Since we cannot visit the vineyards and our favourite restaurants wine tastings on Zoom and other platforms are becoming popular again. Also, there is Dry January to consider, although I would suggest a different direction – Try January. We need to spark some positivity at the start of the year and encourage trying new food and drink, this is why I have selected five red wines from Cyprus, to crack open and enjoy at home during 2021 lockdown.
2018 Tsiakkas Winery, Vamvakada, P.G.I. Lemesos, Abv 13%
Scattered around the island’s vineyards is Maratheftiko red grape variety, the ‘old guard’ of the indigenous red Cypriot varieties. It is mostly concentrated in the Vouni Panayias and Ambelitis region of mountainous Paphos and Pitsilia. The synonym for Maratheftiko in that part of the island is Vamvakada, or Vamvakia, which mean cotton. The use of this name refers to the fact that Maratheftiko’s young leaves are downy, greenish white with a fluffy underside that looks like cotton.
Tsiakkas Vamvakada is kept in 70% French Oak and 30% American oak for at least 13 months. It is medium dark in colour, with a red hue. Varietal aromas of black plum, dark cherries and violet meld with the light barrel signature of baking spices. Bright fruit tones with the addition of red fruit and hibiscus flower. This wine is lively, with bright acidity and expressive tannins on the palate and cascades to a lengthy, red-fruit finish. I have enjoyed this with classic roast herbed chicken with garlic and thyme, and Shepherd’s pie. This modern-style Maratheftiko is also perfect with grilled lamb chops or meat loaf. Served at 16-18C, Vamvakada can age at least until 2026. €12.50
2017 Loel Winery, Evambelos Gi, P.G.I. Pafos, Abv 13%
Loel winery is located outside Limassol at Ayios Silas Industrial area. Many know Loel because of its Zivania, however it is also one of the biggest wineries in Cyprus dedicated to the production of making premium wine from grapes grown in Paphos and Limassol region. Loel installed modern technology in their new winery, which started operating in 2019.
Evambelos Gi is a Maratheftiko 100% selected from vineyards at Vouni Panayias in Paphos. It matures in French oak barrels for up to six months and is aged for a further nine months in the bottle. Intense cherry red colour with high robe garnet rim. Medium to high intensity, red and black fruit in harmony with the spices, eucalyptus and toast from oak barrel. Fresh, round, elegant with very ripe tannins. The long aftertaste is reminiscent of the red and black fruit. Enjoy this wine with roast pork loin with fragrant garlic, rosemary and wine. Another roast is rack of lamb with garlic and herb paste. Served at 16-18C, it can age at least until 2024. €11
2016 Vlassides Winery, Opus Artis, P.G.I. Lemesos, Abv 15%
As in every country there is a growing list of wines produced in Cyprus that can be classified as premium. One of them is Opus Artis, which means work of art, from Vlassides Winery.
The wine is produced only when the grape crop is exceptional, from the varieties grown exclusively in the estate’s own vineyards. Its varietal composition differs slightly every year, to bring out the best qualities of the wine.
The Merlot gives it a rich, velvety character, whereas Cabernet Sauvignon helps it to evolve during a ten-year period and Shiraz revives it, giving it a breath of freshness. The wine matures in new French barrels for 18 months, followed by two years in the bottle. It is also unfiltered.
Medium dark red colour with purple, this is a big Cabernet Merlot nose at first followed by Shiraz, full of blackcurrants, black olives and bay leaves, all spice, vanilla and oak notes. The palate is full and generous, firm tannins and bright acids add energy to a core of flavours of blackcurrant pastels, red and purplish berry fruit, and liquorice sweets. It is all about persistence and opulence. Some white pepper, vanilla and oak to the fore add nuance to the super-expressive. Serve with grilled and roast lamb with garlic and rosemary, kleftiko or roast beef, veal or venison. Serve at 17-18C and drink until 2028. €18
2017 Dafermou Winery, Red Dry, Maratheftiko-Shiraz, Abv 13.5%
There is 40% Maratheftiko and 60% Syrah in this blend and both varieties are aged in French oak for 12 months separately before they are blended. This red blend shows inky purple hues in the glass. Aromas of blackberries, plum and leather with lesser hints of pepper and violets. Opulent and chewy palate. Classic Maratheftiko with Syrah character. Just try this with a lamb burger with rosemary and a touch of garlic. Other recipes may include herbed grilled lamb chops or even eggplant rolls with cheese, tomato and basil. Served at 16-18C, this interesting blend can age at least until 2024. €8
2016 Argyrides Vineyards, Mourvedre, P.G.I. Lemesos, Abv 15%
An estate wine made from the indigenous variety from the Vasa region and plots situated at an altitude of 960m at Laona. The vines are 47-years-old. Vinified from grapes handpicked during October, it is a wine that is barrel aged in French oak for one year.
Uniting Laona’s intensity, brilliant acidity and tannin structure along with lush fruit flavours and texture, the Argyrides team has created a wine that offers juicy plum, blackberry, cassis, dark cherry and damsons, crushed flowers intermixed with notions of smoked herbs with some hints of wet stone, graphite, cured meats and ash wood. A rich, powerful palate, layered mouthfeel, full-bodied with a bright finish complementing the intense aromas, a blockbuster length. Full-body Mourvèdre begs for rich food to absorb the rich tannin. Excellent with roast turkey, beef short ribs, barbecued lamb or roast pork shoulder with regional spices. Vegetarians should look towards lentils, wild rice and shiitake mushrooms. Mourvedre is best served at 15-17C and drunk until 2024. €13.50