Is This Wine As Unusual As Its Name?
Be honest, did you ever hear of Maratheftiko before? I’m guessing that if you have heard the name, you have either visited Cyprus or you are a Greek or Greek Cypriot. For the rest of us the first time we will encounter the name is when picking up a bottle of wine with this grape variety mentioned on the label.
Maratheftiko is an ancient grape variety indigenous to the sunshine island of Cyprus.
This grape is grown in limited quantities around the island but mostly in the Pitsilia region. This is a mountainous area of rocky land on very steep slopes, used mainly for grazing goats and sheep and for producing small amounts of cereals, wine and our grapes.
At our local supermarket, Alpha Mega in Skarinou, they were offering bottles of Ayios Elias, a Shiraz – Maratheftiko blend. I had been on the look out for a new wine to taste test and the packaging suggested an interesting product not unlike one of our favourites, Ayios Andronicos from the Vasillikon winery.
Bottled in a tall, dark green bottle, this red wine has a modern, serrated edge designed label and is sealed with a traditional cork beneath a plastic and metal neck seal. These points suggest an interesting product.
There is a very small indication on the rear label stating that the wine contains sulphites.
Close inspection of the label reveals that Ayios Elias comes from Chrysorroyiatissa Monastery located in the Paphos District of Cyprus.
If, like me, you are keen to know more about where this wine is made, read on.
Chrysoroyiatissa (Greek: Χρυσορρογιάτισσα) is a monastery dedicated to Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate located about 40 kilometres north-east of Paphos, Cyprus at an altitude of around 2,700 feet. It was reportedly founded by a monk called Ignatius (Greek: Ιγνάτιος) in the 12th century. It lies 1.5 kilometres from the today village of Panayia, birthplace of the hero of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios. The present building dates to 1770.
In the 1980s, with the revival of small boutique wineries such as this one this variety was rediscovered and its cultivation is slowly on the increase again, as it offers a distinctive character to local wines.
Keo, the largest brewing business and winery on the island is part owned by the Church. Keo has been one of the companies to encourage growth of this challenging variety. Maratheftiko does not have hermaphrodite flowers like many cultivated grape varieties and requires co-planting with other varieties in order to achieve fertilisation and fruit development.
To answer the question initially posed, join me later when we uncork a bottle and give it a taste test. Will Maratheftiko make it onto our list of recommended local wines?
Footnote: We offer our guests a selection of wines to test on arrival at the villa. It seems an ideal way for those who enjoy wine to get to know varieties that they might otherwise never taste.