth of the sun after two months of cool and rainy weather and is reawakening.
The same could be said of the Cyprus wine industry. It is going through a renaissance after several centuries of decline and more recently the production of bulk, inexpensive wines. Cyprus produced much of the sweet sherry- like fortified wine consumed in the UK and also a large volume of blended wines for the eastern block countries. Markets have changed significantly and now Cyprus wine makers are responding to the global demand for higher quality wines by paying greater attention to the handling of grapes and the production of the wine.
Cyprus appears well positioned to make this transition. Along with Chile, Cyprus claims to a country whose vineyards are entirely phylloxera-free and vines are cultivated on their own root stock as opposed to being grafted onto american root stock as is the case in many countries. Cyprus is also fortunate to have several indigenous grape varieties which are heavily relied upon in its wine industry. While more international grape varieties are increasingly being planted their percentage of the total acreage cultivated is much smaller. The red grape Mavro has the highest acreage followed by the white grape Xynisteri. Next in line are Carignan, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Another popular Cypriot vine, Maratheftiko is further down the list. Xynisteri makes popular white wines but they must be drunk young – one year at most after production.
While much of the wine industry has been dominated by four major producers, smaller regional wineries with lower production capacity are being encouraged within the industry. Further initiatives to support improved quality have included the appellation system. There are three wine denominations based on European Union laws. The three categories are: Table Wine; Local wine, similar to the French Vin de Pays; and introduced in 2007 is the Protected designation of origin which is modelled on the French Appellation d’Origine Controllee. Each of these denominations has specific requirements which must be met.
The wine industry is a significant contributor to the Cypriot economy through cultivation, production, employment, export and tourism. It’s a demanding business in a highly competitive market. Modernizing and improving quality in line with the industry world- wide is the way forward while building upon the legacy of local grape varieties and island history.
Etko Centurion 1991 Vintage on the left and KEO St. John on the right.
KEO St John Commandaria
Etko Commandaria “Centurion” 1991 Vintage
Cyprus is known on the international wine scene for Commandaria, the fortified sweet wine that is associated with the 13th Century history of the Island and the Knights of St. John.
A little adventure seemed in order to become acquainted with this historic wine. Early one evening as the setting sun was painting a wintery crimson sky, we headed off into the hills above Paphos to the bar at the Minthis Hills Golf Club to conduct our own Commandaria tasting.
An earlier reconnoitre had identified that Minthis Hills offers two Commandarias on their wine list: KEO St. John and Etko Centurion Vintage 1991 and these two seemed suitable candidates to help us increase our knowledge of this fortified wine.
Notebook and pen in hand, we tasted the two wines individually and then made a comparison, looking at the key tasting areas of appearance, nose and palate. Both wines are clear in colour with different shades of chestnut brown; the vintage wine being darker and having a tinge of red in the brown. On the nose, the St John was clean with pronounced intensity and aromas of burnt raisins, nuts with a touch of caramel and hint of tartness. The Centurion was also clean on the nose with more pronounced aromas of nuts, figs, warmth and oak. On the palate, they were both sweet with medium acidity and medium intensity. While clearly a fortified wine with alcohol levels at 15% each, neither was syrupy nor overly sweet or overpowering. The flavours of sultanas and figs came through and the Centurion, with the advantage of 22 years of ageing, also brought forth buttery, caramel oak flavours with a pronounced spiceness, with pepper and a touch of coffee. Both wines are very pleasant and given their high alcohol levels, we assessed them as more accessible than, say, an equivalent 15% Syrah. The Centurion Vintage 1991 delivered extra smoothness and flavour and came with a commensurate higher price.
Both wines are made with indigenous grape varieties. The KEO St. John is made with Xynisteri, a white grape, and the Etko Centurion is made with Mavro, a black grape.
Sitting in the comfort and warmth of the candlelit bar and relaxing as we tasted these wines, the conversation turned to history. The Commandaria wine traces its roots back to the Knights of St John, one of the monastic Hospitalier Orders which undertook both religious duties and the protection and care of travellers. When the Hospitaliers arrived in Cyprus after leaving Jerusalem in late 13th Century, a king of Cyprus conferred on them the right to acquire land and they developed their Commanderies. Over time, the wine they developed on their land around Limassol was called Commandaria. As a fortified wine, Commandaria travelled well and was exported throughout Europe. It was popular in England, for example, not only in the 13th century but later and was a favourite of the Tudor Kings including King Henry V111.
Commandaria is made only in a defined region of 14 wine producing villages in the Troodos foothills about 20 miles north of Limassol. The wine production for Commandaria has remained true to traditional methods. The production is small and it maintains its ranking among the world’s classic wines. In 1993, the European Union registered Commandaria as a protected name and geographic origin.
Commandaria is regarded as an eastern mediterranean equivalent of its western mediterranean cousins, Port and Sherry. We found it had both similar and different characteristics and was more refreshing and lighter with higher acidity. Its high alcohol levels are due to naturally high levels of sugar from the sun dried grapes and the fortification process of adding pure grape spirit. Some Commandarias are made using the solera method of blending wine batches from different years as is used in the production of Sherry in Jerez. There are occasionally single vintage cuvees produced in exceptional years and the Centurion Vintage 1991 is an example.
Sweet wines have largely declined in popularity over the years which is sad as their complexity and full flavours have a lot to offer. Our conclusion: it would be very easy to enjoy drinking a glass of Commandaria with a Creme Brûlée, Tiramisu, a coffee semifreddo or to accompany a coffee after a meal, or to take a leaf from late harvest wines, to enjoy with blue cheese.
This historic wine can now be bought on line through Amazon; what better example of the Ancient World meeting the 21st Century!
Late 4th/early 3rd century B.C. This pebble mosaic floor belongs to an earlier Hellenistic building and depicts Scylla, the mythical sea-monster who is part -woman, part-fish and part-dog. She is illustrated holding a ship mast and a trident and is surrounded by illustrations of sea life.
Floor mosaic depicting the birth of Achilles. Roman period 58 B.C. – 400 A.D.
Paphos Archeological Site – Roman town 58 B.C to approx. 400/500 A.D. A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Late 2nd/early 3rd century A.D. This panel represents the story of Icarios. Dionysos and Acme are depicted to the left of the panel. In the centre, Icarios is seen holding the reins of an ox-driven double wheeled cart, filled with sacks of wine. Further to the right, there are two shepherds in a state of inebriation. A sign identifies them as:”The First Wine Drinkers.”
A good starting point for considering Cyprus wine-making is in its classical history as illustrated in the archeological site in the old port area of Paphos, a town situated on the south west coast of Cyprus. Paphos is included in the official UNESCO list of cultural and natural treasures of the world heritage. The Cyprus Department of Antiquities manages this site where the past merges with the present day particularly through the medium of the ancient Hellenistic and Roman mosaics.
Walking through the entrance-way and up the wide, stone steps to the archeological site, visitors arrive at the open, broad area of excavation of this promontory. The remains of the town with walkways, broken pillars and stone outlines of rooms are expansive and open to the blue sky which merges on the horizon with the blue, rolling Mediterranean Sea. This strategic site bordering the harbour provides an uninterrupted 180′ view of passing ships. What better way for the Romans to guard their Island of Aphrodite where they remained from about 58 B.C. to approximately 400/500 A.D.
There are two areas of mosaics that always draw my attention and wonder. First of all the uncovered circular mosaic floor which is open to the elements. It seems like a contemporary, beautiful carpet that I would love to own. The blues, mauves, pinks, browns are still fresh to the eye in spite of rain and sun over the centuries.
For wine lovers, the mosaic floors around the atrium of the so called House of Dionysos, 2nd – 4th century A.D., are possibly the most intriguing. The remains of this villa are so named after the figural scenes inspired by the Dionysos mythological circle which decorate the reception hall. Here are mosaic patterns depicting the wine harvest with carts overflowing with sacks of wine and there are inebriated shepherds in the picture too! The contemporary appearance of the mosaics and their clarity of colour seem to contradict their antiquity and are a tribute to the skill and creativity of the artisans who made them.
Interested visitors often lean over the rails of the raised boardwalk silently and intently gazing at the mosaics. Perhaps they feel as though they are in a time warp. Maybe they imagine that they can hear the sounds of the Roman household going about its daily routine and listen to the untold stories of the people who lived here beside the dark blue sea 1,700 years ago or even in earlier times, as illustrated by the pebble mosaic created centuries before.
Fast forward to the 21st century and grapes and grape growing remain an integral part of the Cyprus economy and society. The modern Cyprus wine industry produces a large variety of white, red and rose wines and undoubtedly draws its inspiration from these earlier times. More to come in the next Post.