Cyprus is home to some unique grape varieties, which are indigenous to the island and found nowhere else in the world. Being an island with a history in viticulture and winemaking dating back thousands of years, it is not a surprise that these varieties evolved and reproduced. It is a miracle though, that we know and use them today. During the Ottoman rule of Cyprus for over 300 years, commercial wine production was prohibited and only survived in the home sphere. Only table grapes were grown on large scale and the varieties used for making wine were only grown sporadically to increase the colour and taste of the home made wine. They almost got lost, but vines are vigorous plants and survive even without too much care. The problem was that no-one knew where they were, how many of them existed and what their characteristics are.
Akis Zambartas, during his career as Oenologist in KEO, was very interested in these native Cypriot varieties and re-discovered 12 of them. During the 3 year long pioneering research, Akis discovered, planted and vinified these varieties. French ambelographer Pierre Galet then came to Cyprus to record these varieties. This impressive contribution to the Cyprus viticulture granted Akis the membership to the prestigious International Academy of Wine (AIV).
An account of Akis research and description of each of the varieties can be found here.
Out of the 12 recognised Cypriot grape varieties, we currently mainly use two; the white variety Xynisteri and the red variety Maratheftiko. We grow Yiannoudi, another red variety, in small production and are establishing a bigger vineyard at the moment.
Xynisteri is the most commonly used white indigenous variety of Cyprus and widely planted across the island. It has been recognised as one of the white varieties with potential of producing quality refreshing dry white wines with character. The variety produces wines with citrusy aroma’s, is lightly mineral and benefits from mild oak ageing. We produce and oaked and un-oaked Xynisteri, exploring the different potentials of Xynisteri.
Maratheftiko, is currently Cyprus flagship red variety, producing complex and round red wines with its own distinctive aroma’s and flavour. Maratheftiko wines are usually deeply coloured, fresh, rich in dark berry and cherry fruit, sometimes slightly herbal or scented with violets. As a variety it is rather difficult to cultivate, since it is not hermaphrodite and lacks the possibility to pollinate itself. Therefore cross-planting with another variety is needed in order for the Maratheftiko to produce fruit. Due to this, Maratheftiko is relatively lower yielding and requires careful viticulture practices. We believe it is worth the effort, as Maratheftiko has great potential of making world class red wines!
Yianoudi, a variety related to Maratheftiko, is a promising variety too, however, most vineyards are still young and thus its true potential will show in the years to come. We have a small vineyard planted and will be planting more in the coming years.
Zambartas Winery is located in Ayios Amvrosios Village, a small community in one of the most beautiful areas of Cyprus, consisting of rolling hills and valleys covered with vineyards, olive groves and other cultivation.
The village is known for the 14th Century Church of Saint Ambrosios and still breaths the air of a traditional wine village. The center of the village consists of narrow streets with traditional houses all leading to the village square that is home to a big and beautiful mulberry tree. Around the village you will find a lot of family owned vineyards and almond trees dotted around in the landscape.
Ayios Amvrosios Village is part of the “Krasochoria”, or Wine Villages of Limassol. These are located north-west of Limassol in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, and have been known for their cultivation of grapes and their wine production since antiquity. You can find vineyards that are more than a century old and be awed by the stone-built terraces made by hand from our ancestors. Typically the vineyards are grown from 500m to 1150m above sea level, mainly on chalk soils which are replaced by richer volcanic soils as the altitude rises.
The sun exposure and the poor soils of this ancient wine region produce red grapes high in flavour and aroma concentration and of great intensity. This is attributed to the good sun exposure of the vines planted to the poor chalk soils that force the vines to grow long root systems unearthing those micronutrients that give Cyprus red wines their unique and quality character.