From the mysterious depths and the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, just like Aphrodite the Goddess of love was born from the foam of the ocean, a beautiful island emerges with great history, tradition and culture, Cyprus. It took 80 million years for the first creation of the island and the total formation happened just 2 million years ago. When the Eurasian and African Tectonic Plates drew away from each other, a vast space was created which later on was filled with magma and lava creating the Peak of Troodos Mountains. Nowadays, Troodos Mountains have successfully been characterized as the ‘Mecca of all geologists’, as it’s a unique, universal, well and fully preserved oceanic crust that is above the surface of the sea!!!
The rich volcanic and chalky soil in combination with the oceanic wealth, the strong sun and the humidity, contributed in the creation of the first vines and later on in the birth of the Cypriot Nama, Commandaria. Since ancient times, wine was known in Cyprus and exercised an important influence on the life and fate of the Cypriots, as well as on the historical development of the island. Poets and historians such as Stasinos, Homer, Plinio, Stravon and Seneca hailed the island for its excellent sweet wine as well as for its vines, known for their size and height.
The unique grapes of the indigenous white variety Xinisteri and the red variety Mavro, grew in Cyprus for centuries; these grapes are left on the vines until September when they are fully ripe. Xinisteri is picked when at around 12 degrees Baumé and Mavro at 15-16 degrees Baumé and then are laid under the majestic sun for natural dehydration with high concentration of sugar. When the must weight reaches 19 to 23 °Bé the juice is extracted through crushing and pressing. After pressing the partially dehydrated grapes, the must is transported into large containers so that the fermentation continues with high levels of alcohol achieved at around 15%. The wine produced with this quite simple, but ancient method which is noble and romantic, whose life is long-standing as of no other wine in the world, would be then named Commandaria, the apostle of wines.
The above process has to take place within the confines of 14 designated villages that lie in the Commandaria Region: Agios Georgios, Doros, Laneia, Agios Mamas, Kapileio, Zoopigi, Kalo Chorio, Agios Pavlos, Agios Konstantinos, Louvaras, Gerasa, Apsiou, Monagri and Silikou. Commandaria holds a protected designation of origin (appellation contrôlée) since 1990. The Commandaria region is located on the south facing slopes of the Troodos Mountains at an altitude of 500-900m, within the Limassol District. Only grapes that come from vineyards of at least 4 years old are allowed for the production of Commandaria and the vine training must follow the ‘Goblet method’ (no wires or any other system of support is used for a goblet shaped growth), while watering is prohibited. The grape harvest can commence only after the Wine Products Commission of Cyprus (WPC-a committee of wine specialists) checks the average sugar content, which must be at a level of 212 g/L (grams of sugar per litre of wine) for the Xinisteri grapes and 258 g/L for the Mavro grapes. After laying the grapes under the sun, the grapes must have a concentration of 390-450 g/L. An official glass for Commandaria was selected in 2006 by the WPC.
Commandaria was known as Nama in antiquity and it was only until the Middle Ages and the crusaders that was renamed. Richard the Lionheart in his Crusade captured Cyprus, in 1191 and he married the fair Berengaria and celebrated his victory and his rejoicing with the sweet wine Nama. The Knights of St. John and the Knights Templar who came to Cyprus from Jerusalem in 1192 after purchasing Cyprus from Richard the Lionheart (who then sold it to Guy de Lusignan), established their headquarters on the southern side of the Island at Kolossi, near Limassol called “La Grande Commanderie”. The sweet wine Nama was mainly produced in the Grande Commandaria area and thus the oldest known wine in the world came to known as “Commandaria”. Many medieval travellers sang the praises of the strong rich wine of Cyprus. They described it as thick as honey and mentioned that it can be preserved for many years, inside earthen ware jars.
Wine for Christianity in general is very important and sacred, beginning with the first miracle Jesus Christ performed in Cana, where He turned water into wine. Commandaria, in Cyprus, holds a very special place in church as it’s the wine used for the Holy Communion. Wine and Commandaria specifically becomes part of our lives at a very early stage and we carry it with as even in the after life.
Legend says that during the 13th century Philip Augustus of France held the first wine tasting competition which included wines from all over Europe and which was won by Commandaria.
28 Centuries ago, Hesiod, the great Greek poet refers not only to this wine -which Etienne de Lusignan pointed out as one the best wines in the world- but also to the way of its preparation which has minor differences to the one used today.
“…Leave the grapes ten days to the sun, and
then ten nights and then five days under
shadow and eight days in the pot..”
In the time of the Knight Templars and the Knights of St. John, “Commandaria” was exported to all the civilized countries and was placed on the tables of kings and rulers as King of Wines.
Cyprus history is written and continues step by step with the trade of grapes and wines. With the increase of its wine trade, Cyprus becomes rich; forms fleet and becomes a sea-faring country and renowned for its high standard of living.
Every glass of Commandaria is also a dose of strength and energy which is given to you by the Cyprus earth and the bright Cyprus sun. The civilized people of all the centuries have unquestionably certified the great value of this wine as a healthy and refreshing tonic. Even today in Cyprus it is used as the most efficient tonic.
Commandaria, this praiseworthy King of Wines, which has been presented at so many royal and other official banquets, is longing to spread everywhere to the world and to give them joy, happiness, health and strength.