The Ins & Outs of Greek Retsina - Betty's Wine Musings (2023)

The Ins & Outs of Greek Retsina - Betty's Wine Musings (1)

In olden days, Greeks used amphorae to transport everything, from olive oil and wine. These vessels were prone to leaking, and when transported on a rocking boat, the problem was compounded. An ancient solution was to use resins from pine trees to seal the jugs, sort of like covering the bottom of a wooden boat with pitch, creating an air- and water-tight seal. In the case of white wines, which are particularly prone to spoilage even in the best environments, the resin seal also imparted a unique flavor to the wine. Called retsina, this spicy, pungent flavor came to be considered an aspect of the wine, and its use was continued even when oak barrels overtook amphorae as wine vessels of choice. Now retsina is as ubiquitous and national a Greek drink as ouzo.

Retsina Then and Now

Retsina (from Latin: resina) has been part of world culture since forever. Indeed, the famous frankincense, amber and myrrh are resins. Retsina was so entwined in the Greek cultural fabric that there were even debates over the best trees from which to cultivate the best tasting resins to use, and best ways to produce retsina, including mixing it directly into the wine.

Resins are a tree’s natural botanical self-defense, and ancient Greeks also found this to be a good way to save their wine and simultaneously repel marauders away from it. Retsina was an acquired taste, unpalatable to many Germanic and other invaders. Today, people are finding it more enjoyable, as with modern production methods the degree of retsina potency can be regulated and moderated, so today’s Greek retsinas are undoubtedly less pungent and “turpentine-ish” than what our forebears were drinking. GoGreece recommends looking for more modern, trendy retsina wine bottle labels, as their contents will likely be tamer than the more traditional retsina wines (probably in a bottle with a more traditional, old-fashioned label).

Wisegeek encourages serving retsina stone cold in a wide-mouth glass, allowing the resin flavor to mellow further. It is best served with traditional Greek food, where the savory, spicy and sometimes salty flavors can mesh together well. Other cuisines that lend themselves to retsina are Chinese, Indian or other spicy Asian foods.

And as is the trend with many wines, retsina is becoming part of the cocktail culture. WineMag offers a recipe for using retsina as a gin substitute in their ‘Retsina & Tonic.’ The bitter, herbal notes work well mixed in where you might use gin or other similar hard alcohol.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with Retsina. Please share them here.

As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, would like to host a tasting, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Betty Kaufman, WineShop At Home

The Ins & Outs of Greek Retsina - Betty's Wine Musings (2)

As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a specialpersonalized winegift, or are in search of a newwine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free tocontact mefor a truly unique wine tasting experience!

Cheers,Betty Kaufman
WineShop At Home

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What is the added ingredient in retsina? ›

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 only its aroma in the wine, the resin is then removed.

What does retsina wine taste like? ›

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. 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.

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 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 is the difference between wine and retsina? ›

Retsina is a wine process, really, not a wine—pine resin is added to a base of white wine (typically Roditis or Savatiano), thus creating a pine resin flavor and aromatic. This supposedly mimics ancient traditions, when ancient Greeks sealed wines with resin closures.

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.

How do Greeks drink retsina? ›

Retsina is served cold and goes very well with fish, seafood, cheese and appetizers (or mezedes, as they call them in Greece). It comes in a bottle of 500 ml and unlike the draft homemade wine, we have never seen draft retsina in a taverna but it doesn`t mean you can`t find such.

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.

How strong is retsina? ›

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

What wine did the Greek 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 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 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 does the name retsina mean? ›

: a resin-flavored Greek wine.

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 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 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 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.

Which wine is lowest in sulfites? ›

A great low sulfite wine option is red wine. Because red wine has more tannins than white wine, it naturally has more antioxidants present. These antioxidants help to preserve the wine, keeping the wine tasty, bright in color, and bacteria-free, with minimal intervention from the winemakers.

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.

What is in wine that most people are allergic to? ›

Ethanol, acetaldehyde and acetic acid, flavonoids (anthocyanidins and catechins), sulfites, histamine and other biogenic amines are the main triggers of intolerance reactions to wine (pseudoallergic reactions).

What is the most famous Greek drink? ›

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 do most Greeks drink? ›

While ouzo is considered the national drink of Greece, many other drinks are popular. A refreshing beer is common during summer, while wine and tsipouro, also called raki, are also consumed. In addition, most bars serve cocktails with rum, vodka, tequila or other imported spirits.

How strong is Greek alcohol? ›

Sugar may be added before water dilution, which is done mostly with ouzo from Southern Greece. The final ABV is usually between 37.5 and 50 percent; the minimum allowed is 37.5 percent. Ouzo production itself does not involve fermentation.

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!)

How do you drink wine like a pro? ›

Roll the wine across your taste buds by lightly swishing it around your mouth. Hold the wine in your mouth for 5-10 seconds before swallowing to really absorb the flavor. After swallowing, notice the aftertaste, or finish. High quality wines tend to have a more defined the finish.

What is the strongest Greek alcohol? ›

Kitro of Naxos

Flourishing on the Cycladic island of Naxos, the citron tree produces citron leaves from which the exclusive Kitro liqueur is made. According to the website Greek Federation of Spirit Producers, this is the driest and strongest of all Greek liqueurs, with 36% vol.

What is the strongest wine you can get? ›

Port Wine can end up with percentages as high as 20%, making them the seemingly most potent wine out there. It is said that some wines can go up to 21%, depending upon the individual bottle of wine.

Why was Greek wine so strong? ›

They were restricted to using wild strains, blowing around the vineyard and found on the skins of grapes. Wild yeasts often struggle to continue converting sugars to alcohol at about 6% and, all things going well, secondary yeasts then kick in to push abv higher.

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 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 you drink red or white wine with Greek food? ›

White wines are common in this cuisine. 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.

Do people in Greece drink a lot? ›

Drinking Culture in Greece

Families drink at almost every dinner gathering, and it is not uncommon for the children (even under the age of ten) to have a few sips of the table wine.

What was the Greek gods favorite drink? ›

In the ancient Greek myths, ambrosia (/æmˈbroʊziə, -ʒə/, Ancient Greek: ἀμβροσία 'immortality'), the food or drink of the Greek gods, is often depicted as conferring longevity or immortality upon whoever consumed it.

Who is the Greek god of alcohol? ›

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

What is special about Greek wine? ›

Unique Varietals

Greece has over 200 indigenous grape varietals, including Xinomavro, Assyrtiko, Agiorgitiko and Savatino. As Greece is the only country using these grapes, they produce wines that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

What is the most expensive place to eat in Greece? ›

The luxurious restaurant BACCHANALIA - which takes its name from a celebration in honour of the Bacchus God Dionysus - refers to ancient Greek and Roman feasts and orgies with lots of wine, music, food and beautiful people.

What Colour is retsina wine? ›

Mylonas Retsina is a bright lemon colour with greenish highlights, and aromas of peach, mastic, mango and lemon along with white flowers and herbs.

What is the old Greek word for wine? ›

Etymology. From Ancient Greek οἶνος (oînos, “wine”).

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 name means most beautiful in Greek? ›

Calista. This unique moniker is of Greek origin and means "most beautiful." Plus it lends itself to a variety of spellings if you want to get creative (Kallista, Calysta, Kalystah, etc...)

What name means beautiful in Greek? ›

Evmorfia is a Greek name meaning “beautiful,” or “good appearance.”

What name means god of wine? ›

The name Dionysus is primarily a male name of Latin origin that means God Of Wine & Revelry.

What does retsina smell like? ›

Premium quality Retsina carries the characteristic balsamic aroma of pine which, however, does not inhibit grape aromas.

What is the sweet liquor in Greece? ›

In Greece, mastiha (Greek: μαστίχα) or mastichato (Greek: μαστιχάτο) is a sweet liqueur produced with the mastika resin from the Greek island of Chios, which is distilled after hardening to crystals. Sugar is typically added. It is a sweet liqueur that is typically consumed at the end of a meal.

Why does my wine taste like pine? ›

The piney flavors come from bits of Aleppo Pine resin, which are added to the must during fermentation. The leftover pieces are clarified from the wine before bottling. Retsina is an exclusively designated term for resinated wines produced in Greece and Cyprus; all others must be referred to as simply “resinated wine.”

What Greek wine is infused with pine resin? ›

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 Greek spirit made from? ›

Tsipouro (or tsikoudia in Crete) is a popular grape-distilled spirit made pure or scented with anise. It is served as a welcome to guests, an accompaniment to meze or as the fuel for the laughter between old friends in cafes all over Greece.

What did Greek gods drink wine from? ›

To drink wine, more than likely, Dionysus used a decorated rhyton, a horn-shaped cup made of horn, bronze, gold or clay. The way these rhytons are designed, you can't really set it down. More than likely, people in Classical Greece chugged a whole rhyton or shared it ceremoniously.

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 Greek liquor has licorice taste? ›

Ouzo is made with grape or grain and is distilled with anise, fennel, and other herbs. This black licorice-flavored drink is usually served alongside appetizers such as cheese, dips, or olives. The proper way to enjoy ouzo is chilled and diluted with water.

What are the strongest Greek drinks? ›

Ouzo is one of Greece's strongest drinks. It is made out of distilled grains, along with several local herbs and spices, including aniseed and perhaps a few others. The alcohol percentage in ouzo usually varies from 37.5 to 50, and it's an incredibly sneaky drink.

What do Greeks drink when they say Opa? ›

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 alcohol did Greek gods drink? ›

Speaking of wonders – the ancient Greeks referred to mead as the “nectar of the Gods.” It was thought to be consumed atop Mt.

What do Greeks drink on Christmas? ›

On a cold winter's day, clasp your hands around a warm cup of krasomelo, the Greek version of mulled wine. 'Krasi' meaning wine and 'méli' meaning honey, gives you a good hint as to what makes this drink so delicious. The Greek recipe is usually simplistic, cloves, cinnamon and, of course, honey.


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