Autumn is harvest time with the annual yield of grapes used to make the delectable boutique wines of the region and a host of traditional sweets using grape must (a grape juice syrup).
Nestled up high in the mountainous environs of Larnaka region are two boutique wineries that warmly welcome visitors; Ktima Dafermou in Lefkara Valley, and Ktima Christoudia in Kato Drys. ‘Ktima’ is the Greek word for ‘Estate’, and both wineries are family-run and set in the stunning environs of Larnaka’s ‘Orini’ (mountainous) area.
Alexia Christoudia of Ktima Christoudia Winery in Kato Drys has been in the winemaking industry for over 30 years and has always had a love for the art since she was a child, growing up among the vines in the gardens of her parents and grandparents.
Meeting and marrying Yiannis – with an equal passion for winemaking – the pair set about making their vision a reality, as Alexia explains: “We wanted to create a boutique winery where we could welcome visitors and share our love of the local grape varieties and winemaking process with them; somewhere for others to experience what we do, in beautiful, mountainous surroundings”
Kato Drys is perfectly suited for growing grapes thanks to its unique soil properties and the favourable climate. Ktima Christoudia Winery grows exclusively indigenous grape varieties; Mavro, Xinisteri, Maratheftiko, Spourtiko, Giannoudi and Malaga.
Alexia has seen many changes to the winemaking process since the winery originally started harvesting and crushing grapes using a hand-operated crusher: “Grape crushing equipment has advanced a lot over the years, and aside from saving time, the new technology has also improved the quality of the wines we produce”.
The harvest begins in the middle of August and concludes in October. As a family-run business, Alexia says the harvest is also an intimate affair! “We call harvest time a ‘celebration’ as it truly is for us. We gather with our family and friends and savour the experience together, sharing a meal after a day of harvesting.”
Visitors to the winery are also welcome to partake in the harvest, which is a popular activity for tourists. The winery also hosts groups to pick the grapes then experience crushing them by foot in the original, traditional way, followed by making grape sweets and sampling the fruits of their labour.
Once the grape juice is collected, it is used to make the boutique wines (white, red, rosé and sweet dessert wine), but also for delicacies such as the grape-must sweet ‘soutzoukos’, which is still made by hand to this day and contains no added sugar. Grape juice is boiled with flour to create a creamy mixture (‘moustalevria’) then string threaded with nuts is dipped into the mixture a number of times to create the desired thickness. The soutzoukos is then hung up to dry – something else visitors to the winery can experience as part of their tour.
Maintaining the vineyards comes with its challenges, and is certainly a labour of love, but Alexia wouldn’t have it any other way: “Growing grapes is a year-round job; there is something to do with each season and it can be very hard work. But it has huge rewards, especially when we see people wanting to visit the vines and winery; to take photos among the grape leaf canopies; to taste and appreciate the smaller production of locally-made wine, and the interest in learning about the grape tradition of our island, and to take part in it!”