Head to any hip venue in the island’s capital today and chances are you’ll spot locals indulging in a glass of wine. Comprehensive wine lists are often creatively doodled across decorative blackboards, while today’s customer is more knowledgeable than ever before, with a discerning palate and keen to try new tastes. Head to a dinner party, and a good bottle of fine red, white or rosé will no doubt take pride of place on the table. Visit your favourite restaurant, and there will no doubt be an extensive wine list at hand, with both foreign and local varieties giving you ample choice.
Wine cellars-cum-bars are heaving with happy customers, each eager to indulge in the latest flavours and varieties. Wine is now hip, it’s trendy and its being thoroughly appreciated by young and old alike.
Knowing about good wine has never been more in vogue.
But this certainly wasn’t always the case here in Cyprus. Not so long ago, wine was reserved for specific ‘occasions’ and often only a staple at weddings and similar festivities. On nights out, youth indulged in whisky and vodka. At restaurants, wine lists were limited, and the selection was rather poor while bars dedicated to this kind of tipple were completely unheard of.
There were, however, a few wine aficionados who envisioned a real change in the status quo, and set about paving the way for the growth of the local wine loving community while raising the bar with regard to fine wine appreciation around the country.
With La Maison du Vin in Nicosia now celebrating its 10 year anniversary, managing director Costas Kyriakides reflects on what was the start of a whole new approach to wine. The vision began eight years prior to the establishment of the Nicosia shop, prompted by the success of La Maison du Vin in Limassol opened by Victor Papadopoulos, who was in turn inspired by his namesake cousin. “Victor’s vision was to import fine wines, he was a true pioneer at that,” says Costas. “I teamed up with cousin Victor to open the first retail oriented wine shop offering customers a complete range of wines.”
Opening the capital’s first specialised wine shop at the age of 33, Costas recalls how different things were ten years ago. “It was the ‘Absolute everything’ era,” he chuckles. “It was all about vodka. People of my age group didn’t drink wine, including me,” he confesses.
But once his curiosity for fine wines was sparked, there was no turning back. Soon enough, he began immersing himself in this world, dashing off to seminars and presentations, while taking part in countless tastings and speaking to industry leaders. Le Maison du Vin kicked off a trend which has led to today’s frenzy of wine shops and cavas around the capital, as local wine culture has flourished at an impressive rate.
“It has been a very interesting and challenging decade. We started out venturing into the unknown, especially in terms of customer habits,” Costas admits. “It took the better half of the decade to really educate both customers and retailers about quality wines. On the one hand, consumers were intimidated to walk into a fine wine shop,” recalls Costas. “On the other, restaurant wine menus were very poor and it was hard to convince them to upgrade their selection”.
Slowly but surely however, the wheels of change were set in motion as La Maison du Vin Nicosia organised interesting tastings, courses and presentations with world renowned wine producers that captured public attention. The well trained staff, always on hand to help the customer, have also had a vital role to play, cultivating people’s knowledge with their hands-on approach.
Walk into the shop today, and you will find shelves lined with bottles from almost all of the most important wine regions in the world including Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Lebanon and Argentina. What has really set La Maison du Vin Nicosia apart is its ongoing dedication to following latest trends and bringing to Cyprus some of the trendiest wines from around the world, with the recent penchant for Austrian wines standing as a prime example. The shop is also proud of the fact that each year a handful of the wines stocked have been selected by the revered Wine Spectator among the 100 best of the year, with the shop also stocking the Wine Spectator’s ‘Wine of the Year’ three times.
“Recently, there has been a turn towards a real appreciation of indigenous varieties,” explains Costas. “The latest example is Santorini wines that have become very popular worldwide with La Maison du Vin now representing one of the best producers from this Greek island.” The list of top producers that La Maison du Vin collaborates with from the world over is a long one, and includes some of the best in the world like Ruinart, E. Guigal, A. Gaja, A. Bichot, L. Jadot, Alpha Estate and Casa Lapostolle.
But it’s not just about looking to foreign fields for fine tastes, the promotion of some of the island’s local produce has become part of its ingoing mission. “The quality of Cypriot wine has increased dramatically over the past ten years,” enthuses Costas. “They have done a great job and we in turn help by promoting them.” A few years ago many customers were embarrassed to present local wines at the dinner table.
Fast forward to the present day, and they are now embracing local varieties that have been given the La Maison du Vin seal of approval.
It’s not just preferences that are changing, but also, the age of wine enthusiasts themselves, with people in their 20s and 30s now more clued up than ever before. Little wonder that the capital is now awash with wine bars and establishments taking pride in quality varieties.
“It’s no longer an ambassador’s choice,” confirms Costas. “Wine is now trendy; it’s cool. We’re committed to enhancing the availability of the world’s wines in Cyprus to connect our customers with the global wine culture as we keep them updated on the latest trends, selections and tastes.”
A special La Maison du Vin Christmas catalogue is now available at https://www.facebook.com/LaMaisonduVinNicosia