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Cyprus Wine Competition 2012

by Tom Cannavan, 05/12

cyprus map In 2009 I filed an extensive report from the vineyards of Cyprus, including detailed profiles and tastings with 10 of the island's top producers. I was delighted when The Cyprus Wine Council invited me back in spring 2012 as one of the nine judges for the Cyprus National Wine Competition. With judges from Russia, Hungary, Serbia, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Germany, France and the UK it was a truly international tasting panel.

The tasting was conducted under the strict rules of the 'Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin' (OIV). OIV is an intergovernmental scientific and technical organisation working in the field of vines and wine. Amongst many activities centred on the production and marketing of wine, they accredit international wine competitions that adhere to their rules and standards. A full list of these is available on the OIV web site.

Judging under OIV rules - as I have done before in Chile, Argentina, France and Germany - is very different from other large competitions like the Decanter World Wine Awards or International Wine Challenge. In those, a particular class of wine - say 20 Chilean Chardonnays - is poured and tasted by a panel of three or four judges, who score independently but then compare and discuss each wine, re-tasting as necessary, to end up with a final score that is the consensus of the panel. With OIV there is a very strict scoring protocol that breaks the wine into 10 constituent parts, each wine is judged on its own (comparing two wines side by side is forbidden) and the scores of each judge are simply totted up and averaged (minus the highest and lowest) to give the final result.

No system is perfect and the OIV atmosphere can feel rather clinical (rule 1.1. "The jurors shall remain silent and make no gestures or facial expressions indicative of their impressions during the wine tasting"), but in fact it is designed to standardise the judging process and treat each wine as equally as possible, with no one person able to influence the outcome unduly. One area which I think needs urgent attention, is that under OIV rules a maximum of 30% of the wines in any class can be awarded a medal. This ensures a certain rigour when judging a large class of 40 wines, but in the Cyprus competition some classes had only four wines. No matter how good they might be, only one could be awarded a medal. There were excellent small classes were I felt this was unfair. Perhaps the 30% rule needs to be altered to cover only classes with a minimum number of entries, perhaps 9 or more.

the 2012 wines

Below are my notes on all of the Gold and Silver medal-winning wines from the 2012 competition, the results of which were announced in Limassol on April 28th 2012. I have indicated those wines were I was in accordance with the panel, and those were I scored the particular wine significantly higher or lower than the panel average. The availability of the wines of Cyprus in UK retailers is patchy, but see all stockists on wine-searcher.

I saw progress in the three years since my previous visit in all classes. In particular, the indigenous grapes Xynisteri (for white wines) and Maratheftiko (for red wines) continue to make some excellent wines, and the standard is generally high. With Xynisteri, there is experimentation away from the traditionally very fresh, crisp style with some wines made with lees-stirring, fermentation in oak and various other techniques. Whilst this is a topic of hot debate among winemakers, there were some excellent examples of these richer, more full-bodied styles.

Joining Maratheftiko in the red wine successes is Syrah. The grape seems to have a real future here, producing wines with abundant fruit but lovely savoury character too. The class of older Cabernet Sauvignon wines also really impressed, with wines from 2004 - 2008 producing world class results. There is a tendency amongst some winemakers to use too much charry new oak, and to over-extract slightly, leading to some wines with an overly dry finish. There were some good, deeply-coloured rosé wines too, from Maratheftiko, Cabernet, Grenache and Mourvèdre.

And a word for the fabulous sweet wines of Cyprus. Not just the legendary 'Commanderia' wines made from sun-dried Xynisteri and Mavro grapes, but some absolutely superb sweet Muscat wines from the estate of Ayia Mavri.

Commanderia

Keo, St. John Commanderia 2005
I also loved the fresher style of the Commanderia from Kyperountas, but I awarded both it and this wine two of my highest scores of the competition. This has a glorious, dark, walnut and fudge nose with toasty and creamy aromas and a fabulously smooth, strong and long-finishing palate. Impeccable balance and luscious richness. My rating: grand gold, final rating: grand gold.

Sweet, Semi-dry and Semi-sweet wines

Ayia Mavri, Mosxatos 2010
One of three Muscat of Alexandria wines from this brilliant domaine, this is just flooded with a fabulous vanilla, honey and glycerine richness, so much opulence but floral note sings through with full sweetness on the palate but electrifying acidity an impeccable balance. My rating: grand gold, final rating: gold.

Kamanterena, Rhine Riesling 2011
Silver for this Riesling which I found strangely flora and Torrontes-like, with a very pretty, medium-dry palate and good balancing acidity. My rating: bronze, final rating: silver.

Levanda, Rosé 2011
A multi-varietal blend, I enjoyed the pulpy strawberry and raspberry aromas that were clear and inviting, and the creamy and sweet palate was deliciously easy to drink. My rating: no award, final rating: silver.

Dry red wines

Kyperountas, Shiraz 2009
Lots of high-toned, creamy black fruit here, a coffeeish depth, but very nice quality on the palate with a solid core of black fruit and excellent balance. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

Ezousa, Metharmi 2008
This Maratheftiko shows an edge of oxidation, that detracts a little from the nose but the palate is good: in quite a lean and lemony style. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

R & A Vasa, Argyrides Vineyard Maratheftiko 2010
A terrific, big, bold and concentrated wine, with huge presence on the palate, silky tannins and a long, flavour packed finish. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

Apostaktirio, Gerani 2010
Another Maratheftiko with a wild, savoury garrigue nose, full, rich and mouth-filling palate and a juicy freshness to the finish. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

Kyperountas, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Huge, chocolaty nose with plenty of oak and super-ripe berries. There's a flood of fruit on the palate that is big and creamy-sweet in a Barossa style, but this has precision too. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

K&K Winery, Methi 2005
Cabernet Sauvignon, and the first wine of the flight with a green character, but lovely on the palate which is weight and creamy. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

Zambartas, Maratheftiko 2010
Fabulous stuff - very bold, creamy, sumptuous and silky on the palate with a long and spicy finish, but retaining juicy freshness through good acidity. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

Constantinou, Shiraz 2009
Superb, modern, accomplished stuff with plenty of creamy oak, great fruit concentration but beautiful structure. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

Makkas, Maratheftiko 2010
Fantastic fruit on the nose here, but a powerful animal edge, the whole thing intense onto the palate with lip-smacking and tangy, vibrant acidity. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

R & A Vasa, Argyrides Vineyard Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Too much oak here? It is big, balsamic and even a touch seaweedy, though the huge fruit richness on the palate is impressive. My rating: silver, final rating: gold.

Kyperountas, Shiraz 2010
Floral, kirsch-like lift here that is delightful. Plenty of oak, but the fruit is so glossy and punchy, the whole thing very vibrant, but equally harmonious. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

Tsiakkas, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Deliciously dark, serious Cabernet that is svelte and creamy, a touch dry but dense and well made. My rating: gold, final rating: silver.

Vlasides, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Muscular, closed, deep and dramatic, this has terrific sweet fruit combined with excellent structure and length. My rating: gold, final rating: silver.

Zambartas, Shiraz/Lefkada 2010
Lovely, thick, copious black fruit, coats the palate in similar style but has good structure and balance too. My rating: gold, final rating: silver.

Vlasides, Private Collection Red 2009
Multi-varietal, this is very Australian in style with a touch of volatility and copious black fruit. Massive chocolaty presence on the palate. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

R & A Vasa, Argyrides Vineyard Mourvèdre 2010
Plenty of oak here, but the fruit is equal, giving this really good vibrancy and a tangy freshness in the finish. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

Vouni Panayias, Barba Yiannis 2010
This Maratheftiko is delicious, crisp, spicy and also quite herbaceous, with a keen, lean, spicy palate but a really juicy finish. My rating: gold, final rating: silver.

Kolios, Saint Fotios Red 2008
Fantastic fruit here and a very harmonious wine on the palate, with structure, fine fruit persisting into a long, balanced finish. My rating: gold, final rating: silver.

Keo, Kthma Shiraz/Merlot 2010
A really nice wine this, vinous and savoury, and with a big powerful structure, but the fruit is ripe and full, the finish perhaps a touch harsh. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

Vlasides, Shiraz 2010
A little too much dry extract but otherwise a lovely wine, concentrated, but harmonious. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

Kyperountas, Andesitis 2010
A multi-varietal wine, this has an Amarone-like, appealing but rich and curranty nose, with plum, sweet, soft fruit and a spicy finish. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

Yiaskouris, Shiraz 2009
Lovely creamy, savoury, intelligent stuff with a full, silky fruit ripeness but some really lovely structure of supple tannins and good acidity. My rating: gold, final rating: silver.

Dry white wines

Kyperountas, Chardonnay 2011
A beautiful quality of fragrant French oak, delicious orangey tang to the fruit on the palate and this is brilliant and very long. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

Constantinou , Ayioklima Dry White 2011
This Xynisteri has a punchy, pungent nose that is herbal and vegetal at first, with a lovely citrus peel character. Lots of juicy, mouth-watering fruit and fine length, finesse and balance. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

Kyperountas, Petritis 2011
Another Xynisteri with a lovely nose, a little more creamy and tangy, but with really positive fruit, punchy citrus and good length. My rating: gold, final rating: gold.

Tsangarides, Xynisteri 2011
Big aromatics here, citrus peel, peach skins, with vivid fruit flavour and a racy palate. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

Tsalapatis, Rigena Dry White 2011
100% Xynisteri, this has piercing aromatics, almost Sauvignon Blanc-like with oranges and lemons flooding the palate. My rating: gold, final rating: silver.

Vlasides, Sauvignon Blanc 2011
Good Sauvignon character, with elderflower, a touch of lychee and good fruit if a touch dilute in the finish. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

Zambartas, Xynisteri 2011
Nice apple nose with a touch of something herbal. Appealing, but relatively simple lemon juicy character, but nicely focused. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

Tsangarides, Chardonnay 2011
Really punchy, vivid fruit, this is alive and shimmering on the palate with lovely quality. My rating: gold, final rating: silver.

Ezousa, Ayios Chrysostomos Xynisteri 2011
Simple, but lovely fresh aromas and flavours, even a touch of peachy softness amongst the crisp citrus. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

K&K Vasilikon, Xynisteri 2011
Yellow grapefruit and lemon on the nose, quite pithy and a touch phenolic on the palate, but very good quality. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

Kolios, Persefoni 2011
This Xynisteri has estery, banana aromas of very cold ferment, and although it is juicy and fresh it is a touch neutral. My rating: bronze, final rating: silver.

Dry Rosé

Tsangarides Rosé 2011
Made from Shiraz, this is tangy, vibrant and direct, spicy on the palate and of very high quality. My rating: gold, final rating: silver.

Sodap Maratheftiko Rosé 2011
Lovely redcurrant fruit, harmonious and savoury, quite long with a nicely fresh backbone of acidity. Vinous, deep, almost liquoricy on the nose, this is savoury in style and like a light red wine in character. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

Ezousa Eros Rosé 2011
Made from Maratheftiko, this is vinous, deep, almost liquoricy on the nose. Savoury in style and like a light red wine in character. My rating: silver, final rating: silver.

Olympus, Rosé 2011
Made from Cabernet Sauvignon, this lacks a little fruit, but has a pretty commercial style, with a touch of residual sugar. My rating: no award, final rating: silver.