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What our expert thought of Kyperounda Petritis




about this wine About this wine
 
The more, erm, experienced among you may remember when wine from Cyprus was a common sight on the off-licence shelves.  Indeed, in the late Seventies only France and Spain exported more wine to Britain.  It was mostly Cyprus ‘sherry’ - remember EMVA Cream?  If you don’t, then you’ve probably only tasted Cypriot wine while on holiday there.
 
Back in the Eighties, I spent a fortnight’s holiday in Paphos. All the wines had names from Greek mythology: Aphrodite, Thisbe, Arsinoë, Danaë, Olympus and Othello.  (Well, maybe not that last one, but he is at least fictional and the play is set in Cyprus.)  They were all made by the same four producers: KEO, ETKO, LOEL and SODAP.  And they all had something else in common - they weren’t very good.
 
I may be understating things a little.  The reds were rough, and the whites were awful - oxidised and nasty.  After a few valiant attempts, I mostly drank cocktails.  So, this week we’re bringing you a white from Cyprus! Aren’t you thrilled?
 
Fear not, this is nothing like those Cypriot whites of old.  It may be made from the same Xynisteri grape as Aphrodite, Thisbe and Arsinoë, but the similarities end there.  This is a single-vineyard wine that’s reputed to be the best dry white on the island.  Even renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson likes it, and gave it a glowing review.
 
Most of Cyprus’s vineyards - and all the good ones - are high in the Troodos mountains, where the cooler climate allows the grapes to ripen more slowly, the high levels of UV light promote colour and flavour development, and the cold nights preserve acidity and aromas.
 
Unfortunately, the Big Four wineries were on the coast in port towns like Limassol or Paphos, to facilitate exports.  (And there used to be a lot of exports; Limassol harbour once featured an underwater pipeline pumping wine out to tankers bound for the Soviet Union.)  It’s around 50km from the mountain vineyards to the coast, so by the time the grape trucks had snaked their way down switchback mountain roads into the 30+°C heat of the lowlands, their cargo was already fermenting.
 
The 4-hectare Petritis vineyard that this wine comes from is about as remote from the coast as you can get.  Its 70-year-old ungrafted bush vines cling to the hillside an astonishing 1400 metres up in the Troodos, overlooking the village of Kyperounda.  Fortunately the hand-picked grapes had to descend only 260 metres into the village, where fifteen years ago a cooperative of local growers built the Kyperounda Winery.  There they were fermented in stainless steel tanks, then 20% of the wine was aged for two months in one-year-old barriques - 225 litre small oak barrels - while the remainder aged on its lees in tanks.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
The wine is a medium lemon, with definite hints of green.  This is an unusually deep colour for this very pale-skinned grape - extended skin contact, perhaps?
 
The medium-intensity nose features stony citrus scents of lemon and grapefruit pith with the faint buttery hints of subtle oak treatment.  I’m reminded of high-end NZ chardonnays, like the first time I tasted Cloudy Bay ’86.  But there’s an un-Chard-like note of tropical fruits too - lychee or kiwi.  Despite that, this doesn’t smell at all sweet.
 
The initial flavour is of lemon juice on stones, but it’s joined by pineapple and even a hint of banana as the wine warms in the mouth.  It starts off light-bodied but really builds, with a creamy texture from the lees-aging.  Very clean, cool-climate flavours here - there’s something alpine about this.  Despite that impression of zingy freshness, this isn’t all that sharp - a shade over medium acidity.
 
This wine is back-loaded, like a Meursault.  The way it builds on the palate carries on into the mouthcoating, mineral-filled finish, which is almost painfully intense and really lasts.
 
Assessment
 
Something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, this comes on gently with its subtle, medium-intensity nose and initially delicate, alpine-fresh palate and then just grows and grows.  That finish is so intense it makes the corners of my jaw ache a little, as if I’ve been chewing too hard.
 
This is what people buy Premier Cru Chablis for, so to find it in a £13 white from Cyprus is something of a revelation.  At the same time, it isn’t just a Chablis-clone; those little hints of tropical fruit are quite distinctive.


Tasting notes

Appearance
clear medium lemon - definite hints of green
Nose

Intensity medium

Aromas stony citrus (lemon, grapefruit pith), tropical fruit (lychee, kiwi), subtle buttery oak

Development youthful
Palate

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium+

Body medium, starts light but builds

Intensity medium

Flavours stony citrus, then some pineapple & banana as it warms, but v. clean & alpine fresh
Finish

Length long

Flavours citrus, with intense steely, stony, mouthcoating minerals
Other notes
Backloaded. Nose like Cloudy Bay Chard ’86, finish like 1er Cru Chablis.


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