Commandaria St. Nicholas: 4,000 years of History in a Bottle...

Commandaria has a rich history dating back to Homeric times when it was a popular drink at festivals celebrating the goddess of beauty Aphrodite who emerged from the sea at Paphos in Cyprus - a scene immortalized by Botticelli's famous painting, "the Birth of Venus".

A dried grape wine from Cyprus was first known to be described in 800 BC by the Greek poet Hesiod and was known as the Cypriot Manna. Previously it was called "Mana" the Greek word for "Mother". The reason for this is very interesting. The wine was matured in giant earthenware jars. When the time came to pour it out, a certain amount was left in the bottom. When the new wine was added, the old wine helped it to mature. So the old became the mother of the new. It is very likely that the Commandaria you can buy today is the original Cypriot wine enjoyed by the Greek poet Homer and drunk by the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The grapes are spread out to dry in the sun, then pressed. The juice is collected and fermented in old, very large wooden barrels.

Commandaria has been made with the same method since the Knights of St. John and the Knight Templars who came to Cyprus from Jerusalem in 1192 after purchasing Cyprus from Richard the Lionheart, King of England (1189-1199). The Knight Templars and Knights of St. John established their headquarters on the southern side of the Island at Kolossi, near Limassol. At Kolossi they built their castle and their stores. Kolossi was the centre of an immense area which was the Feud of the Knights and called “La Grande Commanderie”. The sweet wine was mainly produced in the Grande Commandarie area and came to known as “Commandaria”. At that time Commandaria was exported to all the civilized countries and was placed on the tables of kings and rulers as King of Wines, it was the favourite sweet wine of the Plantagenet Kings of England. In course of time the demand for Commandaria gradually increased and its greatest consumption during the reign of Elizabeth I. Until the Turkish occupation of Cyprus in 1571, immense quantities of Commandaria were sent to Venice, Genoa, Leghorn, Trieste, Constantinople, Islands of the Archipelago, Smyrna, Syria and Egypt. Legend has it an Ottoman sultan invaded the island just to acquire Commandaria. And the grapes used to make this wine were the same grapes exported to Portugal that eventually became famous as the source of port wine.
Although today it is produced and marketed under the name Commandaria, it has been referred to with several similar names and spellings in the past. In 1863, Thomas George Shaw in his book Wine, the vine, and the cellar refers to this wine as Commanderi whilst in 1879, Samuel Baker refers to it as Commanderia. In 1833 Cyrus Redding in his book A history and description of modern wines makes reference to the wine of the Commandery.
      Until today “Commandaria continues to be produced as in days gone by, improved only by the selection of grapes and a better treatment and with its name and quality protected by an appellation d’origine. The preparation of Commandaria is a very old lesson which is handed down from generation to generation.
Commandaria goes great with dried figs, any type of dark chocolate, ice cream and smooth goat’s cheese. Commandaria is not only delightful as drink, but it’s also perfect as meal or drink ingredient. Below are two incredible recipes with Commandaria… ; ;   


Ø  HAVANA COOLER Cocktail By Tony Abou-Ganim (US Top Mixologist)

1 oz St. Nicholas Commandaria sweet wine
1 ½ oz Bourbon 
1 oz fresh lemon juice
2 oz apple cider or juice
1 oz ginger syrup*
 Add Commandaria Wine, bourbon, lemon juice, apple juice, and syrup to a mixing glass of a Boston shaker set. Shake with ice until well blended. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass and garnish with a fan of apples.
 *Homemade Ginger Syrup directions:
2 cups sugar + 2 cups water + 1 cup fresh ginger, peeled and cubed
Bring water and ginger to a boil. Dissolve sugar and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and then strain liquid to remove ginger.

Ø  Signature Commandaria Cocktail By Avra Estiatorio Restaurant

Glass Serving
2 parts Red Dry wine
1 part Commandaria
½ part Triple Sec (optional)
Splash of Orange Juice
Splash of Sprite
Chopped Apples & Oranges
Pitcher serving
1 bottle of Cyprus dry red wine, preferably Mavro
1 ½ cups Commandaria
1 cup Sprite or Ginger Ale
1 splash of Orange Juice
2 shots Triple Sec (optional)
1 Orange cut into wedges
1 Apple cut into wedges 

Stir ingredients in a pitcher or carafe.  Allow fruit to soak in the mixture between 3 and 8 hours Serve in an ice-filled glass.

Commandaria St. Nicholas produced by ETKO won a Grand Gold award at the Cyprus Wine Competition 2009.