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Cypriot wineries join expertise to boost appeal

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A consortium of local wineries pulled together to reinstate Cyprus on the world map as a centuries-old wine-producing country promoting their wines under an umbrella brand Winecore.

Some 15 wineries created the Cyprus Wine Consortium to shape the future of vineyards and revive the island’s wine history by highlighting Cypriot grape varieties.

Cyprus Wine Consortium’s CEO Theo Theoharis, unravelling the story behind the initiative to the Financial Mirror, said in 2018, a small group of friends shared what proved to be a common vision.

Others were found to think alike along the way, resulting in 17 visionaries founding the Cyprus Wine Consortium in August 2021.

It is preparing to launch the brand Winecore, created and launched to describe the high-quality Cypriot wines of its member wineries made from indigenous grape varieties.

“Winecore stands for Wineries of Cyprus Own-Rooted Evolution and speaks of values inherent in the Cyprus winemaking culture:  sustainability, heritage, biodiversity, human scale, universality,” said Theoharis.

“Planted on their own, natural rootstocks, rather than grafted onto others, the local grape varieties of Cyprus offer a wine experience that rarely expresses the Sense of Place”.

He said the 15 wineries of the Cyprus Wine Consortium: “Are passionately committed to the company’s vision and principles, and the company’s brand values.”

The wineries are AYIA MAVRI, AES AMBELIS, ARGYRIDES, CONSTANTINOU, DAFERMOU ESTATE, FIKARDOS, KAMANTARENA, K&K VASILIKON, KYPEROUNDA, MALLIAS, MARATHASSA, SANTA IRENE, TSIAKKAS, VLASSIDES, ZAMBARTAS.

Theoharis said the consortium follows a diligent and transparent process in selecting the wines of the Winecore logo.

“Approximately 100 wines have met our established criteria supported by the wineries’ highly skilled oenologists.

“This selection process repeats annually with each new harvest,”

The Winecore logo will start phasing in and appearing on the bottlenecks toward the end of this year as a “seal of excellence and Cypriot authenticity.”

The first bottles carrying the seal will be on the shelves in the first quarter of 2024 before being exported.

Theoharis said the consortium aims to ” conserve our viticulture’s unique biodiversity including our indigenous grape varieties, communicating to the consumer the unique qualities of our wines, evolving and placing on the map of global iconic wines the Cypriot labels.”

“Ours is a higher purpose.

“We view sales and market share as outcomes of our effort -as the eventual collateral success of our purpose.

“And only our member wineries remain individually responsible for their respective sales and commercial success,” said Theoharis.

Negligible exports

He said exports are currently “still negligible” compared to domestic sales.

“Although this may sound negative, it is a good indicator for us and the Cypriot wine industry.

“It is imperative that we strengthen our presence in our home market -Cyprus, which still has significant room to grow.”

Despite low figures, winemakers receive positive signals from targeted export markets, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, Scandinavia, and Germany.

“We are witnessing an increase in demand, thus establishing a solid platform for future structured export activity.”

Although Cyprus winemakers saw an increase of 57% in 2021 compared to the previous year, there is still a lot of ground to cover.

In 2021, €1.367 mln worth of Cypriot wines were exported, compared to €866,000 in 2020.

Winemakers are far from discouraged as they find the global environment is favourable thanks to growing wine consumption and shifting trends to innovation and challenger wine country’s success stories.

“We are currently developing targeted international markets for future structured export activity, and not necessarily for present spot sales.

“Cyprus, our natural living space, is our launching pad of choice.”

Theoharis said that Xynisteri is the best-known and, therefore, best-selling Cyprus wine.

“Xynisteri is an indigenous Cypriot white grape variety that gives aromatic, pleasant, and distinct wines.

“It is notable that Xynisteri has further important attributes, such as its very low environmental footprint contributing to climate change risk mitigation.”

Theoharis said that one must not forget other Cyprus indigenous varieties associated with Winecore, such as Giannoudi, Maratheftiko, Promara, and Mavro, all of which yield distinct Cyprus wines which have started comparing to Xynisteri in terms of recognition.

Winecore, although designed as an international brand, is sensitive with respect to focusing on its home -Cyprus, as a significant part of its mission.

“Domestic consumption of high-quality Cypriot wines is still far behind the consumption of imported wines.

“This has to do primarily with awareness, as the consumers, Cypriots and foreigners alike, must be reminded of the 5,000-year Cyprus wine heritage and educated on the unique indigenous grape varieties and the resulting premium wines,” said Theocharis.

He described their task as an uphill battle as local wineries face entrenched international competition.

To improve its appeal to locals, the consortium communicates its brand and values on social media, its website, and other venues while putting together public events.

“We have launched Andamoma, the first and only trade fair globally to promote exclusively Cyprus wines from indigenous grape varieties,” said Theoharis.

The consortium is organising masterclasses, tastings, dinners, and seminars while building up a global ambassador network, including but not limited to masters of wine, aficionados, connoisseurs, the Cypriot diaspora, and others.

“We are inviting consumers and professionals to our member wineries and vineyards, cultivating the island’s viticulture.”