Retsina-I’m trying it so you don’t have to!

I know I’ve been a bit quiet for the last week or so! The reason for this is that I’ve been studying for an upcoming 5 week course I’ve enrolled in. Tonight, while reading today’s section on Eastern Mediterranean wine producing countries, I came across the wine Retsina. What is Retsina? We will get to that! Let’s start by saying I’ve had this bottle on my wine rack for a couple years. An instructor I once had said, the only market for Retsina is wine students learning what it tastes like, and it only takes once. I have been dreading tasting this, but here we go!

First, I was curious what wine grapes make Retsina, and if I get credit for new wine grapes! While searching for my answer, I saw such descriptive terms as ‘turpentine’, ‘pine, pine, pine, pine’ ‘pungent aroma of Pine-Sol’ and ‘the gin of wines’ to name a few. Retsina is a traditional wine of Greece dating back over 2000 years. In older times, winemakers got creative when it came to prolonging the life of their wines. Greeks would use Aleppo pine resin to seal off the containers they were aging and shipping their wines in. During the process, the resin would infuse into the wine and impart flavor while acting as a preservative. In present day winemaking, this process is mimicked by adding resin to the wine during aging then extracting it before bottling. With all this being said, I am almost ready to taste it…and my spit bucket is ready! 

When swirling the clear, brassy green wine, I noticed it lacked legs. The sides of the glass looked like I was swirling an off colored water. Swirling it released the unmistakable notes of Vicks Vapo-Rub, menthol Hall’s cough drops, and pine wood chips. If I got nothing else from this experience, I at least cleared my sinuses. Finally, I took a bit into my mouth and swished it like it was mouthwash. It was dry, low tannin, low acid, low alcohol (this is why it lacked legs), and fairly balanced. It tasted like I was eating fresh pine shavings that still had the smallest bit of resin remaining. The resin gave way to green almonds on the Energizer Bunny length finish. Seriously, why won’t this taste leave my mouth?! While this was almost tolerable, I can see it might be almost palatable with pine nut pesto pasta or fish. I’ve read much better versions are available when visiting Greece, which I would definitely try should I make it there! One component this bottle was lacking was discernible grape character. Instead, it was overly resinous. On the upside of this entire experience, I did manage to cross off 2 new grape varietals in the process! Retsina is commonly made of Savatiano and occasionally Roditis. That’s 154 and 155!


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