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Commandaria is a Cypriot tasty, sweet wine produced free of any sweeteners or colouring which is made of a mixture of black and white grapes, or even separately, just by either using only black or only white grapes (Baume 7-12 degrees, 13-20% vol.).

The main features of Commandaria, which is served as dessert wine, include its fine taste and aroma. When Commandaria is made exclusively of white grapes it produces a fine colour and aroma but it is less sweet. When it is made just by using black grapes it is quite sweet but is lacks in colour. Hence, to achieve a special kind of perfect and standardised Commandaria according to predetermined specifications, wineries mix both types of grapes. 

The name Commandaria was given to this sweet red Cypriot wine by the Hospitaller Knights of Jerusalem (later known as the Knights of Rhodes and Malta), one of the religious military orders which settled in Cyprus after the Luzignans assumed command of the island in 1192 A.D. The order’s military command known as Commanderie or Commandaria was stationed in Kolossi. The Hospitaller Knights also owned the fertile area around Kolossi which included large expanses of wheat, cotton and sugarcane plantations, as well as vineyards and that is the area where the well-known sweet wine of the island was produced. As a result, the Hospitaller Knights adopted and perfected the production of this wine, which they named Commandaria, after their military command, even though this type of wine had been produced in Cyprus a lot earlier. However, we don’t know exactly which grape varieties and proportions were used for the production of the wine back then.

The Hospitaller Knights, being wine connoisseurs and experts in its production techniques excelled in promoting the trade of Commandaria, which became famous through the centuries and is possibly the most ancient wine brand still in use. Commandaria was particularly popular and well-sought after among the most important trade centres of the Mediterranean. In Venice, Commandaria was excluded of any import taxes as it was considered to be a tonic drink. It is also known that in 1363, during a convention known as the “Reception of the Five Kings”, which was held by the mayor of London in honour of Peter I, King of Cyprus at the time and four other kings, Edward III of England, David of Scotland, John of France and Weltermar of Denmark, Commandaria was served only to enthuse everyone who tasted it. A painting hanging at the Royal Exchange of London vividly depicts the colour and brilliance of the entire reception.    

During the Frankish Occupation (1192-1489), as well as the Venetian Occupation (1489-1571), the wines of Cyprus and mainly Commandaria continued to be exported in all important trade centres of the time. According to testimonies, back in the 15th century Cypriot wines were exported in Madeira of Spain where the renowned Madeira wines were produced. Cypriot wines were also exported in Venice and Ragouza, two of the most important trading centres of the Mediterranean.  

During the Turkish Occupation (1571-1878) both the production and exportation of Commandaria and other wines decreased significantly due to high taxation that was imposed. The decrease of the annual production also continued during the British occupation (1878-1960), while the production levels of Commandaria started to rise again in 1958.   

Source: Great Cyprus Encyclopaedia, vol.7, p.271 

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