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Commandaria is produced is some villages of the Limassol District which are located in semi-mountainous or mountainous areas in the region of Pitsilia, on the southern accesses of the Troodos mountain range and on an altitude of approximately 1000 metres above sea level. The ground in these areas consists of lime, while rainfall is quite limited and weather conditions relatively dry. As a result, the vines in the area are not irrigated and they are exclusively dependent on rainwater. Weather conditions such as high temperatures, long periods of sunshine, and reduced levels of humidity during the summer months, as well as the altitude difference from sea level, the ground and the special method of processing grapes all give Commandaria a unique taste and colour.

The 14 villages which have the privilege of producing Commandaria are the following: Kalo Chorio (Agrou), Zoopigi, Agios Constantinos Agrou, Doros, Monagri, Lania, Agios Georgios Sylikou, Sylikou, Apsiou, Gerasa, Louvaras, Kapileio and Agios Mamas. Commandaria is produced nowhere else in Cyprus. According to Mariti, in the 18th century the finest quality of Commandaria was produced in the village of Agros and its price ranged from 1 – 3 grosses, based on its age.

In the past, Commandaria used to be produced by the vine growers of each village in their own houses. In particular, vine growers used to work individually, each one for themselves by just using their muscular strength. However, as of 1924, with the constant growth of the Cooperative Credit Societies, the entire production procedure became more industrialised. Instead of using muscular strength, electrical power would now be used although the traditional production method of Commandaria, passed on from generation to generation, continues to be applied as it was centuries ago. The only changes that have been made to the production concerned a more thorough collection of grapes and a more thorough quality control. Hence, for almost a century now Commandaria has been produced by the Cooperative Wineries of the Krasochoria (Wine Villages) mentioned above. The product is then sold to the big wineries which have signed contracts with the Cooperative wineries regarding aging and bottling.     

Today, for the production of fine Commandaria wineries use grapes from two of the most important wine making varieties on the island, those being the local black and the white grape also known as “xynisteri” at a proportion 90 to 10.  

After the harvest, the grapes are placed under the sun for a time period ranging from 4 to 10 days or even longer based on the weather conditions so that they are dehydrated by the solar activity. Then, as soon as there is an increase to 21-23 degrees for black grapes and to 19 degrees for “xynisteri”, the grapes are ready to be crushed. This is done at the small wineries of the Pitsilia villages where Commandaria is produced. The grapes are first crushed in the grinder and then transferred to the presser.  

At the presser great attention is paid to the pressure so that the grapes are not crushed along with the pips to avoid grape-seed oil and other substances from mixing with the wine, thus giving it scents and smells which are not desirable in Commandaria. The liquid produced after crushing the grapes is poured into cylindrical concrete tanks where it is kneaded. At the end of the kneading the Baume degrees fall below 15. In December, transfusion is done without any air. In around the end of January or the beginning of February begins the delivery of the newly produced wine to the wineries for further process and standardization. The criteria for the evaluation of the unprocessed product include its scent, taste and sugar content, with the average being 10-14 degrees BE and 9-13 degrees in alcohol.    

During the standardization procedure the new wine is subjected to a temperature below 0 degrees Celsius for a period between 12-15 days, followed by the racking of the wine. After filtration, Commandaria is transferred to the wine storage room to age in oak-made 500-litre barrels. From these barrels 100 litres of old Commandaria are removed and bottled to be sold in the market, while 100 litres of new Commandaria are added to age.

The Republic of Cyprus has patented the word Commandaria as a collective trade mark in the United Kingdom. After this registration, all wine industries of Cyprus producing this well-known wine can use the word Commandaria as a trade mark, while the use of this word by wine producers in any other country is prohibited.

Source: Great Cyprus Encyclopedia, vol.7, p271.

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