Friday, September 28, 2012

Budget Island Wines: The List!

In this harsh economic climate, with your pockets desperate for cash, you might have to think twice before swiping any of your credit cards for a couple bottles of ten Euro wines. Personally, I have all but given up on my dream of making out on a daily basis with bottles of pricy Burgundy and settled for Tetra Pak wines, Cypriot moonshine and the local equivalent of Natural Light, a piss-in-a-can kind of beer that brings back looooovely memories of my first year in college. All because alcohol soothes the worried heart and empty wallet.

So in honor of these perilous times and before troika (the European Commission, IMF and European Central Bank) straps us onto that torture machine known as fiscal reforms, here's a list of budget island wines (under five Euros!) to make it all seem just like a bad dream. By the way, I will update this list regularly as I ramp up my household's consumption of cheap wine. Stay tuned.

2011 Marks & Spencer Nerello Mascalese (Sicily) - Nose dominated by red fruit and plenty of smokiness. A very fruit-forward wine with touches of cherry and raspberries. Light, smooth and with chewy tannins. For 4.50 Euros, great, and one to chill a bit before serving. Plus, they redesigned the label and replaced the cork for a screw-top—it's now much snazzier. 89/100.

2010 LIDL Kritikos (Kotsifalia and Mandilaria from Crete) - Forrest fruit and cherries on the nose. Very short finish. Smooth yet simple. Okay for the four Euro price-tag. 84/100.

2011 LIDL Santorini Assyrtiko - Muted yet fresh bouquet marked by citrus, orange-like aromas. To the mouth, a citrus explosion accompanied by the vibrant acidity associated to the variety. Little minerality, short, not as complex and maybe a tad gloppy compared to higher-end versions. For €4.99, though, definitely worth drinking and great for the summer scorch. 84/100.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Introducing Hacienda "El Establo"

The Road to Nowhere
It took us close to two hours from Nicosia to reach the narrow road into Kato Arodhes. We sat in the car by the side of the road, waiting for R.O.I., his wife and The Duke of Ducati to drive by and lead us to our sleeping quarters for the evening. A two-story eyesore of a house entertained us for what felt like a half an hour wait with its owner's impeccable architectural gusto; terracotta-toned statues of frogs, saddled ponies, menacing eagles, giant mushrooms and roaring lions surrounded a tacky fountain and stood guard by the entrance of what must be a Russian magnate's idea of the American dream. After wiggling our way through several tight bends, rows of beautifully renovated stone houses stood on both sides, we reached the southern edge of town, a road that seemingly led to nowhere and a wooden gate that creaked as it swung open and invited us in. 

Hacienda "El Establo"
The small yet idyllic two-bedroom stone house, which was a stable in its previous incarnation and was refurbished by The Duke's family, is the archetypical Cypriot mountain retreat. Rusticity, hominess and the unencumbered sound of nature come together to provide the perfect escape from boisterous beaches, traffic-tortured cities and snotty crowds. A beautiful shaded outdoor patio and an orchard full of citrus and plum trees that shake and rustle like XXL maracas as the refreshing breeze works its way up the hills from the island's western shore serve as center stage for drinking, dining and disassociating from everyday life. Just around the corner, quasi-identical stone houses, all like first cousins in a sleepy village, line the meandering streets and give the place that same touch of symmetry found in a meticulous architect's sketchbook. And not too far, the wild and uncrowded beaches of Latsi and Polis Chrysochous, century-old monasteries and churches, boutique wineries and roads slithering like serpents down the mountains. In fact, your chances of crossing paths with ravenous snakes, rats, lizards and other polychromatic critters are much improved at these lofty elevations, but this should not detract from what I consider to be the superior and most relaxing weekend getaway on The Rock. What's that? Protaras? Sorry, I can't hear you, my piece of shit phone ran out of batteries.

Foukou in Action
Agritourism, the sort of tourism that hosts visitors in farms, ranches and rural cottages, has taken off since I moved to The Rock six very long years ago. In an effort to introduce tourists to life in traditional Cypriot villages, the Cyprus Tourism Organization (CTO) initiated "a programme of restoration of traditional houses and enhancement of the traditional element in Cyprus villages." Under this initiative managed by the Cyprus Agrotourism Company and subsidized by the Cypriot government, dozens of tattered rural abodes have been restored to their past charm and put up for rent for the benefit of guests willing to discover the island's countryside. Accommodation ranges from single bedrooms in countryside hotels with basic amenities to fully-stocked, multiple bedroom houses, some with swimming pools and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean, vineyards and rolling, dried-up hills. Price, location and availability also vary, and all participating properties can be booked directly through the Cyprus Agrotourism Company website.

Patacones on The Rock
Even though The Duke's hillside quarters are only available to his fancy friends, I recommend scouring through the listing so that you too can some time escape reality. That cool night, after a long swim in Latsi's empty seas, we uncorked two Kyperounda whites and several bottles of KEO and Grolsch, grilled lamb chops, vegetables, halloumi and yoghurt-marinated chicken kebab, and forgot about our lives back in the capital, all to an R&B and old school hip-hop soundtrack cooked up by R.O.I. The mood was so merry, The Wife, Ph.D., in an obvious lapse of judgment, granted me carte blanche to deep-fry plantains and add a hint of mi tierra to the soiree.

2011 Kyperounda Petritis (Xynisteri) - Bright nose with notes of jasmine, citrus and some peach. On the palate, grapefruit and a touch of melon, a meticulous use of oak and nice acidity. 87/100.

2010 Kyperounda Chardonnay - Already reviewed here!