Retsina – queen of wines for 4,000 years!

Retsina (Greek: Ρετσίνα) is a Greek white (or rosé) resinated wine with its unique flavor said to have originated from the practice of sealing wine vessels, particularly amphorae, with Aleppo Pine resin in ancient times.

Retsina – The Greek summer “aroma” 

What other wine can boast an unbroken history of 4,000 years? Unless some new archaeological discoveries prove us wrong, retsina is the only wine with this distinction. Archaeologists have discovered that the Minoans knew of retsina four millennia ago. In fact they used it in their cooking.

Popular anecdotes about the evolution of retsina stem from the Roman conquest of Greece. Stories claim that the Romans plundered the wines of Greece, angering the citizens who turned to pine resin as a way of extending their store of wine and as a deterrent to their thirsty conquerors. The harsh flavor was said to put off the Romans, who refused to drink the bitter ferment.

After the 1970s consumers moved away from the tradition of retsina. With the rise in living standards, people began to encounter wines which were more delicate, both in terms of aroma and of quality. These were the decades when anything related to the countryside and to traditions was thought of as “passé”. But nowadays it is most “trendy” to have an exclusive meal accompanying it with the traditional retsina wine even in the most stunning locations
Yet in the midst of the “life-style revolution” a few winemakers took care to ensure that this four thousand year old legacy was not lost. With the highest quality grapes and modern know-how, they strived to produce retsina which lived up to its name.

It is mostly produced from Savatiano, Attica’s indigenous grape, always with resin from the pine tree Pinus Halepensis added to the must.  There is also a rose retsina called kokkineli which included Roditis grapes. Local Retsina is produced throughout the country with Assyrtiko and Rhoditis sometimes blended in, as well as other grape varieties throughout Greece. On the island of Rhodes, Athiri is the main grape. Modern Retsina is made following the same winemaking techniques of white wine or rosé with the exception of small pieces of Aleppo Pine resin added to the must during fermentation.

The European Union treats the name “Retsina” as a protected designation of origin and traditional appellation for Greece and parts of the southern regions of Cyprus. An Australian wine style made in South Australia can be called “resinated wine” but not “Retsina”.

The new barrels were opened on the feast day of St Dimitrios.  This was the Greek “nouveau” wine of that time, also known as “yiomatari”, in contrast to the last of the wine from the previous year which was known as “sosma”. And, as well as its history, there is no other wine that is such a good accompaniment to the strong flavours of Greek cuisine. Cod with garlic sauce, fried fish, meatballs, tzatziki, and dishes cooked in olive oil are all crying out for retsina as an accompaniment.

The humble retsina can become an exceptionally good wine in the hands of a good winemaker. Do not miss out on this experience. The deposed Queen once again regained her place in the hearts of wine lovers.


(Sources: wikipedia, winesofathens)

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