^ Kamanterena Winery's Chief Winemaker Stephanos Stephanou and Oenologist Loucas Papaloucas
Winemaking in Cyprus dates back millennia, with the country best known for Commanderia, a sweet dessert wine that is made only from one or both of the sun-dried Xynisteri (white) and Mavro (red) grapes. The island's most famous vinous export first gained recognition in the Middle Ages – Crusaders passed Cyprus in 1191 and the knights that later settled on the island named the area Commandaria. It wasn't long before the local wine took on the name.
While Cypriot winemaking was historically on the primitive side, investment in new machinery and technology in recent years has improved the quality of wines on the island. New wineries, now strategically built close to local vineyards, ensure that grapes arrive sooner and fresher, rather than having to be driven long distances by truck in the midday sun.
Kamantera winery's Commandaria Saint Barnabas 2002 is a fine example of this progress. Made 100% from Xynisteri grapes, it wowed the IWSC judges with its notes of 'sweet honey, molasses and fig'.
We recently caught up with trophy winner Kamanterena winery's chief winemaker Stephanos Stephanou and production manager Loucas Papaloucas to find out more about their influences, winemaking and how best to enjoy their wine.
Tell us about the history and background of Kamanterena
Kamanterena Winery is part of Cyprus’ wine cooperative, Sodap Ltd, that was founded in 1947 by a team of forward-thinking viticulturists to create a network and instill some stability. The winery is in the province of Paphos between Stroumbi and Polemi, two of the most prominent winegrowing areas in the region. The company decided to build a new, modern winery in 2004 to produce regional, quality wines from Paphos. The winery is surrounded by vineyards which makes grape-harvesting as efficient as possible.
How did you get into wine?
Stephanos: You cannot love and understand something without knowing it. My enthusiasm for vines and wines coupled with my desire to learn more was the reason I found myself standing at the door of Athens’ Oenology Department 21 years ago. Now, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Loucas: I started drinking wine at the University of Athens in 2000. My professional career began in 2004 with an internship at a boutique Cypriot winery.
What is your winemaking philosophy?
Stephanos: Winemaking evolves every day, so you must be ready to learn something new and not be afraid to try new things.
Loucas: Wine is both an art and a science for me. I think that every professional should love and respect what they do.
Who or what has been your most important influence and why?
Stephanos: I’ve been very lucky to have worked at wineries in South Africa and New Zealand. Working with people from around the world from different cultures really helped me appreciate the wine world as a whole.
Loucas: My professors at the university gave me the right mentality in how to study wine and get the most out of lectures.
How should we best enjoy your wine?
Stephanos: Good wine always needs good company. If it is accompanied with tasty platters, even better. Local cuisine always helps the wines to reveal their true character and show you their heritage.
Loucas: Our wines and our country’s wines have evolved enormously in recent years. There is know-how, passion and a lot of quality. Always make sure to enjoy our wines with good friends, the right food, and always try to serve it at the right temperaturs: I wouldn't chill the white wines too much.
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