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Cypriot varieties an emerging favourite for drought tolerance – and taste

RD&A News | July 2021
09 Jul 2021
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Australian consumers have given several drought-resistant grape varieties native to Cyprus the thumbs up on taste, a new study has found.

The study found that the concentration of flavour compounds in the white Cypriot wines trialled was comparable to Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Associated consumer trials identified two clusters of consumers who liked Xynisteri[1] ‘equally or more’ than Pinot Gris and Chardonnay; while another cluster rated wine made from the red Cypriot grape variety Maratheftiko[2] on par, or more than Shiraz.

Lead author Alexander Copper, a PhD candidate from the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, said the research adds further support for considering Cypriot varieties for use in Australia.

Earlier research with Cypriot grape varieties Maratheftiko and Xynisteri concluded the varieties adapted well to a hot climate.

In this new study, researchers investigated the role of aroma impact compounds known as polyfunctional thiols, which contribute to the ‘tropical’ aroma and flavour of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Working with collaborator Dr Dimitra Capone, an ARC Research Associate with the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production at the University of Adelaide, the team looked at five thiols in Xynisteri, Maratheftiko and Giannoudhi[3]  wines (which were produced in Cyprus and imported to Australia for the study), and then compared them to three varieties more commonly produced in Australia – Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Shiraz (wines were produced in Australia for the study).  

“We found that Xynisteri had levels of flavour compounds in the Cypriot wines comparable to those in Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. These compounds are generally known for their contribution to the tropical aroma and flavour of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wines,” Alex said.

He said each white wine analysed contained thiol compounds responsible for grapefruit, tropical fruit and passionfruit aromas (3‐sulfanylhexyl acetate and 3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol) at well above their sensory threshold. The compound associated with struck flint and meaty characters were much lower in concentration (benzyl mercaptan).

A compound responsible for the aroma of roasted coffee (2‐furfurylthiol) was only detected in the Chardonnay and four of the Xynisteri wines. A final thiol with aroma attributes of blackcurrant and boxwood (4‐methyl‐4‐sulfanylpentan‐2‐one) was only detected in Pinot Gris and three Xynisteri wines.

In the sensory trials for the white wines, attributes of apple, pear, stone fruit, tropical, confectionery, herbal and grassy were identified in six Xynisteri, one Pinot Gris and one unwooded Chardonnay. In the associated consumer trial, two clusters of consumers liked Xynisteri equally or more than Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, while the third consumer cluster preferred the Pinot Gris and Chardonnay.

“Only Maratheftiko and Shiraz had the thiol 3-sulfanylhexan-1-ol detected which is responsible for attributes of blackcurrant, berry, jam, earthy, plum and soy in red wines,” Alex said.

“In the red wine sensory trials attributes of jammy, sweet, smooth, dried fruit, confectionery, woody, and chocolate were identified in three Maratheftiko samples and one Shiraz sample.

“In the associated consumer trial, Maratheftiko was liked equally to Shiraz and in two consumer clusters it was liked more than the Shiraz.”

However, Alex said there were only a small number of wines assessed in the thiol, sensory and consumer trials.

“While the results are promising, larger scale studies of wines from multiple vintages, soil types and irrigation regimes are needed to better understand the quality parameters of these wines.”

Alexander Copper is the recipient of a Wine Australia scholarship for his PhD research.


[1] Xynisteri, a white grape variety, is pronounced similarly to zin-is-tear-ee

[2] Maratheftiko, a red grape variety, is pronounced similarly to mar-ah-thef-tiko

[3] Giannoudhi, a red grape variety, is pronounced similarly to yah-noo-dee

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