By George Kassianos
Many regard Omodhos as the wine capital of Cyprus, much like Mendoza in Argentina, Colmar in Alsace or Adelaide in South Eastern Australia. What is true, though, is this is one of the prettiest villages in Cyprus. Omodhos sits on the southern slopes of the Troodos mountains, 11km from Platres. It’s an ancient winemaking town centered around a historic Byzantine monastery, of the Holy Cross (Timios Stavros). As you wander the narrow, cobblestone streets lined with whitewashed villas (and plenty of tourist shops), be sure to stop in one of the many wine-tasting stalls for a sample one or two of wines. Or, there are several wineries in and around the village which also offer tasters. Probably the best known and largest is ETKO’s Olympus Winery.
In mid June a group of us were invited by Vassos Eliades – the distributors of Olympus wines – to visit the winery and taste their new vintages. Family-owned ETKO manages Olympus. In 1992 ETKO built the Olympus winery and in 2003 it moved all its wine production in Cyprus there. The winery is surrounded by 70 hectares of privately owned new vineyards and it has a maturing capacity of two million bottles of wine.
Apart from the Hadjipavlou family’s illustrious wine history on the island since 1844, guests can visit and experience, just like we did, the whole winemaking process. This was a first-hand experience, a guided tour led by an Olympus oenologist. The winery is located just outside Omodhos at the beginning of the vineyards and facing the famous slope full of vineyards of mount Afames. Under one roof the whole process of winemaking takes place. Miniature or large stainless steel tanks are everywhere. Olympus winery seems that gradually it will become a must-see attraction for visitors to Omodhos, being one of the greatest vacation destinations on the island.
Once the tour ended we moved to the cellar where the tasting of the new Olympus vintages took place.
2013 Ktima Hadjipavlou Xinisteri, Lemesos PGI, Abv12%
Xynisteri, many say, is the Cypriot answer to Sauvignon Blanc with a hint more floral and herbal aromas. Xynisteri is known to come from several areas and altitudes across Cyprus. This varietal has been written about by wine writers and is known for good value for money. This pale yellow hued wine has a vibrant nose with an array of aromas of tropical fruits over a backdrop of ripe peaches. The palate is full of bright stone fruit that is beautifully balanced with a crisp, refreshing acidity and a lingering finish with a hint of minerality. This is a delightful white that pairs well with many different dishes. Try it with grilled salmon, lemon chicken, creamy lighter cheeses such as goat cheese or a fresh summer salad and as an entry to meze. €7
2013 Ktima Hadjipavlou Rosé Cabernet Sauvignon PGI Lemesos, Abv 13.5%
This 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé is a lovely flamingo pink wine that is a perfect summer sipper or companion to light and lively warm-weather fare. This 100 per cent cab is young with a breezy character. Like sauvignon blanc, another classic summer wine, it is cold fermented and never sees the inside of an oak barrel. In the glass, this charming rose offers up abundant red berries, pomegranate and cherries, perhaps a bit of blood orange. On the tongue you’ll taste those berries plus a little tart nectarine and a kiss of lime. Its finish is light, long and lilting. Overall, it is informed by a subtle and welcome minerality. Serve this wine as an aperitif or as a poolside refresher or pair it with fish stews like or a bouillabaisse, baked ham served hot or cold, or citrusy cold shellfish salads. €7.50
2010 Ktima Hadjipavlou Shiraz, Lemesos PGI, Abv 15%
A brooding and no holds barred example of the classic Shiraz style vinified in Cyprus. The nose displays black fruits, dark chocolate and brazil nuts and a hint of smoky oak. The palate is rich and textural, packed with dark, dark fruit but is beautifully fresh and the oak is subdued. Towards the finish, earthy complexity and fine tannins take over and leave a lasting impression. It makes an excellent pairing with meat dishes such as duck, goose and roasted beef or lamb. €11
2011 Ktima Hadjipavlou Maratheftiko, Lemesos PGI, Abv 12.5%
This Maratheftiko wine has lovely cedar wood and cigar boxes on the nose and delicious compote of dark berries with a predominant blackberry character on the palate. This is well balanced with gentle, earthy oak flavours and a herby frame marked by meaty ripeness with a combination of pepper and fruit. Due to its youthfulness, this vintage is a bit astringent and will develop soon the flavour concentration when compared with other Maratheftiko wines and is very fresh in its approach, showcasing the winemaking techniques. Pairs well with pasta and pizza. Also pairs nicely with red meat dishes such as roast beef or lamb. €11
2010 Ino Château Zanatzia, Lemesos PGI, Abv 13.5%
From old family vineyards near the village of Zanatzia, this deep red cab has an earthy, spicy and upfront nose with aromas of smoked meat and ripe plums. The rich plum flavours translate to the palate and are met by the tastes of blackcurrant and dark chocolate in the mid-palate. This Cabernet Sauvignon has a bold tannin structure, a long finish and a spicy aftertaste. The wine was matured for 12 months in French oak barrels and needs time to develop to its full potential. Pairs perfectly with roasted and grilled meats such as beef, venison and rib-eye. €15
2009 Saint Nicholas Commandaria PDO, Abv15%
Amber colour with tones of chestnut brown. It has an unusual aroma and an unfamiliar bouquet, where the aromas of aging are dominant. The combination of caramel, spices, honey, raisins and lemon flowers are also present. Its intense sweet taste is in equilibrium with its acidity. This round, velvet wine has a rich taste which tricks the mouth between honey and lemon. Enjoy it as a dessert wine or accompany it with fresh fruit and light desserts. €11