Intermittently over the past 7,000 years Cyprus had tried to promote its wines. Cyprus has tried to promote its wines. Cyprus, the home of Mount Olympus and its gods, including Dionysus (also known as Bacchus), supplied much of the wines to ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Solomon praised the wines of Cyprus in the "song of Songs." Richard the Lion Hearted stopped at Cyprus in 1191, tasted the wines and arranged to have some exported to England. Then Queen Elizabeth I gave Sir Walter Raleigh the sole agency for Cyprus wines. Last November, Cyprus decided to tackle the American market.
Cyprus, an island located in the Eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, produces more grapes per capita than any country in the world. At sea level it is blistering, hot, but 2,000 or 3,000 feet up, in the Troodos Mountains in sight of Mount Olympus, the climate is more moderate. The sun shines a consistent 340 days a year, removing some of the challenge to the winemaking and causing all vintages to be identical.
Out of its grapes is produced an astonishing variety of wines and liqueurs-a full range of sherries, brandies, dry whites, dry reds, sparkling wines, Ouzo, and a Port-like dessert wine made from dried grapes, Commandaria, that was the cause of Richard the Lion Hearted's enthusiasm and is still made by the same method 800 years later.
There is more than enough wine to go around Cyprus and producers are looking for markets abroad. In recent years, exports to the United States were only 4,000 cases, but Cyprus hopes to raise the total within five years to one-half million cases per year, about the total currently shipped to Great Britain. In pursuit of an export market, Cyprus has since World War II enacted stringent quality control standards and spent over $20 million on modernization. Winemaking is Cyprus' second largest industry and exports are $12 million per year.
For the time being all the wines sold here will come from one of the four major shippers, Keo, Ltd. The wines that will be shipped to the United States were all tasted at a small luncheon at San Souci hosted by Panayiotis Psaras, managing director of Keo, and the country's ambassador to the United States, Nicos G. Dimitriou.
The wines served at the luncheon were Aphrodite, a dry pleasant white wine, a bit short on acid and finish, but very drinkable; Domaine d'Ahera, a medium body, rather soft dry red wine; Othello, a robust, fruity and somewhat astringent red wine; and Commandaria, a mellow dessert wine that bears a resemblance to Port. The table wines sell for about $2.99 a bottle, while the Commandaria, which dates from 1947, sells for about $4.99. Unfortunately, a superb nut-brown, 100-year-old Commandaria also tasted at the luncheon is not commercially available. A successful fino-style Cyprus sherry also was served.
While the sherry is not on sale here, it may be shortly. At present, the wines are sold in this area at Palisades Market on MacArthur Boulevard and Central Liquors on 9th Street NW.