Limassol the motherland of vine and wine
The cultivation of the vine in Cyprus is as ancient as the roots of the people of Cyprus. The cultivation of the vine in Lemesos (Limassol) is also as ancient as the Kingdom of Amathus and Curium many centuries B.C.
It is a well known fact, confirmed by various historical references, that wine has been produced in Cyprus for over 4,000 years until now.
Ancient people, worshippers of nature and beauty, chose the famous wine producing island of Cyprus as the center for the adoration of Aphrodite the Goddess of fertility and love and of Dionysus the God of wine.
The great tragic Evripides picks "the kindly slopes" of Cyprus Olympus as the home of Muses and Graces and of Bucchae who are always ready for every celebration any merry feast.
The long celebrations for the worship of Aphrodite coincide with, or are followed by those for the worship of Dionysus, God of cheerfulness, amusement and nature in general.
The geographer Strabo in book 14, mentions the good wines of Cyprus, Pliny the naturalist in Book 14, chapter 7, includes Cyprus in a list of precious wines. Saint Gregorious speaks of the abundance of Cyprus wines. Aponius speaks of the large bunches of grapes of Cyprus.
The knights Templar and the Knights of St. John, who bought Cyprus from Richard the Lionheart in 1191, open a new era for the Cyprus wine industry and wine trade. They separated Cyprus in feuds (commandarias) and built their Castle the "Great Commandaria" of Kolossi, near Lemesos (Limassol), which is up to the present pime almost undamaged.
There are many other reasons for the excellent wine of Cyprus.
In the surrounding areas of most villages of Lemesos (Limassol) the vine found a hospitable environment, climate and suitable soil a gift of nature and men cultivated the vine with love and devotion and after many years of experience they created out of its fruit wines that were much in demand from the then known foreign and local markets.
Every house in the wine village of Lemesos (Limassol) was also a small winery where the proprietor and vine grower had all the apparatus for the making a storage, aging and transportation of the wine to the places of consumption. The small vine-grower felt joy and pride when he could invite guests to his dining table and offer his own "zivania" as an appetizer and then his own wine which had been aging for more than a year.
Conditions were very difficult for the wine-making, but even more difficult when the ground had firstly to be cleaned of rocks ready for planting vines.
The rocky and infertile mountain slopes had to be dug by hand since there were no mechanical means at that time and from the rocks that were dug up dry-stone walls and mounds were made to keep in the soil and rain water for the vines.
Many of these vines can still be seen today while passing through the areas of the wine villages and it is these vine- yards that excite the admiration of the foreign visitors and in particular the wine-traders. The cultivation of these vineyards should have been done by plough or mattock as then there were no small tractors. One of the villages which I think is representative of the method of cultivation of the vine as referred to above, is Lofou. The visitor can see thousands of meters of dry-stone wall and the houses of the village, about one thousand, which were built with stone.
The visitor can also see the apparatus for the making of the wine and "zivania" and the earthenware jars used for storing and aging of the wine.
The vine cultivation and wine-making in Lemesos (Limassol) enjoyed long periods of prosperity.
Wine making has developed into a highly organized industry. The first wine making industry in Lemesos (Limassol) and in Cyprus was the winery of Christ. Haggipavlu which was established in 1844.
Haggipavlu has the distinction of being the first to introduce brandy making to Cyprus. In 1926 another winery by a company called KEO was established. In 1943 LOEL Ltd. was established and three years later SODAP was established, a wine industry of vine growers of Cyprus. In 1947 due to the expansion of their work the winery of Hadjipavlu was split into two. The Hadjipavlu and the ETKO winery which produce fine quality wines. Recently two small wineries have been established, LAONA wineries in Arsos village and "Kilani Winery'' in Kilani village.
Historically Lemesos (Limassol) was the center of the wine trade and wine making in Cyprus. From the beginning almost all exports of wine and spirits were made from the port of Lemesos (Limassol). Also in Lemesos (Limassol) there exists the region of Commandaria, which is a de Facto wine with an appellation of origin.The method of making commandaria is basically the same today as it used to be many centuries ago. Also in the Lemesos (Limassol) district are the two well known vine areas for the production of the quality table wines, Krasohoria and Pitsilia.
Lemesos (Limassol) is commonly recognized as the wine-making town of Cyprus. In 1987 the International Office of the Vine and Wine (O.I.V.) made a suggestion to declare Lemesos (Limassol) as the "City of Vine and Wine".
The same year on October 31, during the General Assembly of the International Office of the Vine and Wine, which took place at Marino in Italy, Lemesos (Limassol) was declared as the "City of Vine and Wine" and the president of the International Office of the Vine and Wine, Mr. Mario Fregoni, awarded a medal and diploma to the Mayor of Lemesos (Limassol).