The much overlooked wines of Cyprus

A bit of history

3500-3000 B.C. : Cyprus is producing sweet wines in the style of what is now called Commandaria.
Traditionally, wine was produced in Cyprus in clay pots (pythari) from indigenous grape varieties.

1900s : Cyprus tried to compete with other European wine producing countries, ripping up indigenous vines and planting international varieties to produce basic table wines & brandies. These were exported in bulk (even whole tanker ships to Russia).

4 large scale wineries dominated the scene: ETKO, KEO, SODAP & LOEL which still exist today.

1980s : the Cypriot government encouraged smaller scale family winemaking, funded by the EU and private investment

2000s : continued focus on quality rather than quantity, and on indigenous Cypriot grape varieties, with some producers once again using the traditional pythari . The bar being raised, the big 4 producers have been keeping up and improving the quality of their wines.

Often overshadowed by Greek wines in terms of quality and international standing, Cypriot wines can be side-lined on wine lists across Cyprus. Locals often opt for cheaper table wine or premium imported wines.

While only a few notable Cypriot wines can compete internationally (including the world’s oldest produceded wine) their quality has increased over the last decades, can be a great match for the local food, and deserve our support and attention while visiting Cyprus.

My advice would be to try a selection of wines and find out which styles / producers resonate with you.

Drink the local wines with the local food (whites will go well with the seafood, and structured reds with heavier meats).

Bring a few of your favourites back as souvenirs and a few bottles of Commandaria to share with friends.

Fun Facts

  • Cyprus was the first country in Europe to make wine.
  • Cyprus’ indigenous varieties are reportedly some of the oldest in the world.
  • Cyprus has the world’s oldest produced wine and PDO:
  • Commandaria
    • has been produced for over 5,000 years
    • was a favourite wine of the Pharaohs of Egypt, and more recently Cleopatra.
    • was the winner of the world’s first wine competition in 1224.

The Grapes

Many grapes grown in Cyprus are international varieties. Thanks to the efforts of heroic local winemakers, there is ever more focus on indigenous grapes and alternative wine styles

Of the indigenous varieties, the 2 main ones to note are: Xynisteri (white) and Mavro (red).
Commandaria can only be made using one or both of these 2 grapes

Other Indigenous grapes to look out for are (in order of quantity grown):
White: Spourtiko, Promara, Kanella, Morokanella, Michalia, Vasilissa,
Red: Maratheftiko (aka Vamvakada), Yiannoudi, Ofthalmo, Omoia, Glouriko, Maroucha, Sideritis, Lefkada*
*arguably Greek in origin

The main international varieties grown are:
White: Altesse, Assyrtiko, Chardonnnay, Muscat of Alexandria (aka Malaga), Palomino, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon.
Red: Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mataro (aka Mourvèdre), Merlot, Shiraz.

The Styles

Cyprus produces a range of styles from dry, medium-sweet, to sweet (both reds and whites).

You can expect to find:

  • Dry, refreshing white wines (some with oak for body).
  • Some minerals (although not a common or defining character).
  • Light, fresh reds.
  • Structured, tannic, high acid reds.
  • Sweet & semi-sweet whites & reds.
  • The famous Commandaria (similar in flavour profile to a Tawny Port, although locals may not be happy with this simplified comparison).

Commandaria (“commanda-REE-ah“)

Many articles have been written about Commandaria, and any winery visit or tour is likely to repeat this information, so I will give only the briefest of introductions and let readers explore further themselves:

  • Only 2 grapes can be used (Xinisteri & Mavro) and must come from the 14 villages in the Commandaria PDO region
  • Grapes must be from non-irrigated vines that are over 4 years old, grown, dried and pressed in these villages
  • The must (juice) is then supplied to winemakers throughout Cyprus who must age it for at least 2 years in oak barrels

The Producers

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There are at least 60 producers in Cyprus of which (according to Matthew Stowell’s Guide to the Wines & Wineries of Cyprus) 56 are “wineries” with premises to visit & taste.
Below is a snapshot of some producers to look out for on wine lists and perhaps even visit in person:

Ayia Mavri (“Saint Black”)
8 Archimandriti Kyprianou E803, Koilani, 4776 – map

  • The oldest family winery in Cyprus, established in 1983 by Ioannis Ioannidou.
  • Producing 50,000 bottles/year, the labels were hand designed Mrs Yiannoula.
  • With the cellar wall covered in international awards for their wines, the ones to look out for are:
    • Mosxatos (Muscat of Alexandria) – a sweet muscat
    • AEION ESTI (Shiraz) – a sweet Shiraz

39 Grigores Afxentiou, Agios Amvrosios 4710 – map

  • Founded in 2006 by Akis Zambartas, who worked as a winemaker in some of the biggest producers in Cyprus.
  • Now run by his son Marcos Zambartas who has converted the previous family home above the winery to a tasting room with picturesque mountain views.
  • A modern, technical winery that hasn’t compromised on heritage or quality.
  • Their most celebrated wines include:
    • Single Vineyard Xinisteri
    • Rosé (Lefkada/Cabernet Franc)
    • Single Vineyard Lefkada (best drank at 5 years old or more)

Other notable producers :

  • Argyrides
    Founded in 2000 by Pambos Argyrides who taught himself winemaking from travels in France, Spain & California.
    Pambos’ daughter Rebecca now manages the winery with oenologist Sophocles Vlassides
    Their Viognier is much talked about and sends local sommeliers wild
  • Tsiakkas
    Initially focusing on international grape varieties, Costas & Marina Tsiakkas have moved more towards indigenous grapes such as Xinisteri, Mavo, Vamvakada (Maratheftiko), Yiannoudi & Promara,
    4 ranges of wines: Familiar (their original and best value range), Autochthon (single native varietal), Noble (international varieties), Ambassadors (the premium range including Commandaria).
    Look out for their “Xinisteri Skin Contact” (Ambassador range) which spent 30 days in contact with Commandaria skins.
  • Vouni Panayia
    Andreas Kyriakides was one of the first winemakers to focus exclusively on indigenous Cypriot grape varieties.
    They produce over 10 labels of dry and dessert wines.
    They have a purpose built tasting room with an outside taverna serving tradional meals and cheese.
  • Makarounas
    A young, boutique winery established in 2016, but based on 4 generations of family traditions.
    One of the few wineries to use the traditional pythari.
    Look out for their skin contact Pomara, fermented on wild yeasts and aged for 5 months in pythari amphora
  • Anama Concept – The controversial Commandaria
    Professional jewellery designer (Kristina) & oenologist husban (Lefteris) can’t officially call their wine “Commandaria”.
    It comes from the Commandaria region, but they break the DO rules including drying the grapes on the vines for months (not days).
    Named “Anama” in reference to original name for Commandaria “Kyprion Nama”
    The labels are made from natural materials and change each year and production under 2,000 bottles of 250ml
  • Fikardos – this winery comes highly recommended by local sommeliers, but I have yet to try their wines.

The events

(we are not aware of any annual Cypriot wine events in Cyprus, and will update this section if we do hear of any)

24 Hours in Nicosia



Walk around the old town of Nicosia until lunch time where you can visit a local taverna (eg Stoa To Dimitri) for some freshly prepared local dishes and a selection of local wines.



Visit Vintage Wine Bar, by far the best place in town to explore a range of local wines by the glass.



Evening: optional aperitif at Vino Cultura followed by dinner at Rous restaurant.

24 Hours in Larnaca

Either hire a car and visit the wineries around Limmasol (an easy day trip for 3-4 wineries), or take an organised tour with Cyprus Taste Tours



in a local taverna in one of the wine villages



Take a tasting flight of 10 wines at The Oak Tree in Larnaca. By far the best value tasting around. If you only have time to visit one place in Larnaca for wine, this is it.



of small plates at Vinaria with wine flights, or a glass or two of local Cypriot wines.

Restaurants, Wine bars & Wine Shops (non exhaustive)


Stoa To Dimitri

28 Digeni Akrita, Nicosia, 1045 – map
A local taverna serving hearty Cypriot food and wine.

Vintage Wine Bar & Bistro

285 Ermou, Nicosia – map

By far the largest selection of Cypriot wines by the glass in Nicosia (possibly all of Cyprus – including the wineries).
If you only have time to visit one place in Nicosia for wine, this is it. Come before 7pm for wine flights before it gets busy.

Vino Cultura

20 Kyriakou Matsi, Nicosia – map
Limited selection available by the glass, however if owner/sommelier Andreas is around, you can ask if there’s anything else available.
Also a wine store to buy Cypriot wines to take away.

Rous Restaurant

16 Avenue Kyriakou Matsi, Nicosia, 1082 – map
Possibly Nicosia’s top restaurant, yet surprisingly affordable. The same owners as Vino Cultura.
Sommelier László Kovács (@basementflag) is one of Cyprus’ top sommeliers and advocate of the local wines.


4 Menandrou, Nicosia, 1066 – map
Wine bar & store selling Cypriot wines.

Oinotria Wine Cellar

40 Themistokli Dervi, Nicosia, 1066 – map
Wine store selling Cypriot wines.


The Oak Tree

Wine Cellar & Tasting Room, 9 Georgiou Drousioti, Larnaca, 6021 – map
If you only have time to visit one place in Larnaca, this is it.
Daily wine tastings of 10 wines at 5, 7 & 9pm and a wide selection of Cypriot wines for sale with global delivery available.
The owner/manager Sergios is helpful and very honest with his advice on quality & value.

Oinotelia Wine Bar

Hotel Indigo, 12-16 Adonidos, Larnaca, 6020 – map
A respectable offering of local wines by the glass, albeit at hotel prices.


Q City Centre, 14 D.N Dimitriou, Larnaca 6022 – map
Trendy wine bar with a wide selection of wines by the glass including local Cypriot wines. Wine tasting flights available.
Get there early to avoid the crowds and passive smoking from the large outdoor seating area.

Mini Market Meringue

186 Ermou, Shop F, Larnaca, 6023 – map
A boutique style minimarket with a small variety of local wines, some from the more highly reputed producers.

Larnaca Airport Duty Free

If luggage is an issue, the duty free at Larnaca airport has a wide variety of Cypriot wines, albeit at higher prices than you’ll find at stores in town.


Volta Wine Bar

1 Attikis, Limassol, Cyprus – map
(recommended to me by sommeliers in Nicosia)

Recommended websites
An interactive map of Cyprus’ wineries and links to overview.
Maps of the various wine routes in Cyprus – a great resource for planning any visits to wineries.
An snapshot map of the wine routes can be found here
A database of excellent places to eat around Cyprus.
A friendly female run tour company based in Larnaca offering food and wine tours including wineries.
Groups are small (6 or less) and it may be possible to request specific wineries to visit.
A great option if you don’t fancy driving between wineries on the mountain roads.

Recommended books

Stowell’s Guide to the Wines & Wineries of Cyprus (Matthew Stowell)
A well written overview of the history of winemaking in Cyprus and profile of each producer.
A series relevant published articles by the author finish the book.