South Australia to embrace tasty Cypriot wine variety

You might soon be taking a new wine to your next Aussie barbecue: xynisteri.

Researchers led by Alexander Copper have been investigating three Cypriot grape varieties at the University of Adelaide. As well as growing well in hot and dry Australian vineyards, the grapes proved to make tasty wines comparable to pinot gris and ghardonnay.

A man stands behind tall plants
Alex Copper with propagated xynisteri vines at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus.

“With climate change placing greater strain on the resources needed to sustain viticulture, it is necessary for the global wine industry to investigate alternative grape varieties better suited to hotter climates,” says Copper.

“While the ability to tolerate hotter climates is critical for any alternative varieties considered, they also need to deliver on taste.”

The team investigated the compounds responsible for aroma and flavour – called thiols – in xynisteri, a white grape, and maratheftiko and giannoudhi, two red varieties.

They found the white wines had grapefruit, passionfruit and tropical aromas, and that their concentrations of thiols was similar to popular pinot gris, chardonnay and sauvignon blancs. Xynisteri was particularly popular when taste tested.

Cypriot and shiraz and sauvignon blanc leaves
Leaves of Cypriot varieties compared to shiraz and sauvignon blanc leaves. Credit: University of Adelaide.

“The panel of wine experts in the sensory study identified flavours upon tasting xynisteri wines that were comparable to pinot gris, which aligns with what we found when analysing the compounds present in both pinot gris and several varieties of xynisteri,” says Copper.

“In consumer trials, consumers ‘liked’ the flavour of the Cypriot varieties, and in one segment of consumers, xynisteri was preferred to pinot gris.

“This latest research adds further support for considering Cypriot varieties for use in Australia and other hot wine growing regions.”

The xynisteri grapes will be trialled by Paulmara Wines in the Barossa Valley later this year.

A paper describing the research is published in OENO One.

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