Zivania or zivana (Greek: ζιβανία, ζιβάνα) is a Cypriot pomace brandy produced from the distillation of a mixture of grape pomace and local dry wines made from Xynisteri and Mavro grapes. The name of zivania is derived from zivana (Greek: ζίβανα) which means pomace in the Greek dialect of Cyprus. Zivania is colourless and alcoholic with a light aroma of raisins. Its alcohol content varies, with 45% by volume being the typical value. As defined by law, zivania shall not have more than 60% alcohol content. Zivania contains no sugars and has no acidity.
The Tsiakkas Winery Aged zivania gets its color by remaining 10 years in commandaria ( sweet wine oak barrels ) before bottling!
It is unknown when zivania was first produced in Cyprus. Some believe that the method of producing zivania, which resembles that of producing tsipouro, was brought to Cyprus by monks of Mount Athos in the 15th century while others believe that zivania has been produced in Cyprus since the time the Republic of Venice ruled the island, around the end of the 15th century. Evidence of its continued production during Ottoman and British rule of the island comes from writers such as the British writer Samuel Baker who in 1879 reports: “…the refuse of skins and stalks is laid upon one side to ferment for the manufacture of raki, or spirit, by distillation…”.
According to the law regarding the regulation and control of grape products of 1965 (52/1965) (Greek: Ο περί Ρυθμίσεως και Ελέγχου της Βιομηχανίας Αμπελουργικών Προϊόντων Νόμος του 1965 (52/1965) zivania is defined as “an alcoholic drink containing no more than 60% alcohol per volume which is produced exclusively from the first distillation of wine, grapes and pomace that went through fermentation or raisins or any other remains of the same” (Greek: “ζιβανία” σημαίνει οινοπνευματώδες ποτόν περιέχον ουχί πέραν των 60% οινόπνευμα παραγόμενον αποκλειστικώς και μόνον διά της πρώτης αποστάξεως οίνων, τρυγίας, σταφυλών αι οποίαι υπέστησαν ζύμωσιν ή σταφίδων ή οιωνδήποτε υπολειμμάτων τούτων).
The production of zivania starts with the pressing of mature healthy grapes to produce must. The density of the grape must is then checked with a Baumé hydrometer to ensure it has a density value of less than 13° Baumé. This is necessary for the must to achieve complete and proper fermentation. The grape must, together with pomace, are then placed in large containers and let to ferment. Traditionally, the must-pomace mixture was placed in large clay containers (pithos, Greek: πιθάρι). As soon as the fermentation process completes (i.e. the fermented must is checked to have a value of less or equal to 0° Baumé), the fermented must-pomace mixture is transferred to the main container of the still (kazani, Greek: καζάνι) for the distillation.
The still is called lampikos (Greek: λαμπίκος, IPA: [lam’bikos]; see also alembic) in the Greek dialect of Cyprus. In some villages of Cyprus, a single lampikos was usually shared and used by all of the villagers. It is noteworthy that the traditional zivania stills are similar to those used for tsikoudia in Crete.
Once the main container of the still is hermetically shut, fire is set under it. The fire is monitored and maintained in order to produce constant heat. The first zivania that comes from the still has the highest alcohol content, while the last taken out of the apparatus has a low alcohol content and it is called porakos (Greek: πόρακος).
Depending on the pre-distillation mixture, different qualities of zivania are produced:
- Zivania produced using only wine for the distillation
- Zivania produced using wine and pomace for the distillation
- Zivania produced using pomace, water and weak zivania