As legend has it, the often overlooked island of Cyprus is the birthplace of the Goddess of Beauty. That’s quite an act to follow for the rest of history for this northeastern Mediterranean locus, and probably too much for any group of mortals, no matter how canny. Like Sicily on the western end of The Sea, Cyprus (only officially independent since 1960) has predictably been fought over and ruled by better than a dozen distinct cultures over the millennia, and even as recently as the 1970s, Greece and Turkey have waged pitched war over it. Thankfully, now nearly all of these old divisions have been set aside, and this warm, mountainous island is making more and better wine, and that’s a sign of peace and prosperity almost anywhere in the world.
That said, most if not all of the commercially produced wine is concentrated in the southwestern region of Limassol, south of the Troodos Mountains. Not surprisingly on an island with a past that literally eludes the beginning of written history, Cyprus’ vineyards have collected a few peculiar grape varieties, and two of them make up this evening’s (red) selection, one being Mavro (which simply means “black” in Greek) and the other Ofthalmo (whose name to me suggests eyeball-like fruit). Being a non-vintage bottling, this particular cuvee`springs from the basic quality table wine category, but its unique vinous materiel and more than competent exucution make it anything but ordinary or innocuous.
I will one day make some Cypriot specialties for “consumption” here in these “pages”, but a busy day happily forced us to send out to a Turkish “pizzeria”/restaurant here in Jersey City for an order of yaprak (grape leaves stuffed with rice and currants) and a karisik pide (a thin, cuffed-edge, boat-shaped “pizza” topped with chopped meat, vegetables, cheese, and fried eggs).
KEO “Othello” Limassol, Cyprus Red NV
Rosy, just translucent ruby color. Direct but exotic nose of wildflowers, pine, strawberry jam, cloves, barnyard, tree bark, and beeswax. The medium body is soft, sweet, and round with a pulpy texture, but with a stiff, energetic, and tight underlying structure, and a pleasantly puckering acidity, that shows off direct flavors of plum, sarsparilla, raspberry syrup, leather, black pepper, and tart red currant.