Winemakers in Europe and around the world mention high altitude vines, high altitude plots, high altitude vineyards, the highest in the world and other similar statements. We could not be an exception when it comes to the concept of “high altitude”.
So what is it that makes altitude so tempting and winemakers all around are struggling to prove that they own a vineyard at a high altitude?
High altitude literally means nothing. However, the prevailing view, which is mainly true, is that you cannot manage large areas of land at a high altitude and in result you have no other choice, but to produce small quantities, hence something unique. It takes a lot of effort, because the vineyards are stony, mainly barren, with steep slopes, at least in Cyprus. Summers are shorter with not so high temperatures and winters last longer with relatively low temperatures. Moreover, snow is not so uncommon. In result, high altitude vineyards give smaller production quantities, with dense taste, aroma and slow maturation. Particularly for Cyprus, even the foreign varieties ripen during autumn and not during the summer.
All of these facts are important when it comes to quality. But it is not a guarantee that only altitude can save you from a bad vinification or a bad choice in terms of variety. For instance, certain foreign varieties, no matter in how high altitude they are planted, will not produce positive results, such as Riesling for example, which is a variety in need of cold winters and humid summers, like other varieties of cold regions of Europe.
Paphos for example generally maintains very good temperatures compared to other areas of Cyprus with the same altitudes. Proximity to a river or a forest can easily replace the advantages high altitude has, at least in terms of temperatures.
But if a winemaker has a vineyard at a high altitude, he or she knows what to plant and how to cultivate it, then he or she certainly has an excellent raw material to produce quality wine which is rich with full body and with ageing potential. This was something that was relatively hard to find in Cyprus a few years ago.