NICOSIA, April 13 (Xinhua) — Cyprus has been implementing with success a plan to bring back local varieties of grapes and wines which were in danger of becoming extinct in favor of imported varieties, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said on Saturday.

Kadis was addressing a gala dinner at which he handed out prizes to wine producers awarded in a contest which is part of the plan to restore local wines.

Cyprus was producing wines since 3500 BC, which were widely traded in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea.

Testimony of the history is the description of Cyprus in Greek classical literature as “Evinos Kypros” meaning “good wine Cyprus” and an exquisite Roman era mosaic at an archaeological site in the western city of Paphos showing the first men who drank wine.

But in the 1980s the government embarked on a campaign to eradicate local grapes in favor of foreign varieties, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache and Syrah in the belief that they would help produce wines which would be more exportable.

Grants were given to producers who uprooted local grapes and planted imported varieties.

After joining the European Union in 2014, Cyprus started reversing this trend, encouraged by EU’s drive to highlight local produce of its member states.

The best known variety of Cyprus wine is Commandaria, a sweet liqueur type of wine with a unique flavor. Its production goes back to the Crusaders era about 1100-1300 AD.

Over the past few years, enough vineyards of local varieties were planted to produce adequate quantities of local wine, usually produced a small wineries in the vine growing areas, which by law must be above an altitude of 700 meters to be entitled to EU subsidies.

Kadis said the participation of 16 wine producers who contested the prizes with 114 different varieties of wine was proof of the success of the drive to produce good wines with local varieties of grapes.

The wines were judged by an international panel of wine experts.

Kadis said that in addition to the Wine Festival held each year in Limassol, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, the government will try to help wine producers with a promotion campaign for local wines at airports, hotels and organized visits by wine experts and journalists. 

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