Cyprus is famous for producing several traditional grape-related beverages, such as wine (especially, Commandaria) and zivania, as well as desserts, like palouzes and soutzoukos. Given that some of the equipment, recipes, techniques, and processes used to make these products have been handed down for thousands of years, they form an important part of Cyprus’ tangible and intangible heritage. This case study will focus specifically on highlighting Cyprus’ very long history of wine and zivania making by digitizing two items of antiquity related to the storage of wine (Chalcolithic wine jars) and the production of zivania (the zivania alembic) that are currently exhibited at the Cyprus Wine Museum located in the village of Erimi in the Limassol District. The aim is to holistically document these artefacts in order to contribute towards enriching the islands digitally recorded tangible and intangible heritage regarding the making of wine and other grape-related products.
Dikaios’ excavation of Bamboula in 1932-35, archaeologists discovered a number of egg-shaped jars in Erimi that date back to 3000 BC. These jars have long
narrow necks and a pointed nipple base, very similar to the late Greek-Roman jars. Interestingly, these jars have no handles, unlike ancient Egyptian jars.
In April 2005, on the suspicion that these jars were used to hold wine, experts from both Limassol and Lefkosia Archaeological Museums carried out tests by scraping and analyzing the bases of the pottery fragments, which remained unwashed and still kept in their original boxes. Out of 18 bases, twelve bottoms contained large traces of tartaric acid (a naturally occurring acid found in a number of fruits, especially grapes), while the remaining six only contained some traces of the acid. Hence, the research concluded that the Chalcolithic jars were indeed used to intentionally process wine and, furthermore, that the jars with their specific form can be considered the predecessors of amphora-type wine storage vessels in Cyprus. Interestingly, the museum also exhibits other traditional wine storage vessels, like the pitharia jars from the villages of Kornos and Phini. These large terracotta storage jars were usually placed two-thirds of the way underground so that they would better maintain the wine a constant temperature.
Zivania is a Cypriot pomace brandy with around 40-50% alcohol content. It is made by distilling a mixture of the solid grape pulp residue from the wine-making process (pressed skins, stalks and pips) and dry wines. The Cyprus Wine Museum exhibition contains an early alembic apparatus that was used for distilling zivania. The apparatus consists of a bronze cauldron in which the grape pulp is boiled, a heavy semispherical lid made of metal and fired clay, a long tube passing through a large clay jar filled with cold water, and a vase for collecting the eau de vie.