Dr. Edward Peters


Updated 17 dec 2012


This website is best

viewed 1152 x 864




Personal Dessert Wines

Commandaria I: St. John’s  


Cyprus gives the impression, at least to those of us who know it only from afar, of having been passed over by much of the second millenium’s march of progress. In Homeric times, however, it was regarded as a place near the center of the world, and the warrior Richard the Lion-Hearted thought highly enough of the island fortress to have it host his wedding to Berengaria. But since the collapse of the Crusades, and the eventual takeover of the area by Turkish Mohammedans, neither technology nor capitalism have sunk very deep roots in the volcanic soil that boasts one of the most wine-benign climates in the world. For devotees of sweet dessert wines, there is cause for rejoicing here.  


Commandaria is the Cypriots’ outstanding gift to the world of wine. Since the days when Aphrodite was first worshipped by young hoplites with javelins (as opposed to aging feminists with cell phones), grapes harvested from the south slopes of Cyprus have been set out to raisin a week in the Mediterranean sun, and then are crushed, fermented, and aged. The Knights Templar, during their long breaks between battles, worked out the optimum grape varieties and times for harvest, semi-drying, and fermentation. Their process (in truth, not much different from that of the ancient Greeks) has been preserved virtually intact for nearly 1,000 years, happily, if curiously, more-or-less ignored most of this time by Cyprus’ anti-alcohol Muslim overlords.  


The result is a superb, non-vintage, sweet dessert wine with naturally high alcohol (+15%) and a very forward burnt raisin flavor. Commandaria St. John by Keo of Lemosos is an excellent introduction to fine Cypriot wine, and it graciously retails at $ 15 or a bit less in the US.  


Douglas Bushman recently made an excellent sipping suggestion toward which I admit I was initially skeptical. Begin the evening’s conversation with a good tawny port (he was serving Australian Clocktower, as I recall, while a Dallas thunderstorm was building in the north) but follow it up with an imperceptibly chilled Commandaria in the same glass. It was heaven, and we talked till two, while the storm passed harmlessly to the east. +++  


First Installment