Cyprus wines have proven their worth at the Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) held in London in August. Results were announced in late September.
George Kassianos, President of the Cyprus Sommelier Association, told in-cyprus.com he was not surprised by the local performance.
“Cyprus wines improve every year thanks to a group of winemakers who set the standards high,” he said.
“They are an example for the rest to follow. They have a plan for organising their vineyards, they hire professionals to work with the vines and in winemaking process and they plant varieties that will suit the soil and the climate.”
In the world’s premier wine competition, Silver denotes “a very accomplished wine with impressive complexity” while Bronze shows “a well-made, straightforward and enjoyable wine.” Wines are organised for blind tasting by country, region, colour, grape, style, vintage and price.
Medal categories correspond to the 100-point scoring system used by Decanter and many top wine critics around the world. Entries are judged on their own individual merits in a series of rigorously controlled judging stages.
At the foot of the award categories is Commended followed by Bronze at 86-89 points and Silver at 90-94. Gold equals 95 – 96 points. Platinum wines are exceptional examples awarded 97-100 points. A select group of judges re-taste these top winners to award the accolade of “Best in Show” for the finest wines.
This year, this coveted category was dominated by France, Italy, Australia and New Zealand while winners including Moldova, Georgia and the United Kingdom added fresh impetus.
Fifty-eight Cyprus wines took part in the award event which was held in special socially distanced conditions in order to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions.
In total, 56 countries participated in the 17th edition of the competition with 116 judges, including 37 Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, judging 16,518 wines. Overall, there were 50 Best in Show, 178 Platinum, 537 Gold, 5,234 Silver and 7,508 Bronze medals.
Kassianos said a shift in the approach of Cyprus wine producers in investment was reaping results. “The modern Cypriot winemaker is not afraid to invest in consultants, a modern winery, marketing and in creating an experience for visitors at their winery.
“They’re also becoming extrovert. They’re not afraid to try wines from abroad and broaden his or her experience. With this new mentality and attitude of younger winemakers, it is inevitable that wine quality is improving, and we have the results we see from Decanter.”
Cypriot flagship varietals like Xinisteri and Maratheftiko figured prominently amongst the winners but international varieties Chardonnay, Viognier and Shiraz produced with a Mediterranean take also scooped medals.
One of the most exciting developments, said Kassianos, is the presence of ancient indigenous varieties rediscovered after years of obscurity among winners. Whites like Spourtiko and Promara and the red Yiannoudi brought home Silvers and Bronzes as winemakers give them a new lease of life and judges taste their value.
A more painstaking focus on terroir, the climate and soil of a grape’s cultivation and how this can create a unique wine identity, is also contributing to the growing quality of Cyprus wines.
“It is exciting to see the use of Single Vineyards giving a true expression of the Cyprus terroir. We’re seeing the use of terroirs, from Kathikas to Pachna, Omodhos to Vouni and now Madari at 1400 meters which is reaping interesting results in different soils and climate,” said Kassianos.
“There is also experimentation with Natural and Orange wines and use of oak or even vinification on lees.”
Natural wines are those produced with minimal human intervention in the vineyard and winery. Orange wines are whites made, unusually, through lengthy contact with grape skins resulting in vibrant colour while lees add flavour and texture complexity.
“All these wine practices result in exciting wines.”
The island’s famous sweet wine Commandaria has won gold at big wine awards but Kassianos thinks with Cyprus continuing its upward spiral in winemaking, it is not far off from winning top medals with its whites, reds and rosés.
The island’s wine guru added, while the Decanter results are worth celebrating, the best medal is to convince Cyprus that the island has good wine.
“You need to respect the efforts of winemakers and support them. You’ll be as surprised at the quality of some wines as the judges probably were at the competition.”
By Lucie Robson – A Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) graduate who writes for global wine website Vivino and the UK-based International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC).
Photo credit: DWWA