The History of Winemaking in Cyprus

The History of Winemaking in Cyprus

It is believed that here has been a commercial wine industry in Cyprus longer than anywhere else in the world.
However the quality of the wines produced in Cyprus has not always been the best but thankfully today's wine industry produces very good quality wines at affordable prices.

It is believed that that wild vine from which all of the modern grape varieties descended grew in Cyprus thousands of years ago and from here it spread across Europe and to the Middle East.

Most of the early wines would have been sweet wines as they do not oxidise as quickly and they travel better than dry wines. For this reason Cyprus became known for its sweet wines.
In the 11th century with the start of the crusades Cyprus became regarded as the finest producer of sweet wines being praised by Richard the Lionheart who landed in Cyprus and married Berengaria here.
The Knights Templars set up their Commandaries in Cyprus and this gave the name to the thick sweet wines which became known as Commandaria.
Commandaria is strictly controlled by law today which stipulates certain types of grapes, regions and production methods.

Over the centuries the fortunes of Cyprus wines have fluctuated with wars and droughts.
When the Ottomans invaded the island in 1571 they took over the more fertile lands pushing the Cypriots and the Greek Orthodox churches and monasteries to the higher less fertile lands whose only useful crop was the grape vine. It is still tradition today for monasteries to make their own wines and liqueurs. There are records of a winery at Chrysorioyiatissa Monastery in the 18th century.

The foundations of the modern industry were laid in the 19th Century by the House of Haggipavlu when the company bought a sailing ship to export barrels of wine all over the mediterranean.

During the years of the British Empire the wine industry in Cyprus flourished with exports to all parts of the world where the British were present.

In 1927 a group of business houses formed the Keo Company and the house of Haggipavlu purchased the largest privately owned winery in Limassol and formed the ETKO Company.
The third of the big four LOEL was formed in 1943, through a breakaways of trades union members from ETKO following a strike. This is a co-operative company and is still run on the socialist principles which developed business with the communist block. The fourth company SODAP is also a co-operative which was formed in 1947 by the vine growers to protect the rights of the g rowers.
For more than 30 years the Cyprus wine industry was The Big Four KEO, ETKO, LOEL and SODAP.

In the early 1980's the Cyprus government as part of t is drive to create rural industries enabled small enterprises to apply for licences to operate wineries In the hill villages of the grape growing regions and these days there are small family run wineries in many villages and also many monasteries.
The result of this has been the appearance on the market of some excellent wines as well as some not so good.
The big four have not rested on their laurels during this time and have purchased large tracts of land and planted thousands of new wines of famous international varieties and rediscovered old Cyprus varieties. They have built new wineries and restored old ones in the hills.
Today we have a very good selection of wines to choose from at prices that represent good value.

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