Editor’s Note: CNN’s On the Road series brings you a greater insight into the customs and culture of Cyprus. CNN.com explores the places, the people and the passions unique to this eastern Mediterranean island.
Commandaria is recognised as the oldest named wine in the world
The sweet wine has been grown in Cyprus for over 5,000 years
in 1191, King Richard the Lionheart called it 'the wine of kings and the King of wines'
Cyprus is known for its sunshine, its ancient ruins and its delicious halloumi cheese, but one thing that is less well known is that it is also home to the oldest named wine in the world.
Commandaria is a dessert wine with a flavor as rich as its history. It is originally believed to have been given its name by crusading knights in the 13th century, but to have first been made up to 5,000 years ago.
It is produced in the fertile high-altitude slopes in the south-west of the island that became known as “La Grande Commanderie” during the Crusades. Around this time, the Knights of the Order of Saint John renamed the local wine after their new protectorate.
Throughout the following centuries, stories of the wine abound. According to legend, King Richard the Lionheart of England was so taken with commandaria that at his wedding he pronounced it “the wine of kings and the king of wines.” Equally struck by the intoxicating liquor was the French King Philippe Augustus who is said to have declared it to be “the Apostle of wines”.
Over time production continued to grow. By 1879 the British explorer Sir Samuel White Baker recorded that Cyprus was annually exporting 155,000 “okes” (a Turkish measurement that translates roughly to 230,000 liters) of commandaria to Austria alone.