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Brew > Have a cocktail with your cuppa March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Nicosia, Food Cyprus, Greek Taste Local.
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An evening spent in a bar that specialises in cups of tea may not sound like your idea of a good night out, but, banish any thoughts of PG Tips and the blue-rinse brigade and, if you’ve not been already, be sure to put the wonderful Brew on your list of bars to visit.

Yes, it has an extraordinary variety of teas (hence the name), but it also has an extensive range of expertly made cocktails, an intriguing selection of light bites and a warm and welcoming ambience that other bars could only wish to have.

Set in Laiki Yitonia, a little gem in the heart of the city, the rabbits’ warren of outside and internal bar areas make Brew one of Nicosia’s prettiest nightspots. During the warm evenings the lovely, intimate tea-lit courtyard is an ideal haven for romantic trysts whilst all year round the inside bar is a perfect place to gather with friends and explore the large variety of drinks and try the tasty salads, sandwiches and soups, such as the exotic sounding carrot, honey and ginger soup, whilst listening to an eclectic mixture of current R&B, dance and indie tracks peppered with a few classics.

The decor is simple but stylish. Aside from a vibrant red wall behind the long glass-topped bar in the main bar area, the rest of the interior is painted white with some floral artwork here and there, with sofas and kafenion style wooden chairs scattered around candle lit tables.

The place is decidedly unpretentious – an increasingly rare attribute for bars in Nicosia. As far as dress is concerned, anything goes – be it sequins, jeans, heels or trainers, it doesn’t matter. And although Brew is the venue for Mixed Olives nights – popular singles events – it lacks that predatory feel of so many other places, instead exuding a relaxed and chilled out atmosphere.

You could spend most of the night perusing the dizzying array of drinks on offer. Whilst tea may not seem initially enticing, one look at the menu, which includes such delights as ‘Octopussy’ – a blend of black teas with vanilla, citrus and lavender, may have you change your mind. There are even teas to combat migraines, menstrual cramps and the flu so there is no excuse for a tummy ache or cold to prevent you from going out.

As tempting as the tea menu was however, I made a beeline for the cocktail list and enjoyed a particularly spicy and zingy Bloody Mary. Some gentle persuasion from Nas, one of the owners, steered me away from ordering a second and opting instead for an interesting sounding mandarin margarita. It was probably one of the best cocktails I’ve ever tasted. Made with freshly squeezed mandarin juice and with just the right balance of sweet and sour, it was quite simply, delicious.

On a roll, I decided to go out with a bang and ordered as my third and final cocktail of the night, the classic choice of 1980s chavs, a Pink Panther. Imagine. The humble Pink Panther has been promoted from student union rocket fuel to a bona fide cocktail. The mind boggles! The sickly flavour of blackcurrant mixed with cider and lager – inexplicably tasty – brought back recollections of precariously balancing plastic tumblers filled with the potent mixture whilst dancing disastrously to Martha and the Muffins. Before attempting to recreate these embarrassing memories I wisely decided I had had enough and should leave whilst my dignity remained more or less in tact. This was around midnight and the bar was getting lively and filling up with a mixed crowd who were drinking teas, cocktails, beers, wine and whatever took their fancy.

‘Something for everyone’ is a much used and often abused description but in the case of Brew, it really could not be more apt.

Brew, 30b Hippocrates Street, Nicosia, Cyprus, tel 22 100133. Opening hours: 11.30am – 2.00am weekdays, 11.30am – 3.00am weekends.

For further reading > https://grhomeboy.wordpress.com/2007/11/03/a-passion-for-tea-tea-for-one/

The chequered past of the Cyprus meze February 12, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus, Food Recipes, Greek Food Culture.
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Not known for its refinement or sophistication, Cyprus cuisine is based on the use of fresh, wholesome ingredients. Its flagship is, of course, the meze, which does show subtle differences to those available elsewhere in the region.

When the British arrived in Cyprus in 1878, they expected to find people with a spark of the Turkish fire and a touch of Grecian taste. They were greatly disappointed as Cypriots were neither oriental nor occidental. “Except in name, they are neither Turks nor Greeks; neither are they an amalgam of these two races. Who then are the Cypriots?” asked one perplexed British official in 1879.

Who are the Cypriots really, with a series of conquerors having left their marks behind? Enriched and diversified by the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantine, Lusignan, Venetian, Ottoman and British, Cypriots have a rather unique disposition. The same can be said about Cyprus cuisine. It is an amalgamation of diverse tastes and textures. Cyprus meze reflects food influenced by the full range of different cultures, civilisations and traditions that have occupied the island. Some may argue that it is more closely related to that of Greece. It is true that in recent years, many dishes have been added which predispose the palate to Greek origins – dishes like tirokafteri, saganaki or kolokithokeftedes (spicy cheese, baked feta and courgette balls).

The origins of meze can be traced to the pre-Islamic wine culture of Persia, where the original meze were sweets to counteract the bitter taste of young wine. Among the very few rare early cookbooks, kebabs and stew-like meat are mentioned in one cookbook written in Baghdad in1226. Nowadays, meze is a type of hors d’oeuvre, an appetiser accompanying drinks.

Cyprus cuisine shares much with the other cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean. For the Arabs, a mazza table can be the entire dinner. In Greece, mezedes or meze platters are almost a kind of institution where diners are encouraged to linger over their meals, and the same applies here. There is an especially strong family resemblance between Greek and Turkish recipes, and it is in no way clear in which direction the influence was strongest. While the Greek cuisine is older, it was also heavily influenced by Persian and Phoenician sources, so it is easy to believe that the central role of lamb, yoghurt, sesame, citrus, flatbreads, and very thin pastries all came from some common central Asian source. Also, meze platters are very similar in concept to the Spanish tapas.

Cyprus’ position at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East has added colourful dimensions that make it different and appetising. Emphasising fresh local ingredients, regional herbs and spices, and in recent years the use of olive oil in cooking, the Cypriot palate is quintessentially Mediterranean in character.

According to Niki Paraskeva, owner of Erinia Tavern, “a meze consists of as many as 30 small plates of food, from savoury dips and vegetables to a wide range of hot, mainly meat, dishes. The restaurant opened in 1934 and the same wholesome, traditional food has been served ever since with very slight variations. “I use the same recipes that my late mother passed on, and I make everything from scratch. I never serve anything that comes ready made in a tub.”

Much more than hors d’oeuvres, the meze often comprises the heart of a meal itself. Some of the dishes you can expect to be served when you ask for a Cyprus meze vary from place to place. Traditionally the appetisers are taramosalata, fish roe blended into a creamy pink dip of pureed potatoes with parsley, lemon juice and finely chopped onion; talatouri, mint and cucumber flavoured yogurt with crushed garlic; tahini, sesame seed paste with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil; horiatiki salata with tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, onion slices, feta cheese, green olives with a dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and local herbs.

Some common vegetable preparations are boiled potatoes in olive oil and parsley, pickled cauliflower and beets, fried courgette with scrambled egg, fried tomato puree with scrambled egg, kolokasi (a sweet potato-like root vegetable) and wild asparagus with egg when in season.

Other popular choices are koupepia, grape leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice; anthous, rice stuffed pumpkin flowers, when in season, halloumi, a delicious soft cheese, (usually grilled) made from sheep milk and spiced with fresh mint; home-made raviolis and kritharaki, orzo in tomato sauce.

The meat dishes will include loukanika, coriander-seasoned sausages, soaked in red wine and smoked; sheftalia, grilled pork sausage, pork or chicken kebabs, afelia, pork marinated in wine and coriander served with burgoul and stifado, beef or rabbit stew casseroled with wine vinegar, onions and spices. Some places may serve ofto kleftiko, chunks of lamb cooked in a sealed clay oven and seasoned with bay leaves and the traditional souvla, chunks of pork, lamb or chicken cooked on skewers.

A traditional sweet treat is a variety of fruit preserves or fried sweet anari bourekia, a kind of ricotta cheese filling in thin pastry.

Cyprus cuisine is not considered one of the world’s most refined and elegant styles of cooking, nor does it involve sophisticated techniques. There is nothing refined about cooking ofto kleftiko or souvla. Good quality produce and the use of wholesome ingredients which are in season are, however, all important in the local cooking.

Here are two Cypriot traditional recipes > 

Pork Afelia [Serves 4]

1kg pork pieces
1 glass red wine, extra for the marinade
3-4 tbsp coriander, crushed
½ glass vegetable oil

* Marinade pork pieces overnight, in enough red wine to cover the meat and 2 tbsp coriander.
* Add oil in a saucepan and heat up. Fry pork pieces on high heat for a few minutes, turning once or twice. Season well, add the rest of the coriander and stir. Pour in the wine and stir for a few minutes adding some water if needed. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the juices have reduced and the meat is tender.
* Serve with pourgouri (burgoul).

Pourgouri [Serves 6]

½ glass vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 fide – fine noodle nests, crushed
2 glasses burgoul
4 glasses water
Salt

* Fry onion in the oil until tender and brown. Add the crushed noodle nests and stir. Add the burgoul and stir more. Pour in the water and season well. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes or until almost all liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and place a clean towel over it.

A passion for tea > Tea for one November 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Cyprus Nicosia, Food Cyprus, Greek Taste Local.
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While most of us make it from a teabag, for one Nicosia woman, the quest for a perfect cuppa has become a lifetime’s adventure

Cyprus is a country renowned for its coffee culture, so the idea of a tea bar may seem somewhat strange. That hasn’t put off Gabrielle Duval though, who has recently opened Brew Lounge and Tea Bar in old Nicosia, which serves more than 24 types of tea.

“Cypriots associate drinking tea with being ill but I’m convinced that Brew will show that drinking tea is an entire lifestyle,” the 30-year-old said. “We have an amazing variety on offer, including classic teas from Sri Lanka, India, China and Japan to name a few, as well as herbal, scented and iced teas.”

She added that she is confident that Cypriots, “will embrace this new lifestyle that they’re not currently familiar with, much like they have done over the last decade with wine, with which we can draw similar analogies.” Duval explained that she has been a tea lover since the age of 18, “when I had to stop drinking coffee for medical reasons and needed to find an alternative.”

While studying in Toulouse, France, Duval discovered a quaint creperie, where the owner initiated her to tea. “This was the beginning of a journey which has been expanding ever since.” She said that she took the decision to open a tea bar in Nicosia, “to follow my passion, indulge in it and share it with others. This became urgent when I couldn’t find any decent tea to drink on the island.” When asked what her favourite is, she hesitated. “That is an impossible question as the variety is so great, with each tea having its own separate character. A different time of day and mood will dictate my choice.”

A teabag is how most of us will take the drink, but Duval said that the contents are the lowest grade of the leaf. “When the leaves are gathered and stored at source, all the leaves that don’t pass the quality requirements of the tea houses are ground together with the rest of the sediment to produce tea bags. Tea has been popularised and made available to the masses through a teabag, but it’s worth noting that it was considered a luxury item until just after WWII.”

So, how does one make the perfect cuppa? “There are certain basic rules and each type of tea has its own way of being brewed,” she noted. “For example, a black tea should be brewed with water of 95 degrees celcius for about five minutes, while green tea should be brewed at 70 degrees and should not infuse for longer than three minutes.”

A true connoisseur will not add milk or sugar, nor will they eat or smoke during a tasting. “The choice of tea pot is also important,” Duval stated. “For example, earthenware pots are ideal for many of the fragrant Chinese black teas as the tannin, the chemical compound, is absorbed by the pot, thus enhancing the next pot to be drunk.”

She also spoke of the drink’s health benefits. “Tea contains anti-oxidants, some are high in vitamin C, while most are diuretic. Some even have properties that lower the body’s temperature, which is great during Cyprus’ hot summers and highly beneficial when running a fever.

Brew also sells rooibos, which, according to Duval, is not technically a tea as it comes from the red bush plant grown in South Africa. “This contains no theine [caffeine] whatsoever and has become popular around the world with those who must eliminate all caffeine from their diet.”

Brew Lounge and Tea Bar, 30b Hippocrates Street, Nicosia, tel 22 100133.

Sampling a tea > We couldn’t leave without a tasting so Duval proceeded to make us an ‘Au Revoir’. The Chinese green tea is blended with traditional Moroccan nanah mint and naturally scented bergamot from Calabria and pepper from Madagascar.

Brew uses a water purifier as the water on the island can be very hard, Duval explained. She poured hot water over the loose leaves, which clearly unravelled and expanded as they absorbed the water, “which releases the flavour.” The contents were left to infuse for three minutes in a glass teapot. The taste and smell was quite minty, while I could also clearly detect the black pepper. I had never before tasted such an unusual tea but it definitely got the thumbs up. Delicious!

Art on and in the bottle October 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus, Wine And Spirits.
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Limited edition wine bottles launched in Paphos, Cyprus

Wine containers have always been marked to give the drinker a rough idea of the history of the wine. When excavating the tomb of Tutankhamen, Howard Carter found a stock of small amphoras each inscribed with the vintage, vineyard and name of the winemaker. Then, in the 18th century, labels were introduced made of parchment. Later, when glue was commercially available, labels pasted onto wine bottles became the norm.

Over the years many famous artists have been commissioned to create unique wine labels for such illustrious houses such as Mouton Rothschild, and keeping up the tradition here in Cyprus is young wine maker Angelos Tsangarides in partnership with artist Joep Klinkenbijl.

Angelos, owner of the Tsangarides Winery, last month celebrated the launch of his limited edition wine labels at the Palia Polis Restaurant in Paphos. He had commissioned a triptych from artist Joep Klinkenbijl, which will be now be displayed on the bottles of his 2006 range of excellent Ayios Ephraim: rose, red and white. During the cocktail reception, the artist then offered the art work up for auction, which went on to generate much needed funds for the Paphiakos Animal Welfare Charity.

Just for the record, there have been some minor scandals regarding the use of risque artwork on wine labels. A fine example has to be the launch made in the 1980s by a now famous winemaker of his sparkling burgundy carrying the name Rene Pogel. This seemed innocent enough and sales went very well until, that is, someone worked out what Rene Pogel meant when spelt backwards. The wine then had to be hastily withdrawn, but unfortunately I have never seen the label used to accompany the bottle, this I believe could be a real collector’s item now.

Tsangarides Winery > Lemona Village, Paphos. Opening hours Saturday and Sunday 9am-6pm or during the week by appointment. Tel: 26 722777 or 99 459232.

One of the Cyprus top wineries uses most varieties available October 7, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus, Wine And Spirits.
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Aes Ambelis Winery > It was always obvious that the Aes Ambelis winery would progress. Since the late eighties, when it was founded, the aim was set: unique wines of premium quality.

George Tripatsas, the Director, said that the winery’s whites and reds were the house wines at many od the leading hotels in Cyprus since late 90’s. The Xynisteri-based dry white had a refreshing tropical fruit taste and the Chardonnay a strong, pink grapefruit flavour. Cretan Savvas Fakoukakis, partner and winemaker, puts emphasis on achieving aromatic complexity and rich, full flavours. For the reds in particular, ageing in fine, new, French oak barrels and cellaring the bottles in their underground cellars contributes extensively to the rich and unique character of his wines.

This modern winery is distinct in architectural style, and the estate is located on the slopes of Kalo Chorio Orinis in the Nicosia district, just 28 km from the capital. Vineyard management is the key phrase that George repeats time after time. And he has actually confessed that he believes the status his wines have achieved is down to this practice.

The winery uses most of the grape varieties available on the island, a combination of local and international varieties. Xynisteri and Semillon are used for the Aes Ambelis dry white, while the red Aes Ambelis is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mourvadre and Maratheftiko. The cosmopolitan Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon form the elite of the varietals. Recently, Aes Ambelis launched Liastos, a dessert wine made with Muscat of Alexandria and the Grand Gold Medalist medium dry rose.

Talking about medals, Aes Ambelis has won awards for wines other than the rose: three gold medals and a silver medal at the Cyprus Wine Competition, a competition that only began last year. No wonder I call this winery the “awards winner”.

2006 Aes Ambelis Chardonnay, Paphos Regional, Alcohol Volume 13.5% > The batonage method was applied, a technique where the wine while ageing on the lees is hand stirred weekly to promote depth and longevity, using new oak barrels for maturing the wine for at least six months. Clear light gold colour, the hue has a bright gold colour on the rim. The wine opens with a touch of creamy aromas of citrus, orange blossoms, ripe peach and red apples on a tropical background and vanilla. The medium body mouthfeel features sweet citrus, ripe peach, lemon/lime and a touch creamy on the finish. Balanced acidity and fruit and toast. Serve not too cold at 11 degrC enjoyed with salad and grilled chicken, scallops in white wine and spinach, pastas with salmon in creamy sauce.

2003 Aes Ambelis Cabernet Sauvignon, Limassol Regional, Alcohol Volume 14% > A silver medal winner at both the International Thessaloniki Wine Competition and the 2006 Cyprus Wine Contest. This wine aged for twelve months in new French oak barrels, and subsequently in the bottle. What we have is probably one of the best Cabs on the island, with a robust, deep red colour. Layers of scent and flavour escape on take off, blackcurrant, cherry, black pepper, tobacco and cedar. A velvety feel seduces your mouth with ripe fruit character and chocolate, leading right to a slightly rustic herbaceous landing. Surprisingly the tannins are smooth in this full-bodied wine. Pair it with rich meats like lamb, grilled steak or salmon or with strong cheese like cheddar at 18 degrC.

2006 Aes Ambelis Shiraz, Limassol Regional, Alcohol Volume 14% > Yet another medal winner, silver in Thessaloniki and gold last year in Cyprus. This Shiraz is aged for 14 months in new, French oak barrels. It is a dense, red-purple wine. The nose reeks of sweet, over-ripe, warm climate Shiraz fruit of black plums and blueberries in particular along with white pepper, dried date and hints of oak. A big, soft, sweet, cloying wine on the palate loaded with herby plum fruit and with very appealing ripe, slightly spicy tannins and fairly soft acidity. Oven roasted leg of lamb, rare roast beef, barbecue steak and mature cheese at 17 degrC. Limited.

Laser Investments signs Coffee Beanery EU franchise rights September 26, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Food Cyprus.
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Cyprus’ Laser Investments Public Ltd. (LAS) announced the signing of a new master franchise agreement between its subsidiary Big Scorer Enterprises Limited and Coffee Beanery Limited for the exclusive development of Coffee Beanery chain in more than 15 countries. Big Scorer Enterprises Limited has also received authorisation to change its name to Coffee Beanery Europe Ltd.

With the signing of the new agreement, the Company has clinched the franchise rights for the following 24 countries: Cyprus, Greece, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Portugal, Ireland, Poland, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, Slovenia, Serbia, Albania, the Czech Republic and Bosnia Herzegovina.

The Company aims to sign agreements with the countries above via third parties, persons and/or companies, with wide experience and know-how in the specific sector. Following this strategy, which has been used in the past with great success, the Company will increase its revenue, since the sale of the rights of the countries above in relation to the royalties that the Company will receive, is expected to generate huge profits.

Businessmen from several countries such as England, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Poland have already expressed their interest. The Company evaluates each case separately.

The Company runs successfully two Coffee Beanery cafes in Cyprus: one in Engomi, Nicosia and one in Limassol. Two more cafes are expected to open in Limassol in September and in Nicosia in October.

Cypriot wines with character September 3, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus, Wine And Spirits.
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Xinisteri is the most popular grape cultivated in Cyprus. Here we try several bottles made from it

I have recently tasted some interesting wines from the indigenous white grape variety, Xinisteri. It accounts for 2,200 hectares under cultivation and is the most wide-spread white grape variety in the Cyprus vineyard. Selected regions for Xinisteri cultivation are Kathikas, Vouni, Panayias, Pitsilia, the Akamas, Laona and Ambelitis.

Xinisteri generally produces fresh, light wines with low alcohol levels, not amenable for ageing and I have always recommended that the wine should be drunk young. Definitely, this is the only indigenous white variety with a significant role in Cyprus winemaking.

Overall, I am impressed with Xinisteri 2006. It is progressing well and it is, in fact, our only hope on the indigenous grapes chapter, not forgetting that this grape is the base of Commandaria. Can’t wait to check on harvest 2007.

2006 Ayioklima, Constantinou Winery, Limassol Region, Alcohol Volume 11.5% > This is a wine from self-taught winemaker Costas Constantinou, who has a small winery at Pera Pedi. Talking to Costas, you realise that he means business. Things are now more dynamic, especially once he moved to his new winery.

Ayioklima is a Xinisteri varietal, probably one of the best I have tasted. Harmony is what I would have named it. Crisp acidity yet silky texture give this wine a complementary ying/yang structure. Light yellow in colour with a touch of green, typical Xinisteri, the nose offers exquisite layers of passion fruit, banana, pineapple, green apple and nectarine with a very subtle herbaceousness. It is not the most complex Xinisteri I have tried but probably the most correct. This is a dry wine on the palate, the barely perceptible residual sugar is balanced by good acidity and a hint of spritz, the body light to medium. There is more citrus fruit on the palate with more lime at the aftertaste. The quintessential fried red mullet, wine, grilled prawns, steamed mussels and soft goat cheese at 9 degrC, fabulous value too.

2006 Amalthia, Fikardos Winery, Pafos Region, Alcohol Volume 12.5% > From another master of Xinisteri, Theodoros Fikardos, who has opted to blend his Xinisteri with the imported varietal of Semillon, the renowned varietal of Bordeaux at Graves and Pessac Leognan. Theodoros prefers his whites with more body, adding flavour and fragrances, mass and balance to the Xinisteri as well as extending the lifespan of the wine.

A very good varietal exhibition; it has a clear, yellow and light green colour. The nose of Amalthia has been improved over the last three years, clean, with a fruity and herbal character, predominantly green apple and pineapple, melon and white peach with just enough grass to tell you that the highest percentage in the bottle is Xinisteri. Light to medium body, dry and crisp, slightly creamier than usual, with good length, subtle flavours of dry grass and citrus fruit, grapefruit, lime. This wine is perfect as an aperitif or with high acid foods like my boiled shrimps drizzled with lemon butter sauce, served at 9 degrC.

2006 Ayia Irini, Fikardos Winery, Pafos Region, Alcohol Volume 12% > Similar blend to Amalthia, however with more residual sugar in order to classify this wine as medium dry. It is yellow green and a bit more intense on the colour with a subtle, round nose, projecting more ripe fruit, as in melon, pineapple and yellow apple with the barest hint of herbal characters. Velvety and smooth on the palate, pink grapefruit character and with crisp acidity. Nectarine note and a herbal overlay in the finish. Great with shellfish and spicy foods at 9 degrC.

2006 Katerina, Fikardos Winery, Pafos Region, Alcohol Volume 12% > Fragrant indeed with the addition of some carbon dioxide. In a blind tasting I would have confused this wine with Asti. Yellow with yet more residual sugar so that it can be described as medium sweet wine. But this is a well balanced wine; displaying some honey and butterscotch aromas yet orange and lemon peel are more predominant. More fruit as in banana, pineapple and guava. Medium bodied and velvety palate, the bracing acidity keeps it from being cloying. Goes beautifully with cheese course, as an aperitif or at 9 degrC pair it with veal and pork with sweetening sauces.

2006 Aes Ambelis Winery Dry white, Limassol Regional, Alcohol Volume 12.5% > Back to Limassol region and a winery located in Kalo Chorio Orinis. Aes Ambelis winery has been one of the most innovative and progressive wineries on the island and it is not by accident that it has already collected a few medals. This blend of Xinisteri and Semillon has a bright, greenish yellow colour, while the aromatic and fruit character is dominated by orange blossoms, fig, lime, green apple, pear and muted melon with some herbal edges. Stylish, though not very complex, this is a medium-bodied white, which is round in the mid-palate, tart and citrusy to the finish. Emphatically varietal, it is a good fit with shellfish.