Meet the Grape Variety: Xynisteri from Cyprus
Xynisteri is a white grape used predominantly for dry white wines or in the famous dessert wine, Commandaria. The variety is native to Cyprus and for many years it was considered too simple and elegant to be used in anything other than table wine, unless it was sweet or picked late enough for the liqueur wine Commandaria.
However, as wine-making has improved and technology in the winery has progressed leaps and bounds, Xynisteri today is used in a whole range of premium, high quality wines made for both domestic and export markets.
Nowhere has managed to achieve such beautiful dry white wines with Xynisteri than on the southern slops of the Troodos Mountains. Here, facing the sun, grapes can reach a physiological ripeness previously unknown to many producers. Kyperounda, the winery that sits high in the altitude of the Troodos Mountains, buys the Xynisteri variety from vineyards that are the highest in all of Europe. Acidity is high, balance is elegant and fruit is full of fresh citrus.
(Right: Kyperounda Petritis is made from 100% Xynisteri grapes)
The grape variety can be found across the Troodos' high ranges, known as the Pitsilia. 11 villages with a historic trade in wines is nestled below three great mountaintops: Olympus at 1,950 metres (6391 feet), Madari at 1,600 (5249 feet) and Papoutsa at 1,400 (4593 feet). Much of the viticultural work here is still done by hand as mechanization is near impossible on some estates.
Taking advantage of such high altitude in Cyprus' warm climate means Xynisteri can create crisp, mouth-watering white wines. Described by Wine-Pages critic Tom Cannavan as "Serious, Chablis-style wine", producers such as Kyperounda now play a key part in proving Cyprus' reputation for high quality wines.
The quality of ripeness also means Xynisteri has a fantastic affinity to oak. When used well, wines can range from dry styles similar to Chablis though to softer, more tropical Sauvignon-style wines.
There's rarely been a more exciting time to drink wine from Cyprus.
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