Ever had a Retsina wine? Greek wine is growing in popularity, though it’s not likely to enter the mainstream any time soon. The wines of Greece come in a variety of styles, and the white Assyrtiko grape in particular has been turning sommeliers’ heads for a while now. Retsina is a very particular type of Greek wine, made partially from the trendy Assyrtiko grape. The Retsina style is no flash in the pan, though – its historical roots go way back at least 2,000 years!
Retsina is a resinated wine from Greece. Resinated wine is a peculiar style of wine that uses tree resin, mostly that of the pine tree, in the winemaking process. These wines take on a distinctive resinous taste, which some find very attractive indeed. Greek Retsina is the world’s best known resinated wine. Interestingly, the term “Retsina” is a protected geographic origin according to the European Union. Much like with Champagne or Pomerol, this is a legal designation that means winemakers from other countries and other regions cannot label their wine as Retsina. True Retsina wine can only come from Greece.
Historically, the Greeks made their Retsina wine in much the same way as any other wine, with the key difference coming in ageing and maturation. Most wine today is aged in oak barrels or stainless steel, though the Greeks would use amphorae, old clay containers. To make Retsina, they would seal the wine inside the container using a layer or pine resin to protect the wine from oxidation. The resulting wine had a strong colour and pronounced flavours of pine and resin, not often associated with white wines.