If you have not visited Cyprus wineries, you have not seen Cyprus! Dozens of wineries are scattered throughout the island, but only one of them – the jewel of the Cypriot wine map – stands apart. The Lambouri Winery is an exclusive family winery in the heart of Kato Platres in the Troodos region where wines were first discovered in Cyprus hundreds of years ago.
Here, on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains, the blend of rich-limestone soil, spring showers and hot, sunny Mediterranean summers ripen the grapes, enhancing the full flavour of the wines. If you enjoy history, you’ll savour the sumptuous Commandaria Legacy or one of a kind Apollonia, or the oldest named wine in the world, the unique historical Ya’in Kafrisin.
On 1 October 2007, German airline Lufthansa started its cooperation with Lambouri Winery as the first Cypriot Miles & More collaboration. We visited the winery and met its hospitable owner, Roland Wig, who told us about the winery, its history and its unique products.
How did you come up with the idea to start the business of winemaking?
I am originally from Germany. Some years ago, I went to New York where I met my wife and then, later on, her family invited me to Cyprus. One evening, we went for dinner where I met the senior couple of the Lambouris family. They were the owners of the winery in those days and with tears in their eyes, they told me that they couldn’t continue their business and offered it to me and my wife. I did not think for long as, for me, it was an offer of a lifetime, so I agreed.
The winery is an authentic and historical place, it was inherited by Lambouris from previous generations, and that’s why I accepted to be the new owner, because of its long and established history. The winery is one of the oldest wineries in Cyprus, around 350 years old.
I studied all about wine making, from growing grapes to the formulas of wines.
Over the past several years I have changed the formulas of the wines and increased the product line. The production then was only 20,000 bottles and now it’s 200,000 bottles of wine, and 60,000 litres of Commandaria a year. Proudly, we are now the second largest producer of Commandaria on the island.
How did Commandaria become the signature product of your winery?
The main product in this winery was “wine” at that time. Those days Commandaria was rare in Cyprus and served only in churches.
When I came to Cyprus, I really didn’t know much about Cyprus and nothing about wine so, when we decided to buy the winery, I researched the history of Cyprus and I found out about Commandaria and also the wine from the Old Testament, Ya’in Kafrisin, which wasn’t produced by anyone.
In those days you could buy Commandaria for four Cypriot pounds. It was produced from young and old wine combined with some alcohol and sugar additions. The traditional method is when you “don’t touch it”, don’t add sugar, spirit or anything else, you leave it “as it is”, to be natural.
We started producing Commandaria in the traditional way, without adding sugar and spirits and people liked it. Nowadays, we check our barrels every two weeks for the chemical analysis and we act according to this. If some numbers are different then it should and will be corrected.
So, you led the market, showing a new perspective.
I was the first who made ‘Commandaria Vintage’ in 2000 even though everyone was telling me that I was crazy and would destroy the Commandaria market. Before, Commandaria was very inexpensive, now I have Commandaria for 3,000 euros per bottle and the line starts at 350 euros because it is distinct.
Commandaria was very famous in ancient times and there were taxes collected on it. Queen Elizabeth issued taxes on Commandaria. In fact, every Royal house had Commandaria, it was unique and easy to keep, and convenient to travel with.
My German friend found the information about Commandaria and its traces in the castle of Ludwig II, but for dates when people started adding sugar and alcohol, the real recipes were lost and Commandaria stopped being so popular, because the taste changed dramatically.
We started producing it with the old recipe and that’s why it became so popular.
Dried grape wine from Cyprus was first described in 800 B.C. by the Greek poet Hesiod. In the 12th century, Richard the Lionheart greatly enjoyed Commandaria wine at his wedding in Cyprus. He proclaimed it as “The wine of Kings, and the King of Wines”.
The Knights Templar’s estate in Cyprus was known as the “Gran Commanderie”, which later became known as Commandaria. When the knights exported this wine to Europe’s royal courts, it rose to international fame. This is the second oldest named wine in the world still in production, after the biblical Cypriot wine “Ya’in Kafrisin”.
How did you create the wine which costs 3,000 euros?
Once, I had a Chinese client who wanted to have something very special. So, I invited specialists, wine experts and sommeliers and we went down to the stock in the winery and tried all of the 100 barrels, one by one, and in the end we chose only ten barrels of the best edition, which were actually delivered to the client in special vintage bottles.
Then, within the year, we won over 15 international awards just for Commandaria.
Our Commandaria Legacy is one of the most awarded Commandaria wines in Europe, Asia and USA, with more than eight Best of Shows, Grand and Double Gold awards.
Then, we made the special box with eight gold medals and gold label. It was the first limited edition and prices for this edition actually started at 3,000 euros per bottle, and up to 15,000 euros.
How many bottles of the special edition can you supply?
The special edition for the Chinese client was 4,000 bottles. Now, we have a waiting list from China for this product, as you cannot buy it there.
We sell our products to the US and Chinese market, as well as the European market like France, Italy and Germany, where we have our warehouse, and we have expanded now to Australia, and some other countries.
How did you decide to increase the product line and start producing gin, whiskey and Zivania?
In 2007, Lufthansa discovered us. They liked the quality of wine, the consistency of the product, that we are improving on, so they put our wines in the business lounges. We are in Germany (Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf etc.), in Zurich 1st class lounge, New York 1st class lounge, etc.
This for me was proof that I am doing everything right and so I started thinking what else we could do.
So, we created Commandaria Chocolate, Zivania Chocolate. Our Zivania is produced from our Commandaria grape mass. Then I noticed that, in Cyprus, there was not any quality spirits in the market. This was how I started producing gin, whiskey, cognac and now our products can be found at the winery, at restaurants, five-star hotels and Cyprus duty-free stores, while our brandy (XO 12 y.o and VSOP 6 y.o) are one of the best-selling products in duty-free.
The quality and taste of our brandies are very good because I do a lot of things with Commandaria barrels. Not many have Commandaria barrels in Cyprus, only a few. It gives the unique taste to all the spirits in these barrels.
So, when our brandies were so successful, we moved to gin.
Gin has many different ingredients. How did you find them in Cyprus?
We studied all the ingredients, some are from abroad, some are unique in Cyprus. There is a total of 28 ingredients, each one individually distilled – this is my German principal to make everything perfect. So, we made it first in Cyprus. Our gin is called Kingfisher Gin and it can be found only in Alphamega supermarket.
Then you produced your own whiskey.
As whiskey is becoming more and more popular in Cyprus, we decided to produce our first whiskey. Almost all whiskey contents are from the same barrels, but what we have that is unique in Cyprus is our Commandaria casks. When you put whiskey in Commandaria barrels, it gives the spirit a unique taste. We know that Scottish whisky is strong and rough, bourbon is very sweet like candy – our whiskey is in its own category because of Commandaria barrels.
It has a sweet aroma with a complex and intense taste.
What is the price range for your whiskey?
We have a regular whiskey which is 35 euros per bottle and we have a Gold edition which is 50 euros. Each bottle is numbered and it states from which barrel it came. It is not mass produced; I would say it is hard label whiskey.
Our whiskey goes through our distillation machine five times. The machine is unique because it is fully custom made. It almost makes everything automatic, I can adjust the temperature up to 0.1 degree accuracy which is important to notice at the end, because if you have fluctuations it will affect the end product.
Tell us about your wines…
We offer exquisite wines that will delight your taste buds. Whether white wine, red or rosé – in our wide range you will find exactly the right wine for your taste. For cosy evenings at home and for parties and celebrations – with delicious wines like Crimson Sky, Seaside Dream, Summer Blush, you’ll dream of Cyprus summers with every sip.
If you enjoy history more, you’ll savour our Commandaria Legacy or our one of a kind Apollonia, or the oldest named wine in the world, the unique historical Ya’in Kafrisn.
What would you wish to our readers for the upcoming New Year?
I wish them happiness and health, and to not get crazy from the current situation, and to find time to relax and enjoy life with friends and family.
Lambouri Winery Ltd
Ag. Demetrious 24a
4810 Platres, Cyprus
Tel: +357 25422525
Fax: +357 25422526
E-Mail: [email protected]