Dionysus returns – the Limassol Wine Festival is here! Eleven days of celebrating the ancient Greek God’s favourite fruit of the vine. The Festival is a joyous island tradition, which has been held at this time every year for more than half a century – ever since Cyprus gained its independence in August 1961. Excitement is decanting on the streets of Limassol, and there is a distinct air of anticipation at Londa Hotel.
That’s because – as all Limassol locals know – you can drink as much as you like of the glorious barrel wines – every glass is free! So it’s not surprising that every year The Limassol Wine Festival attracts more than 100,000 visitors, including locals and visitors. A much anticipated and truly authentic, cultural experience that no one wants to miss!
“Appellation of origin” dates back to the 12th century
Wine has been produced in Cyprus for over 6,000 years – even before the time of the ancient Paphos mosaics depicting Dionysus, the god of wine himself – and almost all exports were made from Lemesos, the original port name for Limassol. With its own 20 winemaking villages, Limassol has gained an unrivalled reputation as the “Wine capital of Cyprus”. The legendary “appellation of origin” sweet dessert wine from the Commandaria area, which dates back to the 12th century, is made exclusively from two types of indigenous, amber-coloured Cyprus grape.
Both the Vouni Panayia-Ambelitis wineries, and the ripening crimson vines of the quality, table wine-making region of the Pitsilia rise majestically up the sunlit Troodos Mountains from Limassol towards Paphos. Among the many other historic winemaking areas are the Akamas Laona – six villages in the northwest region of Cyprus and the Krasohoria, high up in the scenic Omodos area, also north of Limassol. Just a tantalising peek at the rich, distinctive flavours forming a heady part of the Festival, which brings the island’s four major wine producers – ETKO, LOEL, KEO and SODAP – together with the smaller wineries offering unlimited, free barrel wine.
Apart from the unique opportunity for wine lovers to endlessly stimulate taste bud and brain cell alike, what other senses can a first time visitor also expect to indulge?
Food feast extravaganza of local dishes
The Festival, which is located in Limassol Municipal Gardens on the east side of the town, attracts around 15,000 visitors every night to this timeless cultural event, which includes displays of original grape crushing underfoot in huge wooden casks! Fine wine flows to help fuel the happy, relaxed but always vibrant atmosphere of traditional Cypriot music, bouzouki and dance. But no island celebration would be complete without a food feast extravaganza of local dishes everywhere you looked. So every glass of wine may be accompanied by a lavish handful of traditional Cypriot food overflowing from the many stalls and taverna-style eateries which compete for your attention at every turn.
When you arrive at the Gardens via the south side, you are welcomed to the Festival by its enduring symbol, a giant statue of the famous ‘Vraka Man’, which represents the Cypriot village winegrower in his traditional local costume. The Cyprus Vraka, refers to the traditional, wide-breech trouser garment – made from a “thimito” – a thick cotton, handmade cloth 20-40 yards long with many folds, and secured at the waist with a belt.
Urban popular song and incredible magic shows
Each evening, a different programme of events will feature Greek and Cypriot Theatre comedy, serenaders, traditional Greek folk dance and songs, including ‘rebetiko’ – 19th century, urban popular song, revived from the 1960s onwards, which refers to the Greek word for a “strong man that needs correction” – an individual with a particular behaviour, dress and morals. The world- renowned Cypriot magicians, Andreas and Nikolas Liotatis will also present their incredible magic shows.
On Sunday 10th September, visitors will have an opportunity to participate in a unique “immersive” cultural experience – to meet Dionysus, himself! From 9.00pm, be prepared to celebrate and dance with the mythical God of Wine, Merriment, and all things Pleasurable! His companions, the “Dionysies” will also be in attendance to dance with you and record all the madcap moments!
The Limassol Wine Festival – which is to be officially opened by the Minister of Industry and Tourism, and addressed by the Mayor of Limassol on Thursday 31st August at 8.00pm – will run daily from 7.00pm to 11.00pm (Friday and Saturday to 11.30pm) until Sunday 10th September. Ticket prices for Adults over 18 years old are €5.00, and Children/ Teenagers from 6 – 18 years old are €3.00.
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