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The aftermath of the contest


George Kassianos reflects on sommelier contest that reflected the island and samples some local wines

 The ASI Contest for the Best Sommelier of Europe and Africa, organised by the Cyprus Sommelier Association, ended last month with Italian Salvatore Castano, a trade advisor and Head Sommelier at Friarwood Wines in UK, declared the new champion of Europe and Africa. He really worked hard on stage at Rialto theatre competing against the two other finalists, Nina Jensen (Denmark) and Suvad Zlatic (Austria). He deserved the title and it is worth watching the performance of all three on YouTube.

Amid the pandemic, the young sommeliers of Europe and Africa had the contest they deserved. Overall, Cyprus was praised on all aspects of the contest. Guests left with happy memories and appreciated the efforts of our small association with Covid still threatening. Candidates and delegates enjoyed Cyprus hospitality, the good weather and the gastronomy. Cyprus made a lot of new friends, and all said they will come back with their friends and family. Now many of the young Somms are looking at February 2023 when the World Best Sommelier contest will take place in Paris.

Cypriot wineries have benefited too. Many candidates spent hours studying Cyprus wines. A few even travelled in the summer to spend two or three days visiting wineries and tasting Cyprus wines. Many more expressed the wish to come but where prevented from doing so as they hadn’t worked for months over the last couple of years. As a result, five associations failed to attend due to financial issues because of Covid and three more cancelled their trips a month before the contest.

However, the 32 candidates now know all about Cyprus wines. Everybody, including the ASI Board, the members of the Technical Committee, the ASI presidents and their guests as well as the foreign journalists know all about our Commandaria, our Xynisteri, Morokanella, Vasilissa, Promara, Spourtiko, Yiannoudi, Opthalmo and Maratheftiko. These are not just names of rare grape varieties. They tasted all of them, took notes and will ask for them again next year. In fact, they expect to taste them at the biggest wine exhibitions in Europe and hopefully in other continents too. They were particularly impressed with Xynisteri as they found it interesting and diverse. They expect to see some featured in the wine lists of fine restaurants and selected wine shops soon.

It was a contest worth doing for many reasons. As said it was worth it to promote Cyprus and the Cypriot professionals too. The biggest winner though is Cyprus wine. I promised I would not reply anymore to the question ‘do we have a good Cypriot wine?’ I will refer people to the video of the contest (out soon) where pros from Europe and Africa express their honest professional opinion.


Wines of the week

After the necessary break for hosting the contest it time to make up for some lost time in tasting the Cypriot wines myself.

Krasopoulin from Kyperounda

Krasopoulin is a small-production winery based in Xyliatos village in Nicosia district. Its vineyards are located around Madari mountain peak in both the Limassol and Nicosia districts at an altitude of 1,000 to 1,400 meters. I first tasted both the red and white at Think 30 restaurant in Stasikratous Street, Nicosia, where they are exclusively sold. The 2020 Krasopouli tis Yiayias Dry White Varietal, Abv 13% (€9) is a 100% Xynisteri. It has a pale yellow colour with green hues. The aroma is fresh and vibrant with a base of subtle tropical fruit but dominated, especially when young, by fresh lime and some honeyed aromas as well as the typical Xynisteri fresh herbal notes. Crisp and green, the palate shows a lovely fruit weight on the mid palate with flavours reminiscent of bright citrus and an undercurrent of just sliced peach and fresh stone fruits; all this is surrounded by a juicy, pure acidity giving the wine its zesty exuberance with a fresh, dry but short finish. Excellent with fresh grilled salmon and prawns, it screams out for mixed greens and tomato salads or even grilled lemon herb chicken.

The 2019 Krasopouli tou Papou, PGI Nicosia, Abv 14% (€10) dry red is from the Mavro Ambelisimo varietal. The colour is ruby with clarity, pink to clear edges. Floral aromas of violets, lilies and on the botanic side eucalyptus, an amazing combination! It is one of those wines I want to just sniff and sniff with interest. On the fruit side, notes of red cherry, wild strawberry and a bit of blackberry combined with spicy aromatics that follow after a few swirls. There are big red fruits in the mouth like cherries and strawberries as well as a bit of spice and tea leaves notes. Smooth and almost light-bodied! A lovely cherry/tea high note kept me amused along with the dusky flowers. Short but sweet! This is a good wine, but it is casual at the same time. Pair this wine with a barbeque red and white meat, pizza or ravioli with marinara sauce, even with Mexican soft tacos with mincemeat, goat cheese or Brie.

Contact Winery: Costas Elysseou 99 966653


Kamanterena Project X

2020 Kamanterena Winery, Project X, Single Vineyard Xynisteri, PDO Laona Akamas, Abv 12.5%

The project of Kamanterena’s two winemakers Stefanos Stephanou and Loucas Papaloucas with Tempo Beverages (Cyprus) Ltd and Ido Lewisohn MW from Israel has released a new vintage and a red. The team has chosen an 11.4 ha vineyard of Xynisteri, called Eagle Rock, a vineyard of rich limestone soil. Fermentation started at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks then continued and finished in five hundred litre oak barrels. Project X, as it was named, has been kept for nine months exercising frequent batonnage.

The wine has a light golden colour with a bright hue, the limestone effect is there, still aromatic more herbaceous and fuller of white flower notes balanced seamlessly with notes of stone fruit and citrus aromas of lime and lemon. The palate expresses intense fresh grass and green pepper, some tropical fruit characters in mid palate leading into a crisp but lingering finish. As with the 2019, the Xynisteri shows a precise balance of structural and natural acidity with vibrant varietal flavours, a true expression of the vintage and the vineyard. When you enjoy this wine with food think of seafood carpaccio or red sea bream baked in the oven, as well as roast herbed chicken. €13



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