When life trows an unexpected bank holiday into your schedule, what do you do?
Book a wine tasting of course!
I’ve seen a fair share of Cyprus wineries from the smallest ones to the biggest and this one will go to my top three list. Vouni Panayia winery is situated on top of a hill in village of Panayia, overlooking rolling hills with mostly dried out vegetation, lush patches covered with trees and vineyards and Kannaviou Reservoir. As you approach the village, you will be spoiled with a stunning drive through one of the most beautiful areas in Paphos, admiring the peaks of Troodos Mountains, goats stranded on steep hills and tiny villages along the road.
We arrived on 15 August which is a bank holiday in Cyprus and the winery was almost fully booked for lunch.
We were quickly greeted by Petros, the owner’s son, who arranged a private tour of the winery along with wine tasting, even though we didn’t book in advance.
We started with a complimentary welcome glass of wine and some seasonal fruits, while admiring the sweeping views of the valley under our feet.
The winery tour started in the production facilities, this is where the grapes travel straight from the vineyards, crushed and stored in these enormous containers. They were just being filled up and you could smell the sweet grape juices travelling around the whole room.
In there we had a strong introduction to the history of winemaking, the ancient legends surrounding it and how wine productions started in Cyprus. We walked up to the top floor which is also part of the restaurant and where we later enjoyed our lunch.
Petros showed us where the vineyards are and told us why a soil like their produces wines full of flavor, even with very limited rainfall during the year. The secret is the limestone concentration in the soil, which preserves moisture really well and ensures that the grapes are well nourished even though it might not rain for months.
Those bright green patches in the picture below is where the wine comes from.
We continued our journey through the well-stocked wine cellars, making mental notes of what to include in my future house and dream wine cellar. I can guarantee it won’t be as big as this one.
Along the way we stopped to hear how the wine is harvested and how important it is to know how to prune the vines properly. All is done by hand, including picking the grapes which are virtually inaccessible for any machines.
In the old days, poor donkeys had to carry the wine grapes to the winery for processing, these days it’s done with plastic crates that are transported on a big truck. That still means they have to be picked by hand and collected into the crates.
After the winery tour was over, the most anticipated part of our trip was here – wine tasting. Unlike in some other wineries, you don’t have to pay anything for wine tasting and you can taste any of the wines from their vineyards.
One particular favorite which I have to point out right away was this gold colored Zivania. Zivania is also made from grapes and normally has white color and zero flavor. This one was aged thirteen years in an oak barrel and it tastes and smells like a good whiskey. You won’t see many of these in the shops, so if you get a chance grab one from here, you won’t regret it.
Another wine-related product is the wine honey, very thick, dark with sirup like consistency, it looks nothing like honey (and the bottle doesn’t even have a label). It is veeeery sweet and absolutely delicious in dressing for salads, so we took one with us home to test. I can imagine it would be a great addition to marinades for summer BBQ.
Then there are the wines. We’ve bought some of these from our local shops, but found a new favorite – the Uncle John wine (in greek) – Barba Yiannis. The white ones are also very nice and you will get a chance to taste some very exotic grapes like spourtiko, promara and the newest addition to the Cypriot wine making – yiannoudi.
This beautiful bottle got my attention as we were scanning the wines to taste and when we found out it’s a limited edition of the Barba Yiannis (only 900 ever made), we had to take one with us. I will be opened in our new house when we move at the end of September, to mark the start of a new exciting era.
It features a portrait of the founder of the winery and Petro’s grandfather.
There are all together 8 wines you can taste, along with Zivania and other grape products (sorry for the blurry photo!).
Petros was very accommodating guide with patience to explain all the tiny details I was interested in and answering all my silly questions. The staff in the restaurant and winery is extremely friendly and that alone would be enough to make us come back. Pair that with delicious wines and stunning views and this place just made it to our tourist hot list – a well-guarded list of places we take our family and relatives when they come to stay with us.
I couldn’t find better words to sum up this experience, so I borrowed a quote:
“Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.”