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Some of the worst wine I have tasted since I started writing about wine was what was available the one time we went on holiday to the far-eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus in 1983. The whites showed the most old fashioned of faults, oxidation, clearly having been made without recourse to temperature control. Rather charmingly retro in a way.
Over the years I have tried to follow the evolution of Cypriot wines from afar but the only examples that ever came my way was the odd strong, very sweet local speciality Commandaria that, with good reason, tastes like fermented raisins. Julia wrote an excellent article about the Cyprus wine scene in 2007 with a collection of tasting notes while my palate went for years without being washed by any Cyprus table wine.
But the other day I came across this marvel, Kyperounda, Petritis Xynisteri 2011 Cyprus, so fresh and bursting with fruit that reminded me strongly of Cape gooseberries. I asked an old friend what the other name of this zesty fruit was and her first suggestion was syphilis, but then she amended this to Physalis peruviana, which I see is more accurate. As Julia already pointed out, Kyperounda is one of the small group of more forward-thinking wine producers on this island, which, like Greece, is beset by economic problems. It's owned co-operatively by 40 villagers, and is part of a company that also imports and distributes wines, so it sounds very enterprising.
Kyperounda is in the Pitsilia area of the Troodos range in the middle of the island where all the vineyards are, 75 km from Nicosia and 50 km from the traditional wineries of Limassol. (This distance caused many a problem before wineries were constructed closer to the vineyards.) Kyperounda claim that their gravity-fed winery, built on three levels in time for the 2003 vintage, at an altitude of 1,140 m, is the highest in Europe. Any other takers for this particular crown? Do add any other suggestions in the Comments box below.
They own a steep four-hectare vineyard (pictured) that, at 1,400 m above the Mediterranean, is also one of the highest in Europe (though not as high as the highest in the Canary islands (see altitude in the online Oxford Companion to Wine). Nights here can be so cool that the 70-year-old Xinisteri vines that supply grapes of which Petritis is exclusively composed are generally not picked until mid November. Kyperounda also grow Lefkada, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Xynisteri is the leading white wine grape on the island, comprising nearly a quarter of all plantings. It is the grape on which Commanderia depends, for example. Kyperounda ferment the grapes in stainless steel and give about 20% of the resulting wine a couple of months in used barrels. The wine certainly has structure and there is no desperate hurry to drink it.
I tasted this thanks to the UK importers Novum, whose head buyer, ex-Oddbins Steve Daniel, was responsible for introducing new-wave Greek wines to the UK. I was surprised when wine-searcher.com revealed as many stockists as it did. It is perhaps not surprising to find this wine reasonably widely available in Cyprus itself, but it is also relatively easy to find in Switzerland (José Vouillamoz, star of Wine Grapes, take note) and is stocked by quite a few independent wine merchants in the UK.
I strongly recommend this wine both for pleasure and for confounding your most annoying 'wine expert' friend.