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Cyprus Wine Tasting at the Greek Embassy

Posted: Tuesday, 19 September 2017 11:05


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Cyprus Wine Tasting at the Greek Embassy

September 19: Although Cyprus went through a phase of .showcasing wines in a Delhi restaurant with Cypriot cuisine around 30 years ago, when wines were not otherwise easily available, these wines faded away with the shutting down of the restaurant and nothing much was heard about them till last week on September 15 when High Commissioner H.E. Demetrios Theophylactou organised a Cypriot Wine Tasting at the Greek Embassy where 10 wines and some local foods were served to select invitees, writes Subhash Arora

How many of us have heard about the TAVERNA Restaurant at Hotel Ashok around the late 80's and early 90's? It was a fabulous restaurant serving Taster’s Menu with Cyprus wines somewhere at around Rs. 500 (or some such ridiculously low prices) a bottle. The multi course meal could never be finished- there were too many courses though delicious. The place used to rock! There used to be lines of people waiting at times. I remember having great time with friends since I belonged to a Rotary Club that used to have the weekly meetings at the hotel and we frequented the friendly restaurant.

Pity it was shut down! I was told by H.E. Demetrios Theophylactou, High Commissioner of Cyprus who hosted a magnificent wine tasting at the Greek Embassy last Friday, that it was one of the earlier wine-passionate High Commissioners who had taken the initiative. And what initiative it was! If that restaurant had carried on, today we might be drinking a lot of Cyprus wines in India!

In any case, it is commendable that His Excellency collaborated with his friend, H.E. Mr. Panos Kalogeropoulos, Ambassador of Greece, who offered the venue for him to host an evening of tasting wines from Cyprus. It was a very enjoyable evening with 10 wines and lots of local food.

Commandaria-signature wine of Cyprus

“Of all the island’s products, Commandaria is the best. It is an exceptional wine. I have drunk wine that is more than 30 years old here and it has a very pleasant taste, exquisite colour, and it was so thick that it stuck to the walls of the glass. You could get hold of even older Commandaria, up to 100 years old.” These are not the words of the High Commissioner but writings of an Italian writer in the 16th century who travelled through the country.

While welcoming the invitees, he did stress that ‘Commandaria, a special dessert wine, is believed to be the oldest wine in the world. It dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks, where it was a popular drink at festivals. During the crusades, it was served at the 12th century wedding of King Richard the Lionheart in the town of Limassol, where the King described it as "the wine of kings and the king of wines".

It is an amber-coloured sweet wine made from a blend of indigenous red grape Mavro and white grape Xinisteri, fermented after sun-drying them. It represents an ancient wine style documented in Cyprus back to 800 BC and has the distinction of being the world's oldest named wine still in production.

The High Commissioner said Commandaria was being used, including for communion, in addition to being served as a very distinct and tasteful after-dinner sweet dessert wine. It was indeed the preferred dessert wine of the Greek Ambassador- for good reasons, he said. He went on to explain that Zivania, the Cyprus ‘grappa’, was quite reputable for its great quality, while some new variants like the Rośe were quickly becoming very popular. These were available for tasting after his talk.

The High Commissioner referred to the significance of wine making in his country. He said wine making had a long history in Cyprus. Kyperounda Winery (Limassol), Vasilikon Winery in Kathika  and Ayia Mavri (formerly Kilani) Winery participated in the tasting whereas Sodap, the biggest co-operative in Cyprus had sent the Commandaria and Zivania.

Along with the wines, a variety of special Cyprus foods that usually accompany wine tasting, were presented, including the famous halloumi cheese-unripened, semi hard and brined, well-known worldwide for its unique quality and flavour.  A wide variety of Cypriot nuts were laid out generously as munchies. Extra virgin olive oil, as well as select Cyprus olives were also offered.

Cyprus has the distinction of having vineyard areas as high as at an altitude of 1100-1400 m or even more and thus offers cool climate grape varieties; an obvious advantage for them with the growing global warming. For instance, one of the wineries represented, Kyperounda Winery is situated in the Kyperounta village in Limassol region. The award winning winery opened in 1998. It has 4 hA vineyards which are the highest in Europe at 1400 meters altitude, ostensibly the highest vineyard in the world for Chardonnay (unverified report).

Wines for the evening were presented by Sommelier Magan and his colleague, Gagan Sharma WSET Dip. It was a very palatable and educational evening that needs to be repeated frequently- as the resources allow the Cyprus High Commissioner who would ‘sow the seeds today that may bring fruit tomorrow’. This is a continual process that needs to be structured. But kudos to him for spearheading a tasting that was long overdue and  would certainly not have been easy to organise.

 From Indian Wine Academy, Jai Ho (Cheers!) to him for bringing gastronomical Cyprus to Delhi- via Greece. Who knows Taverna Restaurant may yet be back for a second innings in another avatar with a much longer stay at the crease with the Cypriot gastronomy!

Subhash Arora

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Subhash Arora Says:

Thanks Patrick, Yes – I hope he continues with it. Needs a lot of work and efforts-commitment and passion. I wish them luck. Jai Ho! Subhash

Posted @ September 22, 2017 18:25


Patrick Denis Says:

Jai Ho!

Dear Subhash,

Great write up from the Cypriot produce and wine tasting at the greek embassy.

I write this short note to you in recognition of the excellent point made in the article

"This is a continual process that needs to be structured. But kudos to him for spearheading a tasting that was long overdue and would certainly not have been easy to organise."

It's our hope that in the near future this can be the reality.

Best always, Patrick

Posted @ September 22, 2017 16:20


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