The human, cultural and gastronomic customs and traditions of the vine and wine do, indeed, go back a long time in Cyprus, to the times of ancient Egypt and early civilisations in neighbouring areas. Belief that Cyprus has had one of the very oldest wine industries of the world was proven by the recent excavations of the noted archaeologist Dr. Maria Belgiorno, from Italy. Her fi ndings confi rmed what many experts had long suspected, that the vine and winemaking had fl ourished on this island since at least 3500 BC, fi ve and a half thousand years ago. The most up-to-date equipment and techniques were used to establish that grape seeds in two wine vessels excavated in Pyrgos, were more than 5,000 years old. And then, in Erimi village, the archaeologists unearthed 18 vessels, 12 of which had been used for wine, dating from 3500 - 3000 BC. This priceless cultural heritage is the oldest in the Mediterranean and proves beyond doubt that Cyprus is the cradle of oenological development throughout the Mediterranean basin, from Greece to Italy and France and all other corners where there was vine and winemaking activity in ancient times. Cyprus is littered with the story of its wine history, visible in many ways.
From Greco - Roman times are the colourful and exciting mosaics in Pafos and elsewhere, whose tableaux demonstrate more than one aspect of wine making and consumption (even excess!) including the god Dionysos. Archaeological relics, ancient depictions on mosaic and other items give way to the practical, like the ancient wine presses in Omodos, Laneia and elsewhere, and the enormous “Amphora” (terra cotta jar) dated by their makers. The Greek for these is Pithari and Pitharia (plural) and they are a very visible component of old winemaking in Cyprus. All these, and the simple tools for cra_ ing the vineyards and the equipment for making wine used by our forebears, can be found in museums and collections small and large all over Cyprus. They are the remarkable testimony of our wine heritage. At Laneia, which is not far from the Koumandaria villages, the old wine press is in close proximity to two huge clay vessels (used until quite recently for fermenting wine), which are clearly dated 1844. This is an interesting coincidence because it is the year that Cyprus’s fi rst contemporary wine company, ETKO Ltd., was founded by the Haggipavlou family. The vine press is of unique pan-Hellenic design and is unaltered since its making and in working order.
This makes it a particularly precious item of Cyprus wine history… Omodos is a large busy village with considerable archaeological interest and it is also one of the most important wine villages 4 An old wine press, of which there is a very good example in Fikardou village, having been maintained by the Department of Antiquities since 1988. of Cyprus, surrounded by vineyards and with four wine - making enterprises. Here, too, there is a very old wine press, that has been declared an Ancient Monument and belongs to the Department of Antiquities. The press and the building housing it, have been rebuilt and restored. Before electricity, every process was carried out by humans or domesticated animals. The olive press, and the pumps at water wells, were powered by donkeys. Wine was pressed either by the feet of the winery workers or pressed by various devices made of seasoned wood. In this stone building, dominated by an arch similar to the one at the Monastery of Timios Stavros (Holy Cross) not far away, is a very large example. Its operation depended upon a crew of three or more people - to load the grapes (and later, a_ er pressing, remove the debris), manipulate the press and organise the fl ow of juice. It was a complex and tiring operation, today replaced by electrically powered metal machinery of considerable sophistication.