Cinsault used to be thought of as the mainstay of Provence rosé, or a blending grape to add fruit and complexity to red blends. For the last few years though, it’s been championed by winemakers – in Swartland in South Africa, in Chile, Lebanon, California, and in its homeland of Minervois in the South of France – as a grape that can make superbly elegant wines on its own.
When glass sculptor Yorgos Papadopoulos left London to return to his native Cyprus with his partner Arjen De Neve, little did he know that he would soon be overturning preconceptions about Cypriot Cinsault.
Cyprus is one of the world’s oldest wine-growing regions, its history going back over 5,000 years. The island is steeped in viticultural tradition; it boasts a diverse range of indigenous grape varieties such as the red Maratheftiko and the white Xynisteri (to name but two) reflecting its unique terroir and climate. With its strategic location in the eastern Mediterranean, it was a hub for the wine trade for centuries.
Despite its impressive heritage and status as a significant wine producer, Cyprus has struggled to establish a profile in the UK wine market. Cypriot wineries tend to be small, family-run operations with limited resources for international marketing campaigns. Consequently, they find it challenging to break into a highly competitive UK market, dominated by larger, well-funded wine producers.
Papadopoulos and De Neve moved to Kedares, a sleepy village in the foothills of the Troodos Mountains, an area renowned for its wines, and best-known for the fortified dessert wine Commanderia, made from sun-dried Xynisteri and the red grape Mavro.
The house came with vineyards, called Yerambellos, which, in Greek, literally means an old vineyard. These Cinsault vines had been neglected for years and fellow villagers advised the couple to replace them with more profitable plum trees.
But they were determined to revive the vines, which had been untended for 15 years. Under their care they flourished, producing small yields with intensely-flavoured grapes. They then recruited Marinos Ioannou, oenologist at the neighbouring Nelion Winery, to make a wine that would speak of its terroir. They called their winery Yartambellos - a reference to making art from old vines.
Yartambellos is now in its fourth vintage. It’s a pale, fresh, fruit-forward wine that is perfect for the Cyprus climate, with concentration of a full-bodied red and flavours of cherries, strawberries, currants, berries, a touch of violet and rose and hints of pepper. It’s a wine made to be drunk in its first year, but it can age beautifully into its second and even third year. With age comes a more intense fruit palate and aroma, a tawnier colour and some minerality.
They have also experimented with cask ageing, putting 300 bottles (of the overall production of 1,500) into French oak barrels for nine months; the result is a wine which has maintained its fresh, fruity aromas but developed notes of tobacco and spice, and is fuller-bodied and rounder than the stainless steel-fermented version.
Papadopoulos also designed the labels and produced 100 hand-painted bottles for the first vintage. For the third, 12 magnums were literally ‘adorned’ with his art. The next limited art edition will be released in May 2024.
For more information on the wines: yartambellos.com
For more information on the art: yorgos.studio