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The island in the eastern Mediterranean politically formst he Republic of Cyprus, which in terms of international law includes the whole island, with a surface area of 9.251 km². De facto, however, the term today refers only to the larger southern portion of the island, with an area of 5.384 km², as the smaller northern portion (3.355 km²) forms the Turkish Republic of Cyprus, which is not recognised as a separate entity by most states in the world. Two British military bases with a total area of 255 km² remain as a reminder of English colonial rule. The island is located around 70 kilometres from the south coast of Turkey, 800 kilometres to the mainland of Greece, and 400 kilometres to the east coast of the Greek island of Rhodos. Wine has been produced here since the third millenium before Christ. According to legend, the Greek god of wine, Dionysus is said to have favoured wine from Cyprus for his celebrations. Both Phoenicians and Greeks established the tradition of producing sweet and dessert wines here in ancient times. In the eighth century BC, the Greek poet Hesiod (753-680 BC) described a sweet wine made from sun-dried grapes. This was known as „Nama”, and was a predecessor of the modern-day Commandaria. Floor mosaics with wine illustrations found in Pafos on the south-west coast confirm this ancient wine culture. The island was conquered by the English king Richard Lionheart (1157-1199) on the third crusade in 1191, he then handed it on as a lien to the crusading knights. The island eventually came to be owned by the knights of the temple, and it was during this period that viticulture reached its highest point. The Templars cultivated so-called Commanderies (estates with vineyards). Their headquarters was the Collosi castle, which was still standing at the time, and which they called the „Grand Commandery”. This provided the name for the most famous Cypriot wine, Commandaria. When the Turks conquered the island in the late 16th century, together with a commensurate total ban on alcohol, this led to a total demise of the islands wine culture.
Viticulture was only encouraged again after the island was recaptured by England in 1878. However, the oldest winery, and still today one of the four largest wineries on the island, Etko, was already founded in 1844. The vineyard area totals 20.000 hectares, mostly located in the south-west of the island. Production in 2000 amounted to around 500.000 hectolitres of wine, mostly liqueur wines. There are only a few grape varieties planted. However, the vines are ungrafted, as the island has not been infested with phylloxera. Large amounts of table grapes and raisins are produced. The leading grape varieties are the indigenous red varieties Mavro and Ophtalmo, as well as the white varieties Xynisteri (Aspro) and Muscat d´Alexandrie. European standard varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Carignan, Grenache Noir, Mourvèdre and Syrah were introduced from the mid-1970s, but they account for only 10% of the total vineyard area. The best-known wines are the sweet wine Commandaria, the rosé retsina variant Kokkineli as well as sherry-style wines (however, the term „Cyprus sherry”, which was widely used, is no longer permitted). The wines are frequently marketed under names drawn from Greek mythology. The four largest wineries are Etko, Keo, Loel and Sodap, which all have their headquarters in the area around the capital of Limassol in the south of the island. They produce by far the largest share of the wine. A number of smaller wineries produces outstanding wines. They include Amforeas, Fikardos, Kolios, Kyperounda, Linos, Tsiakkas as well as Vlassides, the latter considered by many to be the best producer on Cyprus.