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Cyprus Wine Competition has become an institution

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The annual contest attests to the vibrancy of viticulture in Cyprus says GEORGE KASSIANOS

There were 170 different samples of wine competing for medals at the 14th Cyprus Wine Competition, with about 30 wineries dreaming of placing gold, silver or bronze stickers on their bottles – the sign of medal winners at a competition that has become an annual event since 2006.

The Cyprus Wine Competition is now an institution. It is, in a way one of the best methods to evaluate Cyprus wines and has a lot to offer to local vine growers and wine makers. It is also a way to attract the attention of the media, in Cyprus at least.

This year’s competition took place over a four day period end of May, culminating with an awards ceremony at the Saint Raphael Resort in Limassol. The international panel of judges, all wine experts, arrived in Cyprus following the invitation of the ministry of agriculture. President of the jury and OIV (the International Organisation of Vine and Wine) observer was Professor Antonio Morata from Spain, a known oenologist from Madrid Agricultural University. There were four more oenologists, all participating for the first time in a Cyprus contest. They were Jelena Kuzmanovic from the Serbian ministry of agriculture; Panos Tzimas, who owns his own winery in Northern Greece; Roman Herzog, oenologist from Switzerland; and young winemaker from Romania Betty Darabont, owner of Darabont winery.

To complete the jury the two other seats were taken by two sommeliers: director of the European School of Sommeliers based in Berlin Umberto Galli Zugaro and myself as president of the Cyprus Sommeliers Association.

Now in its 14th year, all the 170 wine labels which took part in the various categories of the competition attest to the vibrancy of viticulture in Cyprus. Bronze awards were withheld because of the surfeit of gold awards and only two silver awards featured in the results. According to OIV regulations, only one third of the wines competing can receive an award.

Wine making has been going on in Cyprus for over 5,000 years and the island has an excellent climate for it with long hot summers to ripen the grapes. The message of the competition was that Cypriot winemakers must stick more to local, indigenous varieties. The grand gold medals were awarded to four commandarias: Saint John 1984 (KEO), Aes Ambelis Winery 2017, Saint Barnabas (SODAP) and Ayia Mavri Winery. As an insider, I can confess that the rest of the sweet wines were gold and some silver. Well done to the stickies!

Overall, 44 gold medals were awarded, and two silver. Grand Gold, which means wines score higher than 95/100 were given to three reds: the 2018 Argyrides Maratheftiko and Vlassides Winery Oroman Yiannoudi indigenous variety and the 2015 Shiraz from Kolios winery, the latter was a couple of years ago the Grand winner in the red wine category at Thessaloniki International Competition. I was not surprised to see Opthalmo from Nelion winery winning a gold medal. Perhaps other wineries can re-evaluate this red, indigenous variety. Best Xynisteri was the 2022 Ezousa Winery and 2022 Iris Spourtiko, also from Paphos’ Kolios Winery. Altogether, 14 medals were awarded to Xynisteri, which, as a variety had really impressed the judges. As an insider, again I can confess that almost all Xynisteri won a medal a silver or bronze.

Cabernet and Shiraz taste good – almost all vintages starting from 2015 for Shiraz and 2016 for Cabernet. The 2019 Maratheftiko vintage dominated the tasting, and unlike last year, several won a medal. What was missing this year were imported white varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay with two and one only wining medals respectively. Also, those present at the gala dinner commented on the lack of rosé wines and the newcomers in the Cyprus scene Morokanella, Promara and one Vasilissa won an award. All I can say about rosé, there were good samples but the jury did not award enough points to win a gold medal. I can honestly say that many of these wines that were not known to the public won Silver, and they might have missed gold by only a few points. If only OIV changes this directive so the public can see all the wines that won medals. Then we would have a clearer picture about the results.

This page will feature tasting notes of many of the medal winners with the first opportunity, and some runners up.

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