AskDefine | Define retsina

Dictionary Definition

retsina n : Greek wine flavored with resin

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  1. A Greek resinated white or rosé wine, that has been produced for at least 2700 years.


Greek wine

Extensive Definition

Retsina (Ρετσίνα in Greek) is a Greek resinated white (or rosé) wine that has been made for at least 2000 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. Before the invention of impermeable glass bottles, oxygen caused many wines to spoil within the year. Pine resin helped keep air out, while at the same time infusing the wine with resin aroma. The Romans began to use barrels in the 3rd century AD, removing any enological necessity for resin, but the flavor itself was so popular that the style is still widespread today.


The earliest recorded mentioning of using resin with wine amphorae was in the writings of Columella who detailed in his work De Re Rustica (13.20-14) the different type of resin that could be used to seal a container or be mixed into the wine. He recommended that for the very best wines, though, they should not be mixed with resin because many people do not like the taste. His contemporary, Pliny the Elder does recommend the use of adding resin to the fermenting wine must in his work Naturalis Historia (14.124) with the resin from mountainous areas having a better aroma than those that come from lower lands (16.60).
The Roman settlements in Illyria, Cisalpine Gaul and Gallia Narbonensis did not use resin coated amphorae due to the lack of suitable local pine trees and began to develop solid, less leak prone wooden barrels in the 1st century AD. By the 3rd century, barrel making was prevalent throughout the Roman Empire. The exception was the eastern empire regions of Byzantium which had developed a taste for the strong, pungent wine and continued to produce resinated wine long after the western Roman empire stopped. The difference in taste between the two empires took center stage in the work of the historian Liutprand of Cremona work Relatio de Legatione Constantinopolitana. In 968, Liutprand was sent to Constantinople to arrange a marriage between the daughter of the late Emperor Romanos II and the future Holy Roman Emperor Otto II. According to Liutprand, he was treated very rudely and undignified by the court of Nikephoros II being served goat stuffed with onion and served in fish sauce and "undrinkable" wine mixed with resin, pitch and gypsum-very offensive to his western tastes.

Wine regions

In Greece, local Retsina (retsina iszalso) is produced throughout the country. Major production centers around Attica, Boeotia and Euboea. The European Union treats the name "Retsina" as a protected designation of origin and traditional appellation for Greece and parts of the southern regions of Cyprus. An Australian wine style made in South Australia can be called "resinated wine" but not "Retsina".

Grapes and winemaking

Today the traditional grape for Retsina is Savatiano with potentially Assyrtiko and Rhoditis blended in. Local grape varieties are used for retsina iszalso throughout Greece. On the island of Rhodes, Athiri is the main grape. Modern Retsina is made following the same winemaking techniques of white wine or rosé with the exception of small pieces of Aleppo Pine resin added to the must during fermentation. The pieces stay mixed with the must till racking when the wine is clarified and the solids are removed from the finished wine.


See also

retsina in Czech: Retsina
retsina in German: Retsina
retsina in Modern Greek (1453-): Ρετσίνα
retsina in French: Retsina
retsina in Lithuanian: Retsina
retsina in Dutch: Retsina
retsina in Norwegian: Retsina
retsina in Polish: Retsina
retsina in Russian: Рецина
retsina in Swedish: Retsina
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