Retsina: a classic reborn - Falstaff (2023)

Retsina: a classic reborn - Falstaff (1)


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Retsina enjoys a bad reputation but definitely deserves a second chance.

Wojciech Bońkowski,


If your concept of Retsina is of an old-fashioned, oxidised, flabby house wine reeking of motor oil, you’re not alone. Plenty of holidaymakers have endured painful hangovers after imbibing too much of the grubby taverna stuff back in the 1980s and 90s. Fortunately, horrible industrial Retsina is largely a thing of the past: modern versions are at least clean and crisp.

But more importantly, a new generation of winemakers is reclaiming Greece’s traditional drink – with a vengeance. Starting with Gaia’s pioneering Ritinitis Nobilis, a wave of reimagined Retsinas offering vibrant Mediterranean freshness, focused resin aroma and flavour (in much-reduced quantities), and excellent contemporary character.

The door to Retsina’s bright present and future was opened with two keys, the first being to use high-quality base wine. In the past, bulk blends of high-yielding Savatiano and Roditis lent a heavy, phenolic, often oxidised character to Retsina. Then Gaia started sourcing their Roditis from mountain vineyards in Egialia, to stunning effect. Macedonian producer Kechris went further with their trendsetting Tear of the Pine, using a premium oaked Assyrtiko, Greece’s most fashionable and arguably most serious grape. This opened a whole new landscape of flavours after the resin addition (Kechris continues experimenting, now making a sparkling and rosé Retsina as well).

Retsina: a classic reborn - Falstaff (2)


Collecting pine resin from a tree.

The second pivotal change was rethinking the additive. The resin of the Mediterranean Aleppo pine can be a great traditional artisanal product, if sourced from true experts like Charis Stouraitis from the Kouvará village, who now supplies many Attica producers. The buttery semi-solid resin paste that is added in a cotton cloth (think of a teabag) to fermenting wine has a beautifully pure, cleansing aroma reminiscent of walking in a pine forest on a summer evening. You will find the same sensation in the new premium Retsinas that are now making waves on the Greek and international markets.

This quality revolution has come at the right time. Traditional recipes such as Retsina, invented by the Ancient Greeks who preserved their amphora wines with a film of resin or resined lids, are back in fashion. They are now at the core of identity agriculture throughout Europe, a notion nurtured especially strongly in Attica, Retsina’s traditional home. Here it was customary well into the 1970s for every taverna to ferment their own wine from purchased grapes and sell it directly from the barrel. Urban and suburban establishments earned their reputation according to the quality of their wine, and the best grew a wholesale business as well. Some survivors of this tradition are now part of the leading quality wineries in Attica, including Papagiannakos, Mylonas, and Markou. They have been joined in the last decade by new projects such as Aoton.

Their pure, vibrant wines are a marvellous accompaniment to traditional Greek cuisine, with its strong garlicky and herby flavours and abundance of vegetable and fish umami. These characterful foods need strongly-flavoured wines, and modern Retsina fits the bill better than anything. It can also adhere to the current fashion for botanical flavours in drinks, fuelled by craft gins and tequilas around the world, potentially attracting new drinkers to the world of wine. Retsina can be equally at ease in wine cocktails: just try a dry gin martini with Retsina instead of vermouth …

Retsina might not be fermented at the tavernas anymore, but it has regained its status at the centre of Greek culinary identity, with a unique story and flavour. Give it a second chance.

Nine modern Retsinas to try

Troupis Pitys Ritinitis 2021

The new kid on the Retsina block, gatecrashing into an impressive second spot at the 50 Great Greek Wines competition in 2022. You only need one sip to understand the appeal: this Retsina is built on a crystal-clear, uber-fresh Assyrtiko with electrifying green energy, into which the subtle, qualitative notes of pine cones blend logically and harmoniously. Utterly delicious. 93

Kechris Retsina Tear of the Pine 2021

The Kechris family shocked the Greek wine scene when they added pine resin to an oak-aged Assyrtiko. The juxtaposition of cleansing botanical flavour and a ripe, fleshy, concentrated, toasted base wine was unexpected and counterintuitive. After several successful vintages, it is now also clearly delicious, with enticing richness of texture and phenomenal affinity with food. 91

Aoton Retsina of Mesogia 2020

Sotiris Ginis is a champion of the Savatiano grape, which he harvests later than others for complete ripeness. Consequently, the Aoton wines have a broader, milkier mouthfeel with terrific complexity and ageing potential. The Retsina version is one of a kind, with toasted bread, wax, wet wool and a subtle hint of refreshing pine needle. Begs for oily, garlicky food. 90

Gaia Ritinitis Nobilis

This was the original 'premium Retsina' to hit the market back in 1996. And it is still a trendsetter with its high-quality mountain-grown Roditis base wine and the very subtle botanical profile, more akin to pine needles than the oily, mouth-coating resin present in other Retsinas. Some will love it for its purity, others will criticise it for not being enough 'retsina-like' – exactly like 25 years ago. 90

Mylonas Retsina of Attica 2021

Stamatis Mylonas is Attica’s most consistent quality producer and his best-selling Retsina always delivers. The blast of pine resin on the first nose is more intense than other modern examples, but the whole is kept clean as a whistle, with brilliant quality of fruit. 90

Retsina: a classic reborn - Falstaff (4)

photo provided

Stamatis Mylonas

Georgas Retsina of Mesogia Black Label 2021

From Attica’s leading natural wine producer, this Retsina has minimal to zero SO2 depending on the target market and offers a traditional take on the Savatiano grape with its broad, toasted, slightly alkaline mouthfeel, blending well with the pine resin sourced from a local farmer. 89

Papagiannakos Retsina 2022

The Papagiannakos family can be credited for saving many old Savatiano vineyards from uprooting, and their modern range is greatly likeable, including this vibrant, refreshing, minimally-resinated Retsina. Great summer wine. 89

Retsina: a classic reborn - Falstaff (5)

photo provided

Vasilis Papagiannakos

Gikas Retsina Pine Forest 2021

Atypically for Attica, this Retsina is based on Assyrtiko, a seriously concentrated, intense example at that. The pine resin element is kept very much in the background, so it is a great pick-me-up for those new to the style. Just order some meze. 88

Tetramythos Retsina Natur

Tetramythos is Greece’s leading producer of natural wines. Their high-perched Roditis vineyards in Patras provide a strong lemony, zesty backbone to a very clean, polished wine with the slightest touch of resiny character. With medium intensity, this is a dangerously drinkable example. 88

Wojciech Bońkowski


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Why is retsina so cheap? ›

So, it was understandable that Retsina became synonymous with low-priced wines of poor quality. Much of these wines were sold in bulk, with resin added in order to mask any flaws from poor grape quality and dreadful winemaking, full of oenological “no-nos”.

Is retsina a good wine? ›

Retsina is the best known traditional Greek wine. Its reputation, not always positive, had long overshadowed that of other distinguished Greek wines and appellations.

Is retsina sweet or dry? ›

Greek retsina is a dry white wine made and drunk all over Greece with a distinctive pine and resin flavour that people usually either love or hate. For us, when we visit Greece, our first meal is very often kalamari (squid) and a bottle of retsina, perhaps preceded by an ouzo and some meze.

What is retsina wine similar to? ›

The flavor of retsina, a wine infused with the resin of Aleppo pine trees, has often been likened to turpentine, even by people who like the stuff.

Does retsina age well? ›

Retsina is far stronger, far worse than oak, especially since it's not meant to be absorbed in a long aging process. The wines are rarely intended to age, actually. At the so-called "high end," some suggest the wine can age for five years.

What is the most expensive wine in Greece? ›

The most expensive Greek wine, LΛPO , is a Rose that you can find at the price of 1200.00 Euro / bottle, produced in very small quantity, about 700 bottles per year . LΛΡΟ dry rose wine, is an outstanding member of the wine club, created with true passion for wine trips, modern winemaking, beautiful aromas and nature.

What wine did the gods drink? ›

Ambrosia was the drink of choice for the Greek Gods: a sweet and ethereal wine so magical that merely tasting it could make you immortal. Ambrosia appears often in classical Greek poetry, but the origins of the word are obscure.

What is the most popular wine in Greece? ›

Assyrtiko. Assyrtiko is one of the most popular Greek products and recognized wine varieties in Greece and can be found all across the country since its production is not limited to one specific region but rather covers the majority of the land.

What wine do Greek people drink? ›

Red, white, orange and rosé wines are made across Greece, in both still and sparkling format and at various levels of dryness or sweetness. Greece is also known for retsina, a traditional wine flavored with pine resin.

What is the best way to drink retsina? ›

The general recommendation with Retsina is to drink it very cold and from a wide-open glass. This helps to temper the aroma of pine which can sometimes be overpowering. In a more acute glass, the odor will be trapped and can completely subdue the other elements of the wine.

Should retsina be chilled? ›

Retsina has an alcohol content of 12 to 12.5 percent and is best served chilled at 10C.

Is retsina a type of cheap Greek? ›

Retsina is produced and bottled at specific locations in Central Greece: Attica (mainly the area of Mesogia), Boeotia and Evia. It is a traditional Greek wine, which has been considered for many decades as a cheap popular choice.

What wine smells like horse manure? ›

When brett appears in a wine, it creates earthy organic aromas and flavors that don't sound appetizing. The aroma of brett-afflicted wines may range from leathery to mousey, wet-fur, or "barnyard" aromas like chicken manure or horse sweat.

What is the closest Greek wine to Pinot Noir? ›

Limniona (“lim-nee-ona”) is Greece's answer to Pinot Noir, producing wines with fragrant aromas of red-berries and rose petals, over delicate, rounded, silky texture.

Is 7 year old wine still good? ›

When stored properly and kept unopened, white wines can often outlive their recommended drinking window by 1-2 years, red wines by 2-3 years, and cooking wines by 3-5 years. Fine wine — as you may have guessed — can typically be consumed for decades.

What is the oldest wine safe to drink? ›

The South-West German city is home to the world's oldest wine bottle and, if experts are to be believed, it's actually drinkable. The Historical Museum of Palatinate, Speyer, is home to the 'Speyer Wine Bottle', a 1,700-year-old bottle of wine that was discovered in 1867.

What type of drink is the retsina? ›

Retsina (Greek: ρετσίνα) is a Greek white (or rosé) resinated wine, which has been made for at least 2,000 years. Its unique flavor is said to have originated from the practice of sealing wine vessels, particularly amphorae, with Aleppo pine resin in ancient times.

What is the oldest wine in Greece? ›

The oldest Greek wine (2,000 years old) served today is the famous white wine, Retsina. The very same wine that the ancient Greeks drank can be tasted today.

What is the most alcoholic drink in Greece? ›

Ouzo is considered the national drink of Greece. In technical terms, it is either produced by partial distillation or the admixture of plain alcohol with aromatic herbs.

What is the No 1 most expensive wine in the world? ›

Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée-Conti Grand Cru

The Burgundy producer Domaine Romanée-Conti, known as "DRC" to collectors, consistently commands the highest prices in the world of wine. Its top vineyard, Romanée-Conti, encompasses just 4.5 acres.

What kind of wine was Jesus blood? ›

Red wine is often used to represent the Blood of Christ, but churches started leaning towards white wine to avoid stains on the altar cloth!

What is the holy grail of wine? ›

For many fine wine lovers, Burgundy is the “holy grail,” the ultimate reference point by which all other great wine regions are measured. Almost all Burgundy ('Bourgogne') wines are either reds made from Pinot Noir or whites made from Chardonnay.

Was it alcoholic wine in the Bible? ›

Wine is the most common alcoholic beverage mentioned in biblical literature, where it is a source of symbolism, and was an important part of daily life in biblical times.

What wine was drunk in ancient Greece? ›

All Fino Sherry are made with flor and are highly prized. Based on the frequency of mentions in ancient texts written in Linear B, both sweet and dry wines were the most common wines of Ancient Greece.

What red wine do Greeks drink? ›

Greek Red is a catch-all category of traditional Greek red varieties. Examples of these wines include Agiorgitiko, Mavrodaphne, Xinomavro, St. George and Moschomavro.

What wine for a Greek meal? ›

Retsina and Assyrtiko, for example, are very well-known wines for Greek food pairing. Malagousia and Spilitsa Argolida are other popular wines that taste great and pair well with traditional Greek dishes. All these wines are great options to sip on wine while enjoying your meal.

What is the drinking age in Greece? ›

The official legal drinking age in Greece is 18 in public and you also have to be 18 to buy alcohol. In reality, these laws are not strictly enforced and in many tourist zones, they're not enforced at all.

What is the white Greek drink? ›

Ouzo is a clear liquid. However, when water or ice is added, ouzo turns a milky-white colour. This is because anethole, the essential oil of anise, is completely soluble in alcohol at approximately 38% ABV and above, but not in water.

What do they drink at Greek wedding? ›

Considered Greece's national spirit, ouzo (the anise-flavored liqueur) is a fairly boozy drink that is typically served neat in small skinny glasses. (Yes, it's the stuff you see in the infamous drinking scene in the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where they raise their glasses and say OPA!)

What strength is retsina? ›

The Traditional Appellation for Retsina can be made anywhere in Greece, typically from Savatiano, which is a high yielding, neutral flavoured white variety.
Gaia Ritinitis Nobilis Retsina 2022.
Alcoholic strength12.5%
Serve withfresh olives, feta cheese, Greek salad or salty snacks
GrapesRoditis 100%
Dry/Sweet value1
8 more rows

Does retsina contain sulfites? ›

Retsina Black Label is the purest expression of the most ancient Greek winemaking tradition, in a natural Savatiano vinification, with no sulfites or any additives, from biodynamic grapes.

What do Greeks drink for dinner? ›

As you'd expect from a Mediterranean cuisine, wine is the usual accompaniment to a meal in a Greek restaurant. Greece has been a centre of wine-making for its entire history and though there are few big name wines produced here, there are many very palatable wines perfectly suited to Greek food.

Do Greeks drink wine with every meal? ›

Be prepared to always have your cup runneth over when having dinner with Greeks. Wine, Saltiel says, "always was and still is" served at every dinner.

What Greek liquor is served after dinner? ›

Ouzo is a delicious anise-flavored drink from Greece. The spirit is generally consumed as an aperitif after dinner and undergoes a rigorous distillation process.

What do people drink in Greece? ›

Greek Drinks
  • 1- Ouzo. Ouzo is a greek drink that is popular around the world. ...
  • 2- Mastika. The resin from the mastic tree is a unique ingredient that makes mastika one of the most unusual Greek drinks to try. ...
  • 3- Tsikoudia. ...
  • 5- Tsipouro. ...
  • 6- Metaxa. ...
  • 7- Kumquat Liqueur. ...
  • 8- Rakomelo. ...
  • 9- Kitron.
Jun 10, 2022

What Greek wine is like Pinot Grigio? ›

Moschofilero. If you prefer sweeter, more aromatic Pinot Grigios, look no further than this Greek white wine. Moschofilero is found on the Peloponnese peninsula and is another great option for light-bodied, high acid, refreshing wines.

Is retsina dry wine? ›

Since 1940 Retsina has been a traditional trade name and is only produced in Greece and Cyprus. This well-known, dry Restina white wine is a quality product.

What does the name Retsina mean? ›

: a resin-flavored Greek wine.

What liquor is only found in Greece? ›

The national drink of Greece is, of course, 'ouzo'! Ouzo is an alcoholic beverage with anise that is produced exclusively in Greece. Thanks to its essential oils of anise, anise, and fennel seeds, it creates a pleasant feeling of refreshment able to soothe even the hottest Greek summer.

What Greek liquor tastes like pine? ›

Mastika or mastiha is a liqueur seasoned with mastic, a resin with a slightly pine or cedar-like flavor gathered from the mastic tree, a small evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean region.

What are 3 smells of bad wine? ›

Some smells technically aren't just weird – they're downright wrong and can indicate a faulty wine. Casassa says the three main ones are smoke taint, Brettanomyces, and cork taint. So, if you smell something burnt or ashy, horse manure, or wet cardboard, you've got a wine that's been compromised.

What are 3 things wine should not smell like? ›

According to Schmitt, if you're smelling burned match, skunk, bandages or cooked cabbage, that wine is flawed. Here are the five most common wine problems — and what your nose should know.

What wine smells like gasoline? ›

That distinctive sniff of petrol (some call it paraffin) that's usually found in Alsatian whites or riesling is actually due to a chemical compound called TDN (1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene), which typically forms as a byproduct of aging wine.

What Greek wine tastes like Sauvignon Blanc? ›

Article content
  • Assyrtiko: like sauvignon blanc; built along acidity and freshness, though less aromatic and decidedly more mineral.
  • Malagousia: like muscat; perfumed with low acid and rich texture.
  • Moschofilero: like pinot grigio; aromatic with crisp acids.
Sep 29, 2017

What sweet wine is originally from Greece? ›

Muscat- The king of sweet wine

The Muscat Blanc is cultivated in six CDO (controlled appellation of origin) areas; three of them are in the Aegean Sea: Samos, Lemnos, and Rhodes Islands. The other three are Patras, Rio of Patras, and Cephalonia Island in the Ionian Sea.

What Greek wine is closest to Sauvignon Blanc? ›

Moschofilero. Found all over Greece, the Moschofilero (maw-sko-FEEL-ero) grape produces bold, spicy white wines. Many sommeliers compare Moschofilero wine to a Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier. Although the purple-skinned grape has been grown in Greece for centuries, it's quite delicate and is sensitive to bad weather.

What was the most expensive wine in ancient Greece? ›

In the 4th century BC, the most expensive wine sold in Athens was that from Chios, which sold for between a quarter of a drachma and 2 drachma for a chous worth—about the equivalent of four standard 750 ml wine bottles today.

Are spirits cheap in Greece? ›

In Greece, drinking alcohol is a low-budget habit. You can enjoy your favourite music in one of the numerable Greek bars without having to worry about the cost. You can drink a prim cocktail with only 9€, ouzo and raki with 4€, wine and beer with 3–5€ and all alcoholic beverages, such as gin or vodka with 6–7€.

What is the oldest Greek liquor? ›

History. Ouzo has its roots in tsipouro, which is said to have been the work of a group of 14th-century monks on Mount Athos. One version of it was flavored with anise. This version eventually came to be called ouzo.

What does retsina mean in Greek? ›

Retsina (Greek: ρετσίνα) is a Greek white (or rosé) resinated wine, which has been made for at least 2,000 years. Its unique flavor is said to have originated from the practice of sealing wine vessels, particularly amphorae, with Aleppo pine resin in ancient times.

What is the oldest Greek wine? ›

The oldest Greek wine (2,000 years old) served today is the famous white wine, Retsina. The very same wine that the ancient Greeks drank can be tasted today.

Is sulfite in wine harmful? ›

Most people can safely consume the sulfites found in wine with minimal risk of adverse side effects. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an estimated 1% of the population is sensitive to sulfites, and about 5% of those individuals have asthma as well (7).

What kind of alcohol can I drink if have a sulfite sensitivity? ›

Absolut Vodka and most gins are free of sulphites due to the distillation process, and the safest option for anyone with sulphite sensitivity. Sulphites naturally occur in a range of drinks, wine included.

Why do Italian wines not have sulfites? ›

All wines contain naturally-occurring sulfites. All of our wines either have no added sulfites or minimal added sulfites. The EU is also much more strict than the USA about additives, so Italian wines tend to have far fewer sulfites and additives than New World wines.

Which Greek god created wine? ›

Originally Dionysus was the Greek god of fertility. Later, he came to be known chiefly as the god of wine and pleasure.

What is the most famous alcohol in Greece? ›

Ouzo. Ouzo is considered the national drink of Greece. In technical terms, it is either produced by partial distillation or the admixture of plain alcohol with aromatic herbs.

What time is dinner in Greece? ›

What time is dinner in Greece? In a country that never sleeps, no time is "too late" for dinner. You will find most eateries open until past 12 at midnight. Regardless, traditionally, dinner in Greek homes is served at around 8-9 pm.

How much do you tip in Greece? ›

There are no set rules when it comes to tipping in Greece. Generally speaking, you can't go wrong by leaving a small tip for each service. When in doubt, a 10% is generally fine. If you had very good service, you could consider leaving 15 or even 20 percent.


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