Topic of the Week 12/3/2018 - Master

Nerdy chemistry lessons on TDN from , , , and . Merci!

This week: Retsina!

What are the requirements and area(s) of production? If you hate it, try it with sheepsmilk feta, olives and great olive oil and it may change your tune.

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  • Good timing on this topic.  I've been studying Greece recently and I read somewhere (I think the Expanded Guide here) that there are even rose and PetNat versions being made  , as well as some more traditional sparkling. I wonder how much are being imported vs consumed locally because I'm in NYC and I never see these different versions but I want to!

    As one of Greece's two traditional PGI's Retsina can be made anywhere in Greece, although only 15 locations in Central Greece where production is centered, may also list an appellation on the label.  Retsina must be made exclusively from Savatiano and Roditis in order to be labeled Retsina (maybe this isn't strictly followed ?)  Roditis is a pink skinned grape so rose versions can be made called Kokkineli.  Savatiano and Roditis are still by far the two most planted grapes in Greece, at a combined 30% of the nation's acreage.

    The traditional tale is that the pine resin was used to seal clay vessels that the wine was stored in and thus Retsina was accidentally discovered, but many experts discredit this theory as many wines around the world besides Retsina were being altered and flavored during this time.  The resin was most likely added intentionally for both its flavor and antiseptic properties.

    Without the need to seal clay vessels with pine resin, modern Retsina is made through a much more gentle infusion nowadays.  The pine resin must be added in the first half of fermentation and may account for .15-1.0% of a wine's final volume, although most quality examples just meet the legal minimum.

    I haven't had good Retsina in some time.  When's the next Greece Masterclass?

  • Yeah, I wonder if anyone can shed some light on why and how assyrtiko and xinomavro are occassiinally allowed to be used. It's totally unimportant as the overwhelming majority of bottling are going to be Savatiano, but still would be nice to understand the exceptions. Who is neighborhood Greek specialist? 

  • Jeremy, Honestly I would think it's like any wines  that are traditionally blended. Balance. Producer profile preference. And in the case of Retsina, perhaps not over think it. Good to know for sure, but not essential. Like most "work horse' grapes  in most countries, Savatiano is a low acid grape. So producers might want that 'lift' and add a little Assyrtiko etc for a touch of acidity? Thats my guess. I will say the best ones I've had, were blended and that acidity balances out the impact of the Aleppo.

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  • Jeremy, Honestly I would think it's like any wines  that are traditionally blended. Balance. Producer profile preference. And in the case of Retsina, perhaps not over think it. Good to know for sure, but not essential. Like most "work horse' grapes  in most countries, Savatiano is a low acid grape. So producers might want that 'lift' and add a little Assyrtiko etc for a touch of acidity? Thats my guess. I will say the best ones I've had, were blended and that acidity balances out the impact of the Aleppo.

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