Zambartas Winery Cyprus Harvest Time 2018


Hey Tasters! What does it take to make great Cyprus Wine? We decided to visit the Zambartas winery to
find out for ourselves. We got in touch with Marleen Zambartas, the
wife of the chief winemaker Marcos Zambartas, and arranged for a visit. Enjoy the story! Zambartas winery is located in Ayios Amvrosios,
right in the middle of the Krasochoria region – that is, the region of the Limassol Wine
Villages, in Cyprus. The winery itself is easily accessible at
just 520 m above sea level, but the winery’s vineyards are scattered all over the mountain,
some as high as 1000 metres. When we arrive, we are warmly welcomed by
Marleen Zambartas. We get into her car and she drives us to their
Semillon vineyard. The grape pickers are hard at work and the
sun is rising. We are just in time to see the last of the
grape picking. In another hour or so, the heat will be impossible
to work through, and the grape picking will stop. We have to move quickly. Marleen has loaded a large cooler box in the
boot of her car. It is filled with icy cold water for her grape
pickers. Looking after her team is her highest priority. Marleen explains that harvest in Cyprus lasts
for up to 5 months. The reason for this is simple. The international varieties, such as Semillon,
ripen much earlier than the indigenous varieties. July isn’t out yet but Semillon is already
bursting with ripeness. The thick-skinned Xynisteri on the other hand,
won’t be ready till October. I am handed two bunches. One is Semillon and one is Xynisteri from
an adjacent vineyard. The French Semillon is soft, sweet and juicy. In contrast, the Cypriot Xynisteri is a bright
green tight cluster of hard pellets, still so unripe that they do not yield under the
pressure of my fingertips. And talking of France, we were introduced
to two French oenology interns, who are currently studying at the University of Montpellier. The unique climate of Cyprus is quite a rich
learning opportunity for anyone involved in winemaking. Above all, the Zambartas family are great
believers in sharing knowledge. Every year they take on two students and give
them the opportunity to acquire practical experience in the individual climate and terroir
of Cyprus. Marleen takes these newcomers under her wing,
turning every vineyard encounter into a valuable lesson they will eventually take home with
them. However, Marleen makes it clear that this
knowledge transfer is two-way. The interns are exposed to a climate and terroir
that is completely different to what they would have otherwise had access to in France. But they also bring with them theoretical
and academic knowledge of the latest advancements in the fields of viticulture and oenology. Every year, the young interns are welcomed,
not merely as extra pairs of hands at this busy harvest time, but above all as an equal
and valuable source of knowledge. The vineyard manager, Christodoulos, comes
to greet us. He is an expert in Viticulture, with an impressive
academic background as well as substantial hands-on experience. He works closely with Marcos Zambartas to
keep the winery’s 120 acres of vines healthy and productive. He tells the pickers where to go and what
to do, but he is also right there with them, picking grapes, carrying crates and pruning. I was fascinated when Christodoulos told me
that the tracked power barrow they use to collect the crates of grapes in the Semillon
vineyard is affectionately called “το καμηλίν” which translates to “the
baby camel”. This is a flashback to the time when camels
and sometimes donkeys were an essential part of vineyard harvest. Christodoulos loves his job – that is plain
to see – and he knows each employee and each vineyard in his charge closely. He explains that Zambartas Wineries place
a great deal of value in biodiversity. They roll over weeds rather than plough, to
maintain moisture in the soil – an important consideration in a drought-stricken country
such as Cyprus. They also try to preserve other plants surrounding
the vines rather than exhaust the soil with an extreme single crop, so that the vines
can flourish in conditions as close to those found in nature as possible. They avoid pesticides and try to deal with
problems with natural solutions. Many of the vineyards have already been certified
as organic and the family aim to have all their vines certified in time. It seems to me that what drives every decision
is a fundamental respect for nature and the wisdom to recognise the value of not turning
one’s back to tradition but rather draw on what is valuable and apply it in a modern
context. We leave the Semillon vineyard and Marleen
drives us further up the mountains to a very special vineyard the family has recently acquired. A few years ago Marcos Zambartas decided to
rescue an old vineyard called Martzelina. Martzelina is precisely the kind of vineyard
that would have required an actual camel during harvest. This vineyard was planted in 1926. Unlike neighbouring vineyards that have been
recently planted, in Martzelina there are no neatly manicured rows of vines, prettily
trained on wires. Martzelina is a wild, rebellious plantation
that refuses to conform to the team’s attempts at training. However, Marleen explains that the the most
fascinating part about the Martzelina Vineyard are not its wildness and age. There are three unidentified vines in this
vineyard, hidden amidst the indigenous Mavro and Xynisteri varieties. Nobody knows what these vines are. Only that they are different to any vine anyone
has ever seen in a field or in a viticulture textbook. In the coming year, ampelographers and vine
DNA specialists, perhaps even the world renowned José Vouillamoz, will try to identify this
newly discovered ancient grape. And Zambartas Wineries may be about to add
yet another indigenous grape to the list of local varieties they have rescued and re-established
on the island of Cyprus. Our next stop is a baby vineyard: The Zambartas
family’s newest addition. A recently purchased slope has been planted
with young vines, barely a year old. The contrast is almost shocking. Tender little stems hold on to wires as they
fight to establish themselves. Planted in neat rows hugging the entire side
of the hill. These vines won’t produce wine for at least
5 years. And it will be 8 before there is a full crop. Marcos and Marleen know that to be a leader
in the wine business one needs to look far into the future. When I look around Zambartas Wineries, it
is clear everyone has a hands-on approach and everyone is happy and excited. A crew of expert grape pickers, Marleen, Christodoulos,
the two oenology interns from the University of Montpellier. Simon Sinek’s famous quote about a true
leader immediately springs to mind: “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in
your charge.” Marleen and Marcos Zambartas understand that
to make great wine you need to look after your land but also to look after your people. The chemistry between the people who work
for a winery also forms part of the winery’s terroir and it is expressed in the wine. So, to answer our original question, what
makes great Cyprus wine? Investing in the land. And investing in the people. Tasters! I hope you have enjoyed our visit to the Zambartas
vineyards. Make sure you join me again next week as Marleen
Zambartas and I taste some of Zambartas winery finest wines. If you liked this video, hit the like button
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talking about wine. And remember, those who drink get drunk, those
who taste feel sublime. I will see you on the next video.

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