What if we told you that there is a wine that tastes like Christmas trees? Allow us to introduce you to Retsina, a wine that has been produced in Greece for over 2,000 years and is still being made today.
The flavor of Retsina comes from pine resin, originally used to seal wine bottles in ancient times to preserve them from oxidation. Not only did this prevent air from entering into the bottles; it also imparted a piney flavor profile to the wine, which was extremely well received by the eastern Byzantine empire regions.
Legend has it that the Greeks added pine resin to their wine to discourage Roman conquerors from stealing it. Whether true or false, this certainly sounds like a measure we’d take to salvage the goods. Anything to save the wine, right? Especially a wine that suffuses us with the comforting smells and feelings you can only get around Christmastime. The flavors of pine and menthol in Retsina will have you wanting to curl up on the couch in your favorite jammies and comfy socks. Like the magic of the holiday season, Retsina warms you from the inside out. It’s like a big, boozy, hug for your insides, from a Christmas tree.
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Retsina wine can be white or rosé and is produced all over Greece, though large production areas include regions around Attica and Euboea. The wine is mainly produced with the Savatiano grape, with Assyrtiko and Rhoditis used as blending components. Athiri and other native varietals are also permitted in Retsina production. 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.”
December is decidedly underway, and ’tis definitely the season for Christmas in a glass. Yamas!