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Ever since the ancient times, Agios Georgios Sylikou produced big amounts of grapes. As a result, its residents learned to make various wine by-products. Below we get to see how they used to make wine, another traditional alcohol drink called “zivania”, the traditional delicacies called “palouzes” and “soutzoukos” and finally raisins. With regards to the production of Commandaria, you can read about it on the relevant webpage.  


The grapes which were used in the production of wine were selected from fine variety vines.

In the old times wine producers used to place grapes into clay basins and they would step on them to crush. Next, they would put them in large clay pots called “pitharia” so that fermentation would take place, which usually takes 12 days. Every day the grapes would be pressed with the presser because fermentation would cause them to boil.

When fermentation was complete, the grapes were then filtered. A small corf or sieve would be placed in the middle of the large clay pot and the wine would be transfused into a clean and sterilised clay pot using a dried pumpkin that had been turned into a jar. Sterilisation would be succeeded by smoking the clay pot with sulphur. Inside the clay pot remained the bunches, the pips and the peel of the grapes, the so called “zivana”. The pots containing the wine would stay open for a few more days so that fermentation and sedimentation of the wine would be completed. Next, the pot would be closed using a round marble plate and sealed with plaster so that air would not float in it. 

Zivana or Zivania

The name “Zivana” or “Zivania” derived from the word “zivana” (pomace).  It is the wine distillate produced in special boilers using distillation. Usually, its alcohol strength ranged at around an average between 47-52%. From the Venetian occupation up until today the production of Zivania constitutes a main profession and an important source of income for Cypriot vine harvesters. The distillation of “zivania” is a traditional art which has been passed on from generation to generation in all the wine villages (Krasochoria) of Cyprus. 

To make fine quality “zivania” the grapes used should be mature and healthy. The grape must that will be used for fermentation will have to be over 12-13° Baume so that a full fermentation is achieved. Once the Baume meter shows – 0, this means that fermentation has been completed and the sugar has been turned into alcohol. Then the wine and the marc brandy are poured into a boiler filling 80% of it.    

The boilers’ base is then covered with poterium, a type of low bush so that pomace won’t stick to the bottom. Also, before sealing the boiler containing the pomace poterium is also placed on top of the pomace so that the latter is pressed. Next, fire is lit using logs. Once the “zivania” begins to pour out the power of the fire is reduced since the fire should be stable and moderate.      

“Zivania” has multiple uses. It is widely used for therapeutic purposes including infrictions, colds, wound disinfections, faints, toothaches, but also as a tonic drink in winter.   

Palouzes / Soutzoukos

“Palouzes” and “soutzoukos” are well-known traditional Cypriot sweet delicacies which one encounters in villages where white grapes are produced.

Upon crushing the grapes the grape must is placed in a special large boiler which is then placed above fire. Once it begins to boil a special type of soil called white soil is added in the boiler. The addition of the soil helps clean the must better and also to make it sweeter. While the must is boiling a big spoon should be constantly used to remove all impurities that surface in the boiler. 

Next, the mixture is made using a proportion of 10.26 kg of must for every 1.28 kg of flour. Then the stir begins while the mixture is still boiling and it continues until it is cooked. Afterwards, the mixture is placed on plates and “palouzes” is ready as soon as dry nuts are added.  

The next step is achieved with the making of “soutzoukos”.

Thread is passed through almond nuts or walnuts according to the maker’s choice. At the end of the thread there is a hook so that the threads can be hanged high, something that will help the “soutzoukos” dry. The “soutzoukos” is made by plummeting the threads with the nuts into the boiling “palouzes” and then hanging them to dry. This is repeated either on the same day the “palouzes” mixture is made or on the next day. The threads have to be plummeted into the mixture between three and five times. Then, they are left hanging for 5-6 days in order to dry, unless the makers prefer to eat it while it is still fresh, in which case they rather cut it on the same day.


Raisins are Cypriot traditional by-products of some traditional black and white grape varieties. Raisins are actually dried grapes which can be preserved for an extended period of time.

Raisins were also made by various other ancient people apart from Greeks, such as the Hebrews, something which is mentioned in the Old Testament. According to Herodotus, they were also used by the Egyptians for their ceremonies. Xenophon states that raisins also existed in Armenia, whereas Polyvios writes that women used to drink wine made of raisins and not grapes in Rome.

Apart from the making of wine made of raisins, these were also used during the ancient times as nutritious food. Today many people eat raisins baked in bread. In Cyprus, raisins are added in traditional savoury products such as the well-known “kolokotes” and “flaounes” but also in sweets. 

Among the Mediterranean countries which produce large quantities of raisins are Greece and Turkey. Cyprus continues to produce raisins even today and in fact a large quantity is exported. It is certain that Cyprus used to produce raisins since the ancient years as this product was very well-known and the Cypriots dealt with viticulture.

Kyprianos mentions that raisins were made using two methods. The first involved drying the grapes after placing them under the sun, whereas the second method involved the plummeting of grapes is hot lye. 

The production of raisins

After selecting the grapes which are appropriate to become raisins, meaning grapes that are mature enough and above 11 degrees Baume, producers remove the bunches and the berries which have been destroyed or which are still immature. Then, the grapes are placed in large baskets or perforated boxes before being impregnated in a special hot dissolution for 2-3 minutes so that the wax-like layer covering the grapes is washed out. After being left to dry, they are then spread on plastic sheets or hessian to dry under the sun. The raisin is ready after 8-12 days, according to the weather conditions. The dissolution in which the grapes are impregnated is in fact potash dissolution (potassium carbonate) or soda (sodium carbonate), or in some cases even a mixture of both. The addition of a small quantity of olive oil in the dissolution (approx. 1%) minimizes the caustic effect the dissolution has on the grapes.   

Also important is the proper storage of the produced raisins since various factors such as high temperatures and humidity can affect the quality of the product. Every 12 kg of grapes can produce approximately 4 kg of raisins.

Today, the production of raisins, the impregnation and the spreading is done by the producers mostly in open spaces located near their vines. In the old times, the grapes would be transferred to the vine villages to be dried and be spread in the yards and mezzanines of the houses.

The word “stafidin” (raisin) derives from the ancient Greek word “astafis”, from which the verb “stafidkiazw” (making raisins and generally drying) was produced.  However, more words of the Greek-Cypriot dialect such as “stafidkiasmenos” (elderly person full of wrinkles) have derived from the same word.

Sources: Great Cyprus Encyclopaedia, Vol.12, p.324

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