We go beyond Cyprus' seaside resorts to find out more about its burgeoning wine industry

It used to specialise in best-selling brands of non-Spanish sherry, but these days there is a lot more to the Cyprus wine industry. Christine Austin goes beyond the seaside resorts to discover more.

I think I am the only person I know who has never been to Cyprus on holiday. So, after my visit a couple of weeks ago to investigate the resurgence in viticulture and winemaking, I have booked a follow-up trip, to check out the beaches and sunshine.

Naturally, I will probably take in a couple of wineries along the way, and there will be some tasting to do, but that is the real joy of this island in the Mediterranean. It has great weather, excellent wines and a few ancient monuments to wander round in the afternoon.

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Cyprus really struggled after joining the EU. Did you ever buy Cyprus sherry? It was good, cheap and shipped to the UK in vast quantities. Then Spain, quite rightly, said that the word ‘sherry’ was derived from the town of Jerez and so it was a protected name. Just like Yorkshire Wensleydale and Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb have to come from Yorkshire, so sherry has to come from Spain.

Savvy Fakoukakis, who combines tourism with modern winemaking in CyprusSavvy Fakoukakis, who combines tourism with modern winemaking in Cyprus
Savvy Fakoukakis, who combines tourism with modern winemaking in Cyprus

Despite moving up a gear to promote their fortified wines under different brands, Cyprus never achieved their previous level of sales and huge areas of vineyards were pulled out.

The scars are there on the hillsides, with old terraces that were carved out centuries ago still visible, many now overrun with wild flowers and bushes and some replanted with olive trees.

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But what the EU take with one hand, they give back with another and there are clusters of new wineries, young winemakers and hillsides full of newly planted vineyards, helped by EU funding. The result is that Cyprus is once again making quality wine, but this time they are making their own styles and using their own grape varieties.

Wine tourism at Marathasa is already revitalising the local villageWine tourism at Marathasa is already revitalising the local village
Wine tourism at Marathasa is already revitalising the local village

Phylloxera never made it to Cyprus. Phylloxera is the tiny aphid that swept across Europe in the 1800’s and then most of the world, destroying vineyards from the roots up. This is why most of the world’s vineyards are grafted on to phylloxera-resistant roots. But without this insect, vines can grow on their own roots, and they can dig down deep, making the most of whatever water they can find. Planting is easy in this climate. While I was there, I saw cuttings being prepared for planting, creating 40cm lengths of vine branches that will be stuck in the ground and allowed to grow. “We get a 95% success rate for this kind of propagation,” said Savvy Fakoukakis, owner of the newly constructed Dafermou Winery in Lefkara.

Financially, the foundations of this winery have been built on the hospitality industry. Providing a venue for grand events, such as weddings has generated income to equip the winery with the latest in stainless steel tanks and barrels. There are vineyards too, mainly planted with local grape varieties that are becoming the signature of Cyprus wines.

Vineyards are the focus at the Tsiakkas winery in Pelendri, further up in the mountains. There, brothers Ektoras and Orestis have replanted ancient terraces that were abandoned 400 years. “This whole area was planted with vines, but then the Ottomans invaded Cyprus and wine production ceased. British rule from 1878 re-established viticulture and this started the fortified wine business,” said Orestis. Hospitality is on their minds too, with plans to build cabins for agrotourism. With breathtaking views over the vines, this is the way forward for many wineries.

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At the Marathasa winery, at the top of a mountain, reached by a steep, winding road, the stark modern architecture stands out against the white painted village a few hundred feet below. It was the vision of owners, the Papadouris family, to start to push back against rural depopulation in their home village. They have transformed seven village houses into stylish guest rooms (Casale Panayiotis), and then built a top-quality winery that can stand comparison with any across Europe. Vineyards have been planted and winemaker appointed. “We have vines planted at 1000 metres above sea level, which ripen slowly, retaining vibrant acidity and developing complex flavours,” said winemaker Vicktor Finopolous. Marathasa opened recently but is already producing quality wines and having an impact on tourism.

But there is serious work going on, as well as developing tourism. Sophocles Vlassides studied at Davis, the world-famous wine school in California and has built his own state-of-the-art winery in Koilani which is built into the mountain to remain naturally cool. Sustainability is a major theme here, as well as learning how to get the best from his local grapes.

At all these wineries, I tasted local grape varieties, some of which are difficult to spell, never mind pronounce. But in the same way that Assyrtiko has gradually worked its way into wine drinkers’ vocabulary over recent years, these grapes will surely start to become familiar. Many are not yet available in the UK, so you might just have to do what I am doing and book a trip to Cyprus.


This is the most widely planted white grape in Cyprus. It makes fresh citrus-driven wines and can age delightfully. Field and Fawcett have the delicious Petritis 2022 from the Kyperounda winery where grapes grow at over 1100 metres.


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The first of all grapes to ripen, this white grape has a gentle aroma of stone fruit with refreshing acidity.


Also known as Vamvakada, this red variety is a vine that really needs help to develop its grapes. Unlike most vines, it is not self-pollinating, so it has to be co-planted with another variety, often Xynisteri to help the grapes form. The grapes are harvested separately, which adds to the complexity of farming, but the eventual Maratheftiko wine is full of dark red berry and cherry fruit, with herbal notes. It can age too. With work, and research it may be possible to overcome the problems with this grape and it could become a signature grape for Cyprus.


The name means black, and this is the work horse red grape variety, often used for Commandaria, although Xynisteri produces better wines.


A red variety that could be important for the future of Cypriot wine. It has red fruit flavours, dusted with pepper and fresh, balanced acidity with rounded tannins. Tsiakkas winery makes a splendid example.

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