Varietal refers to the type of grape that is used in making wine. The climate in Cyprus allows for cultivation of most grape varieties. However local varietals (Mavro and Xynisteri) constitute the majority of current plantations. Maratheftiko today forms part of ancient red grape varietals vinified by most wineries wanting to exhibit the singularity of quality wine in Cyprus.
For many years, the island’s most exciting vine product was Commandaria, a historic dark, raisiny dessert wine which could be very good indeed. For a long time Cyprus concentrated too heavily on very ordinary bulk wine, grape concentrate and pretend sherries to have a particularly bright medium-term future. But President Gorbachev’s attempt to sober up his nation and the fall of communism had the indirect effect of waking up the Cypriot wine industry from its long slumber. The docile Soviet market, for long a repository for the sort of very cheap, very ordinary wine exported in bulk by the island’s then dominant large producers, disappeared.
Nowadays there are increasing numbers of smaller wineries who are looking to vineyards at higher elevations, and picking earlier, to achieve greater freshness.
The main grape variety on the island is Mavro, which is responsible for large volumes of mostly undistinguished table wines, many of which are sold in bulk. Xynisteri is the main white grape. Both can be used for Commandaria.
A number of boutique wineries are making increasingly sophisticated wines from international varieties such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Crucially, there is greater understanding of the need to process grapes as close to the vineyard as possible rather than trucking them through the midday sun to the coast where the big traditional wineries are.
Some favourite producers: Kyperounda, Zambartas.