For any wine lover, Cyprus is heaven on Earth. With more than 50 established wineries you can visit all over the island, it’s hard not to find one in your proximity. The Mediterranean island benefits from 300 to 340 sunny days a year and the climate is just right for growing most grape varieties, including in the mountainous areas. Cypriot wines are traditionally sweet, which is why for me these wines are some of the best in the world – I have a thing for sweet wines! And talking about tradition, it is worth noting that people have been making wine in Cyprus for almost 5000 years, so you can trust them to know a thing or two about the wine culture.
This article delves into the realm of Cyprus wineries, intending to reveal all the facets of this topic, such as the grape varieties that thrive in the region and the unique wine experiences you can have all over the island. So join me in this venture to explore its most beautiful vineyards and uncork the best bottles of wine that Cyprus has to offer.
Cyprus Grape Varieties
Cyprus is home to an amazing assortment of grape varieties that thrive in the sun-drenched climate and diverse terrain. These grape varieties, some indigenous and others introduced over centuries, lend a unique character to Cypriot wines, making them a delightful discovery for enthusiasts.
Prominent Grape Varieties in Cyprus
Xynisteri: Growing in the island’s mountainous regions, Xynisteri is not only one of Cyprus’ most popular white grape varietals but also one of the most widely cultivated variety (it takes up to 30% of the Cypriot vineyards). Known for its crisp acidity and citrusy notes, Xynisteri grapes are the backbone of many of Cyprus’s refreshing white wines, but also part of the blend used to make the famous Commandaria wine – probably my favorite desert wine ever!
Maratheftiko: A native red grape variety, Maratheftiko gives Cypriot red wines greater depth and complexity. Maratheftiko, distinguished by its rich color, soft, ripe tannins, and slightly floral aromas, has come to symbolize Cyprus’s dedication to preserving its old viticultural heritage. When aged in oak, it develops notes of coffee and chocolate.
Mavro: Mavro is a versatile red grape variety that actually has an almost black color. In fact, its name comes from the Greek word “mavro” which means black. Also, it is widely grown throughout the island and it contributes to both single-varietal wines and blends (like Commandaria), offering a range of expressions from light and fruity to more robust and age-worthy.
Ofthalmo: This variety is more acidic and is typically used in blends with grapes like Cabernet or Maratheftiko.
Unique Characteristics of Cypriot Grapes
High Altitude Influence: Because many Cypriot vineyards are located in mountainous regions, some of which are at elevations of over 1000 meters above sea level, the grapes have unique qualities. It is well known that a higher elevation means more direct and concentrated sunrays, which leads to a more concentrated color of the grape, thicker skin, and stronger tannins. There are also larger diurnal temperature variations which contribute to the development of complex flavors and more elegant wines.
Mediterranean Terroir: The influence of the Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers, coupled with the island’s diverse soils, creates a terroir that shapes the character of Cypriot grapes. From limestone-rich soils to volcanic terrains, each region adds a layer of nuance to the wines.
Old Vines Tradition: Cyprus is home to many ancient vines, some of which are hundreds of years old. These venerable vines, resilient and deeply rooted in the island’s history, contribute to the authenticity and uniqueness of Cypriot wines.
Impact of Terroir on Grape Flavors in Cyprus
Microclimates and Flavor Characteristics: The grapes exhibit a range of flavor profiles due to the microclimates found in various parts of Cyprus. While vineyards located inland may create wines with more concentrated fruit characteristics, coastal locations may produce wines with prominent sea breeze influences.
Terroir-Driven Wines: Cyprus’s wine producers use terroir to their advantage, creating wines that are a reflection of the conditions specific to their vineyards. This commitment to showcasing the true essence of the land has garnered attention and acclaim in the international wine community.
Understanding the importance of these grape varieties becomes essential as we visit Cyprus vineyards because it helps us piece together the complex flavor profile of Cypriot wines.
Top Cyprus Wineries
Before we dive into the top wineries in Cyprus, I need to make some general notes. First, no matter what reviews you read online about just showing up at a winery’s door and having a great experience, you should know that if you don’t book your seats in advance online or at least call to check their availability, you might find that there’s no one available for a tour, the restaurant is off-limits, or the winery is closed altogether. So, whether you reserve your seats directly from the property or use a guided tour to take you there doesn’t matter, as long as you choose one of the options.
If you book online, in many cases you will be required to pay a small admission fee for the tour and the tasting session. From what I’ve heard, the wine tastings used to be mostly free, until they realized that some people were driving from winery to winery, ultimately getting drunk only from “tasting” and becoming a social hazard. So that’s why now there is a fee in place. They are not greedy bastards – they’re just being responsible.
The wineries in this list are grouped by the district of Cyprus they are part of. That being said, 3 districts have the highest number of professional wineries: Paphos, Limassol, and Nicosia. This is due to the geographical characteristics of the island – vineyards thrive in higher altitudes, so the Trodoos Mountains area is where you will find a record number of winemaking facilities.
- Wineries from Paphos District
1. Kolios Winery
This is a beautiful family winery, located on a mountaintop. You need a car to reach the winery and from Paphos is about a 35 minutes drive. The owner will give you a tour of the winery and you will have the chance to learn about the wine-making techniques. You can sample different kinds of local wines and also enjoy a hearty lunch made of several mouth-watering dishes (they are serving Meze).
💡 Pro Tip: Make sure you try Persefoni wine (made from Xynisteri grapes) and Saint Fotios (made from Maratheftiko grapes) and take at least a bottle home with you, since it’s very hard to find these varieties abroad.
The views over the surrounding mountains and valleys in the glass-paneled dining room complete the experience. Just make sure you book ahead to make sure they have availability for your dates.
🍷 If you want to visit Kolios winery along with other attractions as part of a tour and not worry about having a car or a designated driver, check this one that’s focused on exploring small villages around Paphos and Cypriot culinary delicacies.
2. Tsangarides Winery
Tsangarides is a small winery in Lemona village, about 35 minutes away from Paphos by car. Take your time to enjoy a cheese and fruit platter and pair it with the tasting of the local variety of wines. This is also a family-run business and you can see the owners’ passion for creating quality products, especially during the tour of the winery. Also, be ready to experience Cypriot hospitality at its best. They don’t export their wines, so again, take the opportunity and fill your luggage with as many bottles of your favorite wine as you can. Don’t worry, the prices are very affordable.
💡 Pro Tip: While at Tsangarides Winery, make sure you don’t miss trying Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz rose and Zivania.
Although some people are lucky enough to have their visit accommodated without prior booking, I recommend you book a tour and reserve your seat at Tsangarides Winery well in advance so that you don’t miss this amazing wine experience.
🍷 If you want to visit Tsangarides winery along with other attractions as part of a tour and not worry about having a car or a designated driver, check this one that’s focused on exploring small villages around Paphos and Cypriot culinary delicacies.
3. Vouni Panayia Winery
Located approximately 45 minutes away from Paphos by car, Vouni Panayia Winery is also a family-run business, although it is bigger than the first two options on this list. I heard you can also take a bus from Paphos old town to Panagia, but I’m not sure, so ask around before making any plans. After you get there and have a tour around the facility, you can take a seat in the outdoor area and begin the wine tasting session, while having lunch and enjoying spectacular views. The winery’s portfolio includes both traditional and experimental wines, offering visitors a taste of Cyprus’s viticultural diversity. Depending on which season you are visiting, you can be lucky enough to witness different wine-making processes, like grape harvesting or pressing.
💡 Pro Tip: Their most appreciated wine is Alina (made from Xynisteri grapes), so you might enjoy it too. Give it a try.
🍷 If you want to visit Vouni Panayia Winery in a private and 100% customizable tour, check out this option with transportation included.
4. Nelion winery
Nelion winery is a 45-minute drive from Paphos and 50 50-minute drive from Limassol. The winery takes its name from the ancient Greek term for the Troodos Mountains, reflecting its dedication to expressing the unique terroir of this renowned region. Specializing in indigenous grape varieties like Xynisteri and Mavro, Nelion Winery produces a diverse range of wines that reflect the rich flavors and aromas derived from the local soils. Beyond its commitment to winemaking, Nelion Winery provides an immersive experience for visitors, offering guided tours through the vineyards and state-of-the-art facilities.
To visit this winery, please book a visit in advance on their website or call to let them know when you intend to come.
🍇 Wineries you can also check out in Paphos District if you have more time on your hands: Avacas, Kalamos, Makarounas Vineyards.
- Wineries from Limassol District
5. Zambartas Winery
Located in Limassol District in Agios Amvrosios, this winery is a 35-minute drive from Limassol, 50 minutes from Paphos, or over an hour from Larnaca. You can book a simple wine tasting or take the option which pairs wine with delicious canapés. You will also have a tour with explanations of the wine-making process and the history of the winery.
💡 Pro Tip: To try their best wines, you need to taste Single Vineyard not Orange (a blend of Xynisteri and Mavro grapes) and Melusine Commandaria (from Xynisteri grapes).
💡 Pro Tip: They have some of their wines available at Pafos and Larnaca airports, so if you need re-stocking before heading back home, you can buy a few more bottles last minute.
🍷 If you’re based in Larnaca and want to visit Zambartas winery along with other attractions as part of a tour and not worry about having a car or a designated driver, check this wine tour in Troodos mountains.
6. Oenou Yi – Ktima Vassiliades Winery
Oenou Yi – Ktima Vassiliades Winery is 45 minutes away by car from Limassol and about 55 minutes away from Paphos. You can expect excellent wines, good food and amazing views – you already know the drill.
🍷 To visit this winery, and have a dining+wine tasting experience, you must book your seats in advance.
🍷 If you’re based in Alaminos, you can try this full day private wine tour, which makes a stop at Oenou Yi – Ktima Vassiliades winery.
💡 Pro Tip: They have a new type of sweet wine that you should try, named Holy Cross. Also, it’s a great place to try Commandaria.
7. Lambouri Winery
Lamboury Winery is 45 minutes away from Limassol and an hour away from Paphos by car. Lambouri Winery is committed to both innovation and tradition, by skillfully combining conventional methods with modern winemaking processes. The winery’s terroir, made up of soils rich in limestone, and high-altitude vineyards, gives its wines a distinct taste. The Lambouri Winery is renowned for its careful cultivation of indigenous grape varietals, including Maratheftiko and Xynisteri, which are reflected in their selection of red and white wines.
💡 Pro Tip: While at Lambouri Winery, make sure you don’t miss trying Ya’in Kafrisin Lefkada, Commandaria, and Zivania.
🍷 If you’re based in Paphos and want to visit Lambouri winery along with other attractions as part of a tour and not worry about having a car or a designated driver, check this Tour to Troodos mountains and villages.
🍷 If you’re based in Alaminos, you can try this full day private wine tour, which makes a stop at Lamboury Winery.
8. Tsiakkas Winery
This family-run winery, which was founded by Costas Tsiakkas, has been instrumental in bringing back old Cypriot grape varietals, signifying a dedication to protecting the island’s viticultural heritage. The chilly breezes from the Troodos Mountains favor the high-altitude vineyards, giving the resulting wines a distinct taste. If you’re looking for a winery with the best views in Cyprus, you don’t have to look any further – choose this one and you won’t regret it. The Tsiakkas Winery takes pride in its sustainable business practices, utilizing environmentally friendly methods in both its vineyard and winemaking processes. The portfolio features a well-balanced combination of international and native grape varietals, with a focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, Xinisteri, and Maratheftiko.
To visit this winery, please book your seats online on their website or call in advance.
💡 Pro Tip: While at Tsiakkas Winery, make sure you don’t miss trying Tsiakkas Porfyros and their versions of Commandaria and Zivania.
9. Ayia Mavri Winery
45 minutes away by car from Limassol and 1 hour away from Paphos, Ayia Mavri winery has become a celebrated name in the island’s wine scene. Visitors to Ayia Mavri are treated to a sensory journey, where they can explore the vineyards, witness the winemaking process, and indulge in tastings that showcase the depth and complexity of the wines.
💡 Pro Tip: This winery is famous for its sweet wines, especially Moscatos, so make sure to give it a try.
🍷 If you’re based in Larnaca and want to visit Ayia Mavri winery along with other attractions as part of a tour and not worry about having a car or a designated driver, check this tour where you explore Troodor mountains with a local.
- Wineries from the Nicosia District
10. Santa Irene Winery
Located in Farmakas, Santa Irene Winery is approximately one hour away from both Nicosia and Limassol by car. The vineyards stand at altitudes of up to 1350 meters, which gives the grapes specific characteristics. The grape variety you can expect to see the most is Mavro Ambelisimo. Visitors are warmly welcomed to wander through the vineyards, witness the winemaking process, and savor the fruits of the labor in the tasting room.
Their website is not working properly at the moment I’m writing this article, so if you want to book a wine tour here, give them a call at +357 22 515515.
11. Aes Ambelis Winery
The winery is 45 minutes outside of Nicosia, accessible by car. It is a modern and inviting facility with a multi-purpose reception hall that can even host events and conferences. The grape varieties planted in the vineyards are Maratheftiko and Shiraz and the wines produced range from Aes Ambelis Classics to Premium Varietals, Aged Reds, and Commandaria.
Their website is not working properly at the moment I’m writing this article, so if you want to book a wine tour here, give them a call at +357 99 835663.
Round-up: Best Regional Wines from Cyprus
In this section, I’m going to crown the best wines from Cyprus. Some of these wines were mentioned earlier as recommendations to try in different wineries. The exceptional wines in this short list have garnered acclaim both locally and internationally and showcase the diversity of grape varieties and winemaking styles that define Cyprus’s rich viticultural tapestry. Even if you don’t get to visit the wineries that make these drinks, maybe you can search for them in restaurants, supermarkets, wine stores, or airports.
Alina Xynisteri from Vouni Panayia Winery: Originating in the high vineyards of the Troodos Mountains, this white wine perfectly captures the spirit of the Xynisteri varietal. The high-altitude terroir of Alina Xynisteri is reflected in its crisp acidity, citrus notes, and energizing minerality.
Maratheftiko Rosé from Tsiakkas Winery: This superb rosé showcases Tsiakkas Winery’s expertise in the native Maratheftiko grape. This wine, with its vivid pink color and harmonious blend of red berry flavors, is evidence of the winery’s dedication to maintaining and enhancing historic Cypriot varietals.
Ktima Gerolemo Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon: Ktima Gerolemo Winery produces an exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon from the sun-drenched plains near Limassol. This red wine, which is rich in scents of black fruit, has a hint of Mediterranean herbs, and silky tannins, and demonstrates the winery’s commitment to organic and ecological techniques.
Maratheftiko from Zambartas Wineries: This red wine from Zambartas Wineries highlights the potential of the native Maratheftiko grape. Zambartas Maratheftiko, highly regarded for its rich color, robust structure, and layers of black fruit and spice, is a prime example of Cyprus’s skillful winemaking.
Commandaria from Ayia Mavri Winery: Cyprus’s famous sweet wine, Commandaria, is made by the Ayia Mavri Winery in the mediaeval village of Omodos. Although I put it last, it’s probably my favorite wine ever. This delicious dessert wine, which is made from sun-dried Mavro grapes, has a lingering nutty finish, a beautiful blend of dried fruits, and honey.
These regional gems not only reflect the diversity of Cyprus’s terroir but also represent the dedication of winemakers to create exceptional wines that resonate with the island’s unique character. Each bottle tells a story, inviting wine enthusiasts to savor the distinct flavors of Cyprus in every cherished drop.
The world of Cyprus vineyards opens up as an enthralling story of perseverance, skill, and a close bond with the soil. As we explored the diverse grape varieties, from the crisp Xynisteri to the robust Maratheftiko, we uncovered the unique flavors woven into the fabric of Cypriot wines by the island’s terroir and time-honored practices. The tour of the best vineyards in Cyprus, including Lambouri, Nelion, Tsiakkas, Ayia Mavri, and Santa Irene, demonstrated the enthusiasm, vision, and dedication of the region’s winemakers. From the heights of the Troodos Mountains to the tranquil villages, each winery contributes to the flourishing reputation of Cyprus as a wine destination.