Retsina (“Re – tsee -nah”) is the best known traditional Greek wine. Its reputation was not always positive, where it had long overshadowed other distinguished Greek wines and appellations.
According to archaeological finds and countless written articles, regarding its production and consumption, Retsina, or “retinitis oenos” as it was called in antiquity, has been steadily produced for thousands of years. Some of the main reasons for the use of pine resin used in vinification are indicated below:
• The proximity of vineyards to resin-producing pine forests, especially in Central Greece.
• It was used to seal the mouth of amphorae (ancient ceramic vessels used for storage and transportation of wine) and coat their interior for insulation and preventing the wine from coming into contact with air.
• Resin was added as a wine preservative.
• Wine barrels made of pinewood (in later years).
• As an additive, it improved the composition of inferior wines.
• It lent the wine its particular aroma (a vinification practice is still in use today).
Retsina is produced by the addition of the natural resin extracted from Pinus halepensis (commonly known as Aleppo Pine), during fermentation of white, and in rare cases, of rosé wines. Having left its aroma in the wine, the resin was then removed. The main grape variety used in the production of Retsina is savvatiano, and to a lesser degree, Roditis.
Premium quality Retsina carries the characteristic balsamic aroma of pine, which does not inhibit grape aromas. The imperceptible sense of bitterness leaves a refreshing aftertaste akin to that of a carbonated refreshment, and that makes Retsina the ideal companion of some flavourful dishes in traditional Greek cuisine.
Retsina is only produced in Greece, and can carry the indication of “Traditional Designation” (as it is also the case with Verdea wine). Areas best known for their Retsina production and permitted to carry their designation on the label of Retsina are all in Central Greece:
• Attica (mainly the area of Mesogia)