Retsina Renaissance

The ancient Greeks taught humanity an important craft – winemaking. Unfortunately, most of their secrets were lost. However, there was one recipe that has been preserved and has reached our days – the resin wine “Retsina”. This is the business card of Greece, its manufacturing technology is allowed exclusively in this country.

Retsina is a white pitch table wine with a strength of 11.5%. Less commonly, rosé wine made using a similar technology, called “coccholine”. Such «pitch» wines were known about 3,000 years ago.

There is a very beautiful name for this drink – “Love from the third sip”. From the first sip you feel the taste of tar, from the second – the taste of wine, and from the third – you get the true taste of retsina. You fall in love with retsina, or refuse from its further use. Indifferent to remain simply impossible.

In spite of Retsina has a long history as a traditional Greek wine  many have disdained and tried to avoid it wine, but as the New York Times’ Eric Asimov reported in his article “Great Retsina, an Oxymoron No More,” it is time for wine enthusiasts to give restina another try.

Asimov writes, “The flavor of retsina, a wine infused with the resin of pine trees, has often been likened to turpentine, even by people who like the stuff. Most modern retsinas are made with poor, thin wine. A potent addition of resin masks the dullness of the base with a sharp, bracing pungency.”

The pine resin in wine goes back to ancient times when Greek winemakers “used pine resin to line and seal terracotta amphoras”. Asimov reported, adding that “even after wooden barrels replaced amphoras as the preferred storage vessels, the Greeks retained their taste for retsina.”

A hundred years ago, when Greece was still largely agricultural, farming communities would drink retsina made from the local white wine. Taverns and families might tap the local pines for their own supply of fresh resin.

Mass-market retsina today is often the cheapest wine, mixed with Coca-Cola for a buzz college students can afford, the Times reported.

Some producers are now making retsina more “thoughtfully and carefully, from grapes grown conscientiously”. It can be a delicious wine that goes beautifully not only with a wide variety of Greek foods, but with many other assertive cuisines.

“The producers who have embraced retsina are not trying to transform it into a profound wine, a collectible or a bottle worth aging to show its complexities,” Asimov writes, noting that “instead, they want to turn retsina into a cultural tradition of which modern Greeks can be proud.”

Asimov’s first encounter with a “good” retsina was at Souvla in San Francisco. “I tried a glass with a smoky, charred lamb salad, and loved it,” he wrote. “It’s an experience I’ve had the pleasure of repeating several times since.”

The retsina was “Ritinitis Nobilis from Gaia, one of Greece’s best modern wineries,” Asimov noted, adding that “since it was first issued, back in 1998, Gaia has been trying to redefine retsina as a proud custom rather than a genre to be shunned.” Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, a founder and the winemaker at Gaia, was inspired over a quarter of a century ago while working at Boutari where his mentor Yiannis Boutaris’ remark that “retsina can be a wine of quality”.

“Quality retsinas didn’t really exist back then,” Paraskevopoulos told the Times, adding that “at the time, they were more a source of shame.” “Retsina was Greece’s national wine, and as such it needed protection. The thing is, you can neither protect nor promote something that isn’t good. I had to make a good one,” Paraskevopoulos told.

Most retsina is made with savatiano grapes which have a reputation for producing dull wines. In this connection, the name “folk wine” is sometimes used for recins – that is, it is available to the common people. Despite the simplicity of the recipe, not everyone is able to produce high-quality recine, and its taste is different in different areas of Greece.

The Times reported that Paraskevopoulos instead savatiano grapes “chose roditis grapes, which can make fresh, spicy wines, grown at relatively high altitudes, 2,300 to 3,300 feet above sea”. He also paid close attention to the quality of the resin, making sure it was especially fresh. The result was a refreshing, invigorating wine, with a bright pungency that seems ready-made for Greek cooking.

Currently, for the manufacture of a drink, pitch of Aleppo pine is used, which is added during the fermentation period, and after its completion is removed. It is believed that the maximum permissible ratio of resin / wine is 10 grams per 1 liter. A strong pitch smell is an indicator of poor quality drink.

Asimov was also impressed by Manolis Garalis’ retsina from the island of Lemnos, made with organic muscat of Alexandria grapes, which is the only white grape they have on the island. Besides Ritinitis Nobilis from Gaia, the Georgas and Garalis retsinas, Asimov also recommended Tetramythos and Kechris’s Tear of the Pine for those interested in exploring the retsina renaissance.

Traditionally, it is customary to drink rezina chilled to 8–10 degrees and from special copper steins or ordinary wine glasses. It is in chilled retsina gives the entire palette of a sunny drink with pine aroma, notes of herbs and exotic fruits. Retsina recommended to use within a year after its production.

Because of its astringent taste, it is excellent for well-seasoned fish and seafood dishes, as well as popular Greek dishes with garlic, such as dzadziki or scordalia. Retsina goes beautifully with roasted lamb, its punchy flavors refusing to knuckle under to the savory meat.

Retsina is a wine that is guaranteed to bring you a lot of the brightest impressions in the tasting process. This wine has almost no analogues in terms of taste.

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