The history of Commandaria Wine and the importance of Cyprus as the birthplace of Mediterranean Wine. In this video we go to the Cyprus Wine Museum to ask Francis Guy about the historical wine of Cyprus, and we find out a lot more than expected. Did you know that the Order of the Knights of St. John is still alive? Not only still alive, but there is one right here, at the Cyprus Wine Museum. A real live Knight of the Order of St. John. With a cloak, and a sword! Amazing!
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Hey Tasters! Today, I’m visiting the Cyprus Wine Museum and I can’t wait to find out more about the history of Cyprus wine. I have spoken on the phone with the director Francis Guy. He’s told me that they have exhibits that span from five and a half thousand years ago till mid 20th century. Join me!
The Cyprus Wine Museum Map
So tell me about this map. This is a map of the Cyprus wine regions. So this map was created in 2004 when the Cyprus Wine Museum was founded. We find 38 registered wineries. Of course today we have more than 38 registered wineries. The most interesting thing that we see that the museum is located in a very important location. At the crossroads of the wineries of Limassol and Paphos.
It is between Kolossi castle, the castle of Commandaria and the ancient town of Kourion. And it is also located in the historical region of Commandaria. We have the producing region of Commandaria which is a complex of fourteen villages at the eastern part of the Limassol district.
But the historical region of Commandaria, Le Grand Commandarie, the headquarters for the Knights of the St. John order, which is a complex of 41 villages that takes the southern part of the Limassol district.
The Importance of the River Kouris
So the wine producing area was much bigger in the past?
So we see on this map this river, and through this river they used to transfer the wine and other products with the help of the water. This is the reason that on the banks of Kouris River we find a couple of medieval monasteries. To restore the wine production of the main monasteries up into the mountains.
The Village of Erimi
The Cyprus Wine Museum is located in the village of Erimi and this village is important?
It’s very important, in 2005 the Italian archaeological mission that is based here in Cyprus, discovered fragments from 18 narrow shaped jars, that they were discovered here in Erimi in 1933 and over here we can see the fragments of the original pots.
Dr. Lentini that is part of this archaeological group, he special analyzed the inner part of these fragments, and he discovered big quantities of tartaric acid, which that is the acid of wine. That means that they used to store wine in it. They have proof that is dated approximately 5,500 years ago.
Wow! These are the oldest evidence of wine discovered in the European and Mediterranean region and makes Cyprus and Erimi the birthplace of the European wine. So welcome to the Wine Museum! Wow!
Historical Glassware and Commandaria
So, this is a display of glassware, these are different wine glasses. Jars and glasses used during the 19th and 20th century on the island of Cyprus.
Also here we see a very interesting collection of the Cyprus Commandaria. Here for instance, we see a St. John Commandaria of KEO vintage 1927. That’s amazing. So KEO are the initials of the Cyprus union of winemakers.
So in 1927 a group of mukhtars, of mayors, of the wine villages of Limassol, they united together and have started producing, and concentrating the wines in Pera Pedi, and started producing the first wines. Unfortunately we do not have evidence whether it is a vintage 1927 Commandaria or it was bottled later on as, let’s say, a souvenir.
Very often Commandaria is blended not vintage usually. So we find that a blended Commandaria, we find it with I mean with oldest vintages and in nowadays it is a huge trend to have vintage Commandaria than blended Commandarias.
ETKO for instance has the St. Nicholas which is nowadays it became a vintage Commandaria, but in the past it used to be blended. The same thing happens with SODAP and LOEL and etcetera.
The Order of the Knights of St. John
St. John was the order of the Knights that were in Kolossi?
That’s correct, the name of this wine, Commandaria, was given by the Knights of the St. John order. In 1192 they established in Kolossi their Commandarie, the great commanding area that they used to command also their lands around Europe and managing their order.
We see that later on this order that left actually from Jerusalem to Cyprus, then they transferred their headquarters at the island of Rhodes, and then they transferred it to the island of Malta.
This order still exists in nowadays and the embassy of this order here in Cyprus is located here at the Cyprus Wine Museum.
So the Cyprus wine is also the Embassy of the Order of St. John, which still exists today?
The First Wine with an Appellation of Origin
That’s correct, yes. So they changed the name to Commandaria because, there are various hypotheses, but the hypothesis that we founded as much more realistic is that the Knights wanted to change the name for marketing reasons. Because exporting the wine to Europe, and their aim was to earn money from this wine to support their activities, and have their army and hospitals etc., was to change to give a Western Europe name to the wine such as Commandaria, so it was much more easy to promote it into the European markets, and this is the reason, and this is the first wine that has an appellation of origin around the world. A name that indicates from where the wine comes from, from the Commandaria region.
Okay! You all know the trends today for Bordeaux wines Tuscan wines, but here we have the first wine in the world that has such a name that indicates where it comes from.
Because there was a need for marketing, I see, and this is where, so this KEO Commandaria wine St. John is a reference to this rich history. Yes it’s a reference to the founders of the Le Grand Commandarie Le Chypre.
Cyprus Wine Museum: The Embassy of the Knights of St. John
So Francis, this room, this is where you store wine?
Yes, here we store a small quantity for the museum shop, and the things of the embassy of the St. John Order. This is the cloth, this is the the flag of the order just behind you, and also the swords of the knights.
So these are real swords? I can’t believe I am sitting so close to real swords. Okay! And the flag, and tell me about this cloak. This is a very magnificent looking…
This cloak was a gift to me by the Queen of Spain, Sophie, during my inauguration as a Knight and ambassador of the St. John Order here in Cyprus that took place in Spain at San Sebastian monastery, a decade ago in 2009.
Meeting a Real Live Knight of the Order of St. John
So I am in the presence of a Knight? Yes! It’s every girl’s dream come true. So I should call you Sir Francis?
You could do, but okay, but the knights of the St. John, they name theirselves as Knights. In our order we use the name Knight. Knight Francis Guy. But if you want to call me Sir…
No, no, no, I stand corrected, Knight Francis Guy. Well I don’t think I’ll find myself sitting next to a Knight from a different order, but I will try and remember some of them are Sirs and some of them are not.
The Commandaria Orchestra
What do we have here?
Here we have a dessert wine which is from the production of the Cyprus Wine Museum senses. These are senses, such as wine museum senses is the wine line, Commandaria line, and Zivania line of the Cyprus Wine Museum and here we have the Commandaria Orchestra.
So, someone will ask why do you use the name “Orchestra” for this wine? So, we’ll go a decade ago, when the Cyprus wine museum established its classical Orchestra, and we decided to call it as Commandaria Orchestra because of the relation of the museum and of my family with the St. John Order, the Hospitallers, that means the Commandaria Castle.
But, I was working on a project with the University and I was asked okay and where, from where, does the word orchestra comes from? If you open a music dictionary we will found out that the word orchestra comes from the amphitheater, the lower part of the amphitheater is called orchestra.
So right in the middle surrounded by the steps so that circle in the middle. That’s the orchestra.
And why did they call it the orchestra?
There were questioners “and why did they call that place Orchestra?” and we started searching and searching the answer is in front of us. Really? Nobody realized that the word orchestra comes from the ancient Greek word which means ‘orchos’, orchard in English, garden or vineyard.
Yes we have discovered that in handwritten Byzantine period dictionary that says when they used to make the rituals to god Dionysus the god of theatre and wine, in the orchard, the dancer is called orchistis. ‘Orchome’ to play theater or choir, and also orchestra, the group of musicians.
So when they transferred the rituals from the ‘orchos’, the vineyard, into the amphitheater, they’ve called the place orchestra. So, the rituals of Dionysus, this is where we get all the Performing Arts and the wine and the music and this is why we have all these words to do with with cultivation of the spirit and and also of the vine.
This is very exciting!
And you can find it in a bottle, vintage production, or to share our experience in the theatre by listening to this Commandaria Orchestra performing live.
That’s incredible all human artifice in in a bottle, and all history of creative arts in a bottle, that’s Commandaria! Thank you very much Francis, that was a beautiful story. You’re welcome, a great pleasure.
Hey Tasters! This has been such a fun day at the Cyprus Wine Museum. For about 8 Euro, or less you can have a full tasting of Cypriot wine varietals with nibbles and you can learn so much from the exhibits and from the director. This is a labor of love, it’s full of history and passion for wine, for music, for the arts, I highly recommend it.
Plus there’s cats everywhere! This cat very kindly guarded my tripods and my GoPro camera. Thanks cat!
Guys if you enjoyed this video leave a thumbs cat, hahaha, if you’ve enjoyed this video leave a thumbs up, share it with a friend, make this little kitten famous!
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Cyprus Wine Heroes (Playlist)
- Terroir and Tasting Cyprus Wine at Vassiliades Ekfraseis Winery
- Tsiakkas Winery & Tasting Cyprus Wine, Commandaria and Zivania
- Zambartas Winery Cyprus Harvest Time 2018
- Wine Tasting at Zambartas Winery Cyprus 2018
- VLOG 007 | Commandaria Wine | Tsiakkas Winery
- VLOG 008 | He is ACTUALLY a Knight | Cyprus Wine Museum
Resources for Cyprus Wine Museum
- Homepage for Cyprus Wine Museum
- Cyprus Wine Museum on Facebook
- Follow Cyprus Wine Museum on Instagram
- Twitter for Cyprus Wine Museum
Resources for Commandaria Orchestra
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