By Demetri Walters MW and Yiannis Karakasis MW
Close to the village of Pano Panayia in a mountainous part of the Paphos district of Cyprus lies the winery that claims to be the first private regional wine producer in Cyprus. When Andreas Kyriakidis established the 25 hectare Vouni Panayia winery back in 1987 he had the singular purpose of developing and promoting the island’s indigenous grape varieties. Today Vouni Panayia are proving to be one of the front-runners in Cyprus’s wine renaissance. Most visitors to the island know of the wineries that populate the centre of the island in the Troodos mountains, but fewer are aware of the high-altitude vineyards to the west of the wild and pristine Paphos forest. Much of the area is Landrover country, and it never ceases to astonish me just how much of this diminutive country is so unspoilt.
The present focus of the Kyriakidis clan, fronted by Andreas’s sons, Yiannis, Pavlos and Petros, are their small lot fermentations of native Cypriot varieties. 2017 saw the release of 8 different micro-vinifications that best illustrate the autochthonous vines and their relationship with the largely clay/gypsum soils of this region. High altitude plays its part in this equation too, as the majority of the family’s vineyards lie between 800m – 1,150m and benefit from the slightly cooler and wetter climate of this side of the island. It’s certainly a good deal greener and more tree-covered than most of the rest of Cyprus. The indigenous grapes in question are planted in varying quantities too, with some forming larger blocks than others. The following account represents those six wines made from the producer’s white varieties.
Spourtiko was often seen as an ‘also ran’ grape that best justified its existence by fertilising the dioecious Maratheftiko. This fragile-skinned, green-gold variety is early to mid-ripening and surprisingly aromatic. Vouni Panayia took fruit from two vineyards of 800m and 1,000m and, following a cold-soak, ran a cool fermentation as well as extended lees-ageing, that resulted in a fragrant and sherbet-flavoured wine with notable freshness. The packaging of the micro-vinification range is remarkably creative and each one possesses an associated name that resonates for the family. In this case the Spourtiko is ‘The Young Mountain Climber’.
I was very impressed by the Xynisteri (pictured below) here. ‘Our Village’ is a textured, mouth-filling, and altogether vinous and tensioned rendition of this widely-planted grape. It is lighter and less mouth filling than Zambartas’s excellent Single Vineyard version from near Mandria in Troodos, and altogether a more fragrant rendering than the benchmark Petritis from Kyperounda. It is, then, something different. The combination of 1,000m elevation, cold-soak, wild-yeast fermentation and extended lees work have created a layered complexity – an authenticity, if you will, that is very encouraging for this widely-planted white variety.