Abstract: This paper explores the subject of wines from Cyprus and Cilicia during Antiquity, on the basis of literary and archaeological (amphoras) evidence. It focuses upon organoleptic characteristics of these wines as well as their exportation in the Mediterranean. The author attempts to estimate the scale of their consumption in three important centres in the Mediterranean (Alexandria, Ephesus and Rome) during the late Hellenistic and Roman Age.
Key words: wine, amphoras, Cyprus, Cilicia, consumption, trade, Alexandria, Ephesus, Rome.
According to Guinness World Records, Cypriot dessert wine, Commandaria, is recognised as the oldest manufactured wine in the world. It seems that it was very famous and appreciated at European courts in the Middle Ages. King Richard the Lionheart called it “the wine of kings and the king of wines,” and the French monarch Philip Augustus awarded it with the supreme title “the Apostle of wines,” during the famous wine tasting described in The Battle of Wines by Henry d'Andeli.1 There is also a famous anecdote regarding wine from Cyprus which states that the island was conquered by Selim II, the Ottoman ruler, who wanted to secure the supply of sweet Commandaria, of which he was particularly fond. These stories suggests that between the 12th and 16th centuries AD wine from Cyprus enjoyed a very good reputation and was exported to different parts of Europe and Asia. Nowadays it is also well known among wine lovers.
At the same time, Anatolia, the eastern part of which is regarded as the cradle of viticulture and winemaking, almost disappeared from the maps of important world vineyards. Even though Turkey is one of the world biggest producers of grapes and raisins, its wine production develops mostly in Thracia.2 Western and southern parts of Asia Minor, though favourable in oenological terms, seem to be less important. The aim of the Middle Eastern empires of the Assyrians and Persians respectively their kings, and for a short time that of Alexander the Great and some of his first successors. Therefore, in describing and discussing the internal conditions of Cyprus during this period, one has to refer to the influence of the suzerain.