It is always exciting when you are invited to be a judge in an international wine competition. This was my third time participating at the Thessaloniki International Wines and Spirit competition, an annual event since 1999. There were a total of 866 wine and distillate samples, 75 from Cyprus, and 51 of them won a medal.
The entries are sampled by a panel of 25 Greek and foreign judges, of whom five are Masters of Wine. Greek Master of Wine Constantine Lazarakis presided over the event, joined by four Masters of Wine from abroad: Germany’s Konstantin Baum, Sweden’s Madeleine Stenwreth, Switzerland’s Paul Liversedge and the United Kingdom’s Emma Dawson. They were accompanied by Master Sommelier Stefan Neumann from the United Kingdom.
The Cypriot wines impressed the judges, with most raving about our Commandaria and generally the advances winemaking is making in Cyprus. I tried most of our gold and silver winners although some, like Vlassides Sauvignon Blanc, have already been reviewed and are not featured today. Congratulations to all winners; soon bronze medal winners will be reviewed.
2018 Tsiakkas Winery Xynisteri, Lemesos
Elegant fruit, a Xynisteri with a light yellow colour, enticing aromas of grapefruit, melon and lime leap from the glass, followed by tropical notes of lychee, pineapple and passionfruit. On the palate, Xynisteri is juicy and bright with silky layers of fruit balanced by lovely natural acidity and a vibrant streak of minerality. Hints of zesty citrus and subtle baking spices linger throughout a long, focused finish. €7.20
2018 KEO Xynisteri, Lemesos
On the palate this wine is dazzlingly soft, lush and round while at the same time bright and lively. The fruits from the nose continue onto the palate and are joined by ripe white peach and warm Granny Smith apple. The finish is long and lovely. This amiable wine is your perfect pairing for long afternoons on the porch swing. €5.50
2015 Ktima KEO Red, Cabernet Sauvignon-Lefkada, Lemesos
A potpourri of aromas explode from the glass with notes of raspberry coulis, black cherry, cedar, cocoa nib, boysenberry, mint, graham cracker, and a hint of lavender, rose and bay. The palette follows with bright flavours of red cherry and strawberry jam before tertiary elements of coffee, dark chocolate, licorice and fresh plums take over. This wine is full-bodied, displaying archetypal Southern Troodos Mountain tannin balanced by an elegant structure. €8.50
2018 Gerolemou Winery Riesling, Lemesos
Riesling vinified in Cyprus, one of the surprises. It offers a clean, crisp bouquet, some sweet lime and mandarin, candied orange and lychee aromas, even with subtle mineral notes. The mouth-watering acidity is beautifully balanced by flavourful Omodhos Riesling fruit. On the palate, it’s light to medium-bodied, off-dry and stony, with mouthwatering acids and refreshing spritz. €13
2016 Gerolemou Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Lemesos
Beginning with a gorgeous nose of boysenberry, cherry, strawberry, cedar, sage and licorice, this lush and lively Cabernet captures the rich diversity of Omodhos’ Afames vineyards. On the palate, the alluring fruit flavours are underscored by bright acidity, firm polished tannins and notes of fig, licorice and cinnamon that linger on the well-structured finish. €16
2017 Vlassides Winery Shiraz, Lemesos
The colour is deep ruby with garnet highlights. Raspberry jam and citrus with soy and earthy undertone aromas are complemented by an all spice and a subtle meaty character. The palate is full bodied and rich. A smooth mouthfeel glides into a long silky finish with flavours of juicy blueberry, hints of tobacco and subtle gamey undertones. €11
2015 Vlassides Winery Opus Artis, Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz, Lemesos
A blackberry hue, with scents of rich leather, cooked caramel, berries and forrest floor. Youthfully forward on the palate, supple and appealing with rich concentration. Tannins are abundant, yet fine, and persist throughout a layering of textural sensation. The richness of this wine correlates with the fine dust of the Vouni and Kilani soils. Finish expresses oak (French barrel) and Vlassides fruit-forward impressions. This wine is tannic, rich and squared off by our signature suppleness. €16
2012 Kolios Winery Shiraz Pafos
A juicy avalanche of grilled fruit and game, this vintage offers abundant aromas and flavours of classic meaty, gamey, smoky Syrah with blackberry, blueberry, black plum, savoury spices and black tea. The layers of bold richness are beautifully held together with integrated, ripe tannins that offer tremendous promise for a few years of cellaring. €15
2016 Oenou Yi – Ktima Vassiliades, Geroklima, Maratheftiko Lemesos
The 2016 growing season yielded a classic expression of Maratheftiko, with a fleshy entry and juicy layers of dark cherry, raspberry and plum along with hints of blueberry, cedar, vanilla and clove. Underscored by polished tannins, the juiciness of the entry evolves into a lush, silky texture that carries the flavours to a long, generous finish marked by notes of freshly ground coffee beans with a splash of ripe, red cherry.
2017 Zambartas Winery Shiraz-Lefkada, Lemesos
Deep, dark, and brooding. This wine has impressive focus, depth and precision. Really complex pepper, spice-dusted blood plums, cocoa powder and blackberries. The tannins are super succulent, firm but not aggressive. The depth and fluid power here is staggering. Intensely structured and deeply flavoured with blood plums, cocoa powder and graphite. Big on wow factor, this is a great wine that needs another three to four years to build out to full potential. €17
2016 Vasilikon Winery, Aion, Maratheftiko, Pafos
This deeply concentrated wine boasts rich, ripe aromas of blackberry cobbler and violets complemented by intriguing spice components and wood smoked, scorched earth. The lush, complex palate is balanced beautifully by ample acidity and creamy oak nuances. Tannins are firm, yet supple and will integrate seamlessly as the wine ages. Rich, full-bodied, this is a voluptuous beauty that has more mid-palate depth and richness. €15