Wine Tour!!! | CYPRUS | Part 2
After a few days of lounging around the villa, we decided to go on a wine tour. It was about time to get out of the house before cabin fever kicked in.
Cyprus is actually well known for its wine. It's the place where the oldest wine in the world has been found. Our tour, by Cyprus Taste Tours was largely through the Troodos Mountains, and took up the bulk of the morning and afternoon. We were collected at our villa by our awesome tour guide, Louisa, and made our way up into the mountains. Louisa was SUPER nice, accommodating, knew her stuff, and welcomed all of our questions with a smile and grace.
Cyprus is actually looks more like a desert during summer time, but that all changes as you get into the mountains. The landscape becomes so green and all throughout the wine country, and it's covered in vineyards. Once you get up there, you're really in it. There are wineries all over the place! Around every bend was another vineyard and the views were incredible.
The sky was as blue as blue can be, and it was roasting outside. Thank goodness for A/C in the car. We didn't stop anywhere along these curvy roads, so all my photos were taken fleetingly from the car. The roads were very windy and somewhat narrow. All of the driving reminded me a lot of adventures up in northern New Hampshire. Similar roads, you're in the mountains, and it's so fun!
Our first stop was about 30 minutes away from Limassol. It was a winery owned by this older couple, called Ayia Mavri, in the village of Koilani.
We were brought downstairs to see some the barrels, and the numerous awards for the various types of wines. It felt very personal, and Louisa knew so many things about the wine! She explained how the label designs are all created by the wife, making everything feel even more personal and family-oriented. Getting to see the barrels and some of the vintage bottles was pretty neat. I'm not a massive wine aficionado, but I can really see how someone who is would be so into this tour.
Louisa also explained that the country is most known for its commandaria wine, which is made up in the mountains. It's a dessert wine, and its history is very long, all the way back to the ancient Greeks! When you see it in the glass, it sort of looks like brandy, and is even used as the We tried a number of wines of all different types, flavours, colours etc. I really liked seeing everyones reactions to the different wines. The diversity in our preferences and taste was actually intriguing. What makes one person prefer dry over sweet?
There was also some aged halloumi cheese, as well as bread served with the wine. Also, the Halls were chuckling a bit because the guy serving the wines looked just like an uncle in the family. It was really fun to be out of the house, spending time with each other and just having a laid back day.
My favourite from Ayia Mavri was definitely the Rosé, and the Chili Muscat, which was unlike any wine I've had before! It was a little spicy, but it somehow worked? To be honest, all the wines were actually incredible, and this was my favourite winery we visited. Nick and I left with a bottle of a variety on the Dry Rosé.
All in all, the first stop was a success, and I myself was buzzing just a little bit... don't judge...
We finished the tasting at Ayia Mavri, and left with some wine in hand for our next stop in the village of Omodos. This village was such a treat to visit. The shops were all open, everyone was very friendly and you could easily spend a few hours there. There were cute cafes, art studios, and plenty of cats running around. Louisa took us to a bakery to try this bread made with chickpea. It was very sweet for bread, but I loved it.
The next wine tasting happened right in the village, at a museum called Linos tou Charilaou, where we tasted wine from the Ktima Gerolemo Winery, which was nearby. Again, there was a large selection of wines, and I liked the change up in venue from a winery to a museum in town. The museum had this massive and medieval wine press within, along with other wine related oddities. By this time, you could really start to grasp how historically important that wine has been in these villages for actual centuries.
I love having the different olive oils with the bread as well. Bread and oil is a favourite snack of mine and I could have eaten the whole loaf had I the opportunity. The woman facilitating the tasting was very nice, but none of the wines really jumped out at me like at the previous winery. I did like how some of the wine types provided were the same as at the previous stop, so you could compare them between each winery. I did prefer the overall type of offerings from the Ktima Gerolemo winery as they were more dry than sweet.
After the second tasting, we had a few moments to explore the village of Omodos a bit more. There is an old monastery and church there, and you could tell that the place was thriving overall. Louisa explained that this area was one of the first to receive agricultural funding through the EU to encourage agri-tourism.
We did take the time to step into the church as well. I was wearing a sleeveless romper, so some woman outside requested I put on a robe, even after covering up with Nick's button-down shirt. So be warned, keep your fashion choices in mind if you're thinking about exploring some old churches. Lesson learned!
After this second stop, we made our way to an old Venetian bridge in the mountains for a picnic lunch, provided by Louisa. Again, I loved all the windy roads as we made our way there, and the change in vegetation continued as it got greener and greener the closer we got.
Lunch was lovely and serene. The sandwiches that were provided were perfect for the day and absolutely delectable, as well as colourful and healthy. Louisa was very considerate. She made sure there were both vegetarian, as well as gluten free options to accommodate everyone on our outing. The bridge area was a very nice place to relax, and enjoy the picnic, and there was even orange cake for dessert!
Nick and Michael both stuck their feet in and went for a nice stroll around the area. You can walk right up on the bridge as well, and this local guy was serving up some soft serve on site to cool down.
The Venetian bridge, called Tzelefos Bridge is a medieval stone bridge, and apparently the largest and biggest of its kind on the island.
Our third and final stop after lunch at the Zambartas Wineries. Louisa explained that this winery was traditionally family owned by a father and son, and definitely the most serious out of the three. They are apparently very selective about who they supply to, and they don't usually allow group tours. Overall the vibes are high end as heck.
When you pull up, the view is again gorgeous. When we arrived, we had to wait a little bit because everyone at the winery was very busy with bottling.
As you can see form the photos, you are surrounded by vineyards everywhere you look once you get into this area, but Cyprus still looks quite dry and craggy compared to other wine regions such as Tuscany.
The wine tasting takes place in the family home which was converted into the tasting area. It was very modern and the view was gorgeous!! Louisa facilitated this tasting and she did a great job. I really liked these wines and I thought the quality was superb. You can definitely understand why they have won so many awards. In particular, my favourite was the very red Rosé (which by the way, Rosé is not just a mix of red and white wine, it's actually about timing and the fermentation methods used).
We didn't get to see the cellars or the vineyards at all, but we did get to see some bottling happening! It was hypnotising to watch the bottles be filled, labelled and packed away by all of this machinery.
By the time we made it to Zambartas, everyone was definitely tired, so it was good that this winery was our last stop. After taking a peek at the bottling, we left and made our way back to Limassol.
Once we got back to the villa, Louisa left us with a list of restaurant/bar recommendations for Limassol, as well as some gift mini bottles of a red wine. It was almost bittersweet saying goodbye to her after getting to know her throughout the day. I think it's so sound that she left us with the recommendations though, and the whole tour was above and beyond expectations.
My biggest takeaways were:
1) Cyprus Taste Tours, and Louisa in particular were fab. You could tell they put a lot of thought and passion into the itinerary and she was so nice. I would recommend them to anyone visiting the Republic of Cyprus.
2) Doing a wine tour is a really good way to see a bit more of Cyprus. The island is small, and it seemed like a great way to get into the mountains and have a lovely day out. It's cultural and scenic, and there's alcohol involved so you can't go wrong.
Overall, it was a great day and I would do another tour with this company again! Cyprus is beautiful and this is gorgeous and easy way to see the countryside and get away from your hotel or villa for a bit. For my first wine tour, I was definitely impressed and felt inspired to do more wine tours wherever we travel to in the future.