Just two weeks to go until the annual Limassol Wine Festival (30 Aug – 8 Sep) when an ever increasing number of Londa’s long-time guests return once more to celebrate mythic Dionysus, Greek god of “Wine and Merriment”. The joy is all the more sweeter as the festival wine is usually free of charge.
READ MORE about the annual Limassol Wine Festival.
The relationship between Cyprus and the fruit of the vine dates back more than five and half thousand years, and festivals devoted to the grape and winemaking are held annually in the main cities and small villages across the island. Seeking boutique lifestyle experiences immersed in authentic cultural traditions are increasingly a keen interest of today’s generation of global travellers, and Londa guests and visitors to Limassol are often amongst them. So seeking knowledge and insight into the island’s ancient winemaking is sure to go hand in hand with actually having a glass of wine or two at hand!
On the road to some of the important wine villages of Limassol
A great way to do both ahead of the festival is a trip to the Cyprus Wine Museum, which is found in Erimi, about 12 kms (7.6mls) from Limassol Marina and 18 kms (11.5 ml) from Londa. When Erimi was excavated in 1933, many items were found from the Greek Chalcolithic Period (more commonly known as the Copper Age, around 3,500 to 2,300 BCE), which arose between the Neolithic stone tool age and the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean.
Among some of the more significant finds were fragments of pottery belonging to 18 amphorae – ‘pointed’ base flasks for upright storage in soft ground, such as sand – and known to be mostly used for the transportation of wine. READ MORE about Ancient Cyprus Wine Amphorae.
Intriguingly, the museum is also located on the road between the ancient town of Kourion and Kolossi Castle, known as Knights Street, which leads to some of the important wine villages of Limassol. Originally an inn dating back 150 years where the local wine merchants used to meet overnight on their way to market in Lemesos (traditional name of Limassol), the museum was first opened in 2004.
Unique winemaking exhibits and Commandaria Orchestra
Inside, wine lovers and culture explorers will find a collection of many fascinating exhibits “on the production, storage, use and trade of wine since antiquity”. Not least, the history of Commandaria wine, made from two types of grape unique to Cyprus. The sweet dessert wine, produced in the foothills of the Troödos mountains known as the Commandaria dates back to the 12th century, and is one of the world’s oldest wines.
Commandaria, in particular, highlights the “important contribution of the vine, grape and wine to the arts”. In 2009, the Museum established the Commandaria Orchestra, with the aim of promoting the rich history of Cypriot culture from antiquity to the present day.
The word ‘orchestra’ itself has its roots in ‘orchos’ – meaning a row of vines – from the Homeric period of Greek history (around 1,100 – 900 BC) named after Greek poet Homer, and also related to the cult of Dionysus. Among the orchestra’s diverse repertoire of both chamber and symphonic music are thematic masterpieces dating back to the Middle Ages that are performed and recorded alongside contemporary works.
Wine tasting room – serving bar consisting of large wine casks
Visitors interested to experience a little of the Dionysus experience for themselves should head to the lower ground floor where the wine tasting-room, called The St Hillarion Hall, awaits. Here, tantalising examples from 38 wineries found on the ‘Cyprus Wine Routes’ are displayed in alcoves set in the stone walls alongside a serving bar consisting of large wine casks. Among the wine varieties are Xinisteri, Maratheftiko, Shiraz and an exclusive ‘Commandaria Orchestra’ dessert wine of differing vintages.
Further exploration of the historical kind can be continued in the eastern courtyard where traditional wine making equipment is displayed including, the stone pits where grapes were crushed, original machinery for distillation of the traditional Cypriot spirit, Zivania, and a number of red clay jars known as ‘Pitharia’, in which, wine was fermented and stored.
Throughout the year, the Cyprus Wine Museum organises wine tasting sessions, lectures, performances and concerts, so the culturally curious can always take time out to satisfy their thirst for knowledge and insight as well as the rich Cyprus grape.
Londa guests and Limassol aficionados can also look forward to paying homage to Dionysus at the latest exclusive “Wine and Dine” evening to be held at the Caprice in mid-September – details for booking a table to be released shortly!