I remember during my early childhood, my grandma’s sister use to hold me by the hand and take me to a nearby, underground tavern with a plastic bottle in me hand. That basement, full of barrels and the characteristic smell of oxidized wine, was the meeting point for the few remaining Retsina drinkers of old Athens. Their generation is now lost, taking with it its love for Retsina.
That old wine store was closed, along with the rest like it all around the city. Retsina, despite its low price, due to the use of cheap grapes in its making, didn’t survive in the consciousness of younger generations. The causes of its diminishing are plenty. It was mostly the invasion of a more cosmopolitan way of life with imported alcohol and a certain lifestyle that would automatically put Retsina in exile, as a passé of previous generations. Even the clumsy way in which Retsina was being kept, in old barrels and under bad conditions, was not pardoned by younger generations that started learning in sterile consuming habits.
After a long “dead” period, during which other wines prevailed, and moreover after the “birth” of quality bottled wine, it’s now time to restore Retsina’s reputation and to regain its position on our table. Notably, Greek consumers seem to now be more “trained” than ever before in wine terms and they also follow the global trend of turning to the gastronomic traditions of the past. Therefore, it is certainly the right time for Retsina to introduce itself again and to enter our lives as something new and exotic.
Retsina isn’t just a product of massive wineries in the Messogeia area, where cheap Savvatiano grapes and fake resin aromas. No matter what, in ancient times all varieties could be turned into Retsina. Also, it’s not just the wine that, in its worse form, contributed to the formation of a very negative international image for the Greek vineyard. Finally, it’s not just the wine meant to be drunk in humid basements with cheap appetizers, by people with obvious problems of alcoholism. And if it’s not all that, then what is it?
Retsina is the most special wine of the Greek vineyard. Its method of production with aromatisation of the must, is unique in the whole world. Its tradition goes at least 2,500 thousand years back in time, when other nations were still learning the secrets of winemaking by our Greek ancestors. And if all these are not enough to convince us of its value, then we should turn to contemporary winemakers that dared to re-establish its position.
I can certainly propose that you try some of the “original” Retsinas that you can find in the market. For example, Ktima Georga Retsina, made from organic grapes. Also, Ktima Kechri in Thessaloniki have done a great job with “To dakry tou Pefkou”, while “Ritinitis Nobilis” by Ktima Gaias” is a wonderful specimen of a modern retsina.
So, let’s widen our horizons and let Retsina find its place on our tables.