Retsina, one of the most well-known wine styles in Greece, with Attica as the centre of its production, is experiencing a complete makeover. PGI Retsina of Attiki produces these iconic wines that have re-invented themselves, with new elegant styles, based on quality grapes and moderate resin flavours. In the third and last of our Attica Special features we look at why Retsina is a style of wine that demands to be better known and why Attica has such an important role in the Attica Renaissance.
Next time you are in Athens make sure you try the “new age” Retsina and see if you too are amazed by the turnaround of this region-defining wine.
Retsina throughout the centuries
In ancient times the Amphorae were used to store wines destined for the export markets, and were sealed with pine resin The resin is also natural preservative of wine and was used to protect the wine during the long sea journeys from spoilage and oxidation. Inevitably, the flavour from the resin would leak into the wine adding a flavour that consumers would eventually become accustomed to and enjoy, thus resulting in the birth of Retsina.
During the 1960s, the production of Retsina grew with the help of the tourism “boom” in the Greece. Retsina became synonymous with Greek summers, the blue Aegean sea and seaside, seafood-taverns, serving local delicacies. For many people their first, and only experience with Greek wine was Retsina. Because of the easy access to Athens of this locally produced wine, it became an everyday part of the Athenian table. Unfortunately, although internationally identified with Greece, the quality did not match its prominence since cheap, often oxidized wine, was masked by adding pine resin resulting in a wine that became synonymous with poor quality.
The “re-invention” of Retsina in recent years has changed the profile of this most well-known of Greek wines. It took a new generation of winemakers to realise the potential for a wine that already had name recognition that could also become known for quality and a perfect match for Greek cuisine. Having tapped into the tradition of their region, they now produce Retsinas under the PGI Retsina of Attiki (ΠΓΕ Ρετσίνα Αττικής) that are elegant and balanced between top quality varietal fruit and essential botanical aromas of the resin.
The finest examples are a harmonious marriage of the aromas and flavours of pine, sage, rosemary, mastic gum and ginger that compliment and bring out the varietal fruit of the wine. Each sip reveals a lovely interplay of intensity, freshness and complexity, which makes Retsina an incredibly food-friendly wine, especially for the variety of different flavours that define the festive Greek family table. If there is one thing we all look forward to when travelling, it is the chance to see first-hand how the locals really live and share a taste of their authentic heritage. There is no better way to enjoy Greek hospitality than by raising a glass of PGI Retsina of Attiki (NCE Peroíva ATTIKńs). and dreaming of the blue Aegean.
Retsina is made by adding a special type of pine resin (Pinus Halepensis tree) during the fermentation. The total quantity cannot exceed 1kg per 100 liters of must. The resin is placed in a porous bag into the must and removed after imparting its aromas and taste, with today’s winemakers using less resin and time with the must to produce todays new-age Retsinas. Savatiano dominates the production of PGI Retsina of Attiki (nre Petoiva ATTIKńs).
Making the leap – what has changed
• Exceptional grape-growing techniques leading to excellent raw material
• Use of cutting edge wine technology and a variety of containers such as stainless steel tanks, oak barrels, cement tanks and the “modern Amphorae”
• Amount of resin added has been severely reduced from the past with producers looking for the right balance between the herbal, balsamic aromas of the resin and the fruit expression of the grape.
• Only fresh Resin is picked and used in order to extract the finest of its aromas during the vinification.
• The amount of time with the must and temperature during extraction is carefully monitored to create the new, elegant Retsinas being produced. Winemakers are also experimenting in the vineyard to grow quality fruit and together with the resin flavors, find the perfect balance.
• Elegant aromas of pine, sage, rosemary, mastic gum, ginger and spices compliment the fruit, rather than dominating the flavor profile.
• The best new-age Retsinas also show ageing potential
Retsina and Food
Retsina pairs with a range of cuisines and recipes, and is probably the best way to fully appreciate the wine’s unique character. For many people, Retsina is the ultimate food-friendly wine that comes from the Greek vineyard. It compliments many foods, and even works extremely well with contrasting or very intense flavors. When it comes to pairing, the wine’s pungent flavours can match almost anything and even works with dishes that are regarded as notorious wine-killers for any other wine because of their intense flavours. Every sip is an interplay of complex flavors and freshness that can stand up to the profusion of flavours that define the classic Greek table. This versatility is a key aspect of Retsina’s character.
Enjoy PGI Retsina of Attiki (OTE Peroíva ATTIKS) with salted, strong flavored fish, raw shellfish, with a variety of seafood or meat-based tapas (mezedes in Greek). It also brings out the flavours of spicy cheeses and fried foods.
Greek Food Pairing Suggestions
- Greek salads
- Salted anchovies with olive oil and lemon or vinegar
- Small fried fish
- Fried cod with a crunchy crust and garlic aioli
- Caviar spread with toasty bread
- Grilled Sea Bream with olive oil – lemon sauce.
- Chickpeas, slow-cooked in the oven with aromatic herbs
Asian Food Pairings Suggestions
- Nigiri sushi kai sashimi
- Ceviche with citrus and pungent spices.
- Fried rice with shrimps and vegetables
- Seafood Stir fry
- Indian spicy wrap with chicken tikka masala
- Dim Sum