December 1 has been set as the day of Maratheftiko grape, which was celebrated for the first time in Cyprus this year with a series of events including one at Rous Restaurant in Nicosia.
Scattered around the island’s vineyards, the Maratheftiko red grape variety is the ‘old guard’ of Cypriot, indigenous, red varieties. It is mostly concentrated at Vouni Panayias and Ambelitis region of mountainous Paphos and Pitsilia. The name derives from the Greek for cotton and its use refers to Maratheftiko’s young leaves, which are downy, greenish white with a fluffy underside and looks like cotton.
Only around five per cent of vineyards in Cyprus are of this variety, although Cypriot producers are betting on this variety despite production problems because of the quality of the wines and the originality in a saturated market. Cyprus is the only country that produces Maratheftiko, and it can happily compete with many of the nobler imported cultivars when the grapes are allowed to ripen adequately.
This Cypriot wine grape produces balanced, strong-bodied and coloured wines, with distinctive, faintly fruity aromas of cherries and blackberries. Usually, Maratheftiko is aged in oak casks before bottling them.
On the evening a Jeroboam was served, a blend of all Maratheftiko from wineries that support the grape’s day. The blend was prepared by Savvas Fakoukakis, winemaker and owner of Dafermou Winery. But it is also has a more regular use…
2020 Tsiakkas Winery Rodinos, PGI Limassol, Abv 13% organic farming
A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Vamvakada and a bit of Xynisteri to make for a zesty rosé. Brilliant strawberry colour, it opens with typical rosé notes, wild strawberry, pomegranate and raspberry, some peach and guava on the tropical side and rhubarb on the vegetal site, and a very discrete scent of white pepper. The wine has a wonderful creaminess and length on the palate with long and crisp red fruit flavours. €8
2020 Ezousa Winery Eros, PGI Pafos, Abv 13.5%
The first Maratheftiko rosé in Cyprus, it has a bright pink colour, red and dark berry, floral, citrus zest and succulent herb qualities on the deeply perfumed nose, as well as hints of minerals and baking spices. The mineral and spice notes drive a strikingly long, gently chewy finish that echoes the floral and blood orange notes. €10
2020 Ktima Dafermou, Paparouna Rosé, Abv 12%
An elegant cherry pink colour, this is a very serious Maratheftiko rosé with firmness and wonderful length of fruit and acidity. It is medium-bodied and compact, with pronounced raspberry and red cherry aromas, classic watermelon, peach notes, citrus fruits, white blossoms and with some spicy nuances. Quite complex for a rosé. €9
2020 Papaioannou Winery Medium dry Maratheftiko rosé, Abv 14%
Pale and delicate pink, fruity, nice nose, floral, red plum, golden apple and cherry, hibiscus tea, very brisk acidity, it is a highly mouth-watering, yet it has a very long finish. Despite the varietal differences, the net result is a remarkable wine, exuberant, lively and fragrant on the palate. €7
2019 Makarounas Winery Single Vineyard Maratheftiko, P.G.I. Pafos, Abv 13%
Another single vineyard. The wine is a medium to deep garnet-purple in colour and opens with enticing aromas of black cherry, roasted coffee and vanilla beans. It is more fruit forward with dark plums coming to the fore. The palate is seductively plush and layered with plenty of freshness, finishing with a spicy kick. €16
2019 Tsiakkas Winery, Vamvakada, P.G.I. Lemesos, Abv 14%
Vamvakada – the name given to Maratheftiko in Pistsilia – 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.
2018 Nelion Winery, Maratheftiko, P.G.I. Pafos, Abv 14%
The fruit is sourced from a single vineyard. Deep red colour with violet hints, this Maratheftiko starts with floral hints, and rich blackberries and blackcurrants, licorice, and hints of vanilla. Gentle tannins and vanilla notes, all spice, dark cherry, and red currants flavours round out an enjoyable soft finish. €18
2017 Malia Winery, Heritage, P.G.I. Limassol, Abv 13%
The very first Maratheftiko I ever tasted back in 1989. A legendary red. The 2017 is a dry red wine with a dark crimson colour, with gorgeous aromas of plush dark fruit, blackcurrant, cherry, and plum tart with notes of Asian spice and forest floor, vanilla with hints of milk chocolate. Medium to full bodied, round with soft tannins and with dark fruit shows on the mid-palate with notes of cinnamon bark and clove. The wine endures in length and texture, with a finishing touch of black pepper. €14
2017 Aes Ambelis Winery, Omiros, PGI Abv 14%
Made from vineyards in Paphos. It has an intense ruby colour with scents of blackcurrant, ripe prune, dark plum, rose and violet with a whisper of mint chocolate, penetrating notes of sage and bay leaves as well as espresso. Full, velvety, but smooth and lingering on the palate; fruit flavours, tannins and light acidity are in harmonious balance. This full-bodied wine offers juicy black cherry, blackberry, ground pepper, mint, and light mineral vein. €12.50