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Beyond Retsina - Greek Wine


by Liana Bennett

Nothing says Greek wine like Retsina. However, today’s Greece is moving in the direction of becoming a competitive player in the wine world.  Since many of the varieties grown and used in the wine production are native to Greece, it is difficult for consumers to know what they are drinking.  There are plantings of vitis vinifera like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Semillion but Greek varieties still dominate. Some of the Greek white varieties are Assyrtiko (found on the Aegean islands), Debina (found in Zitsa), Moshofilero (produces “Blanc de Gris” similar to Gew├╝rztraminer and Roditis (found in most Greek wine regions).

A few Greek red varieties include Aghiorgitiko (deemed one of the best), Krasato (found in Rapsani and Thessaly), Sykiotis (found in Anhialos and makes a dry wine) and Xynomavro (along with Aghiorgitiko, this variety is viewed as the best).

Rules to Follow
Greece is broken into seven wine regions: Macedonia, Epirus, Thessalia, Sterea Ellada, Peloponnese, Aegean Islands and Ionian Islands. The wine production follows the European Union pattern of appellation control and labeling system.  There are Table Wines that have little to no regulation but do well as they are recognized through proven brand consistency.  There are Regional Wines that make up the middle of the road category between Table and Appellation wines.  They do follow some rules but are fairly lax.  The quality wines fall under the Appellations of Origin Superior Quality or the Controlled Appellations of Origin. The later is used only for dessert wines.  The quality wines follow strict regulations regarding grape varieties allowed, cultivation methods, vine yields and grape must sugar content.  There are 28 Appellations in Greece.  Of these, 20 are Appellations of Superior Quality for dry wines and 8 are Appellations of Controlled Origin for dessert wines.

Retsina - Mmmm, Piney
If you are unfamiliar with Retsina, you are missing out on a unique product.  No other region in the world produces this traditional wine.  It is made all over Greece but is concentrated in Attica, close to Athens.  Savantino and Roditis grapes make the base wine with pine resin added for the distinct flavor.  The resin was originally used by ancient Greeks to preserve the wine but is now simply a flavoring ingredient. If you have never tried Retsina and are a little confused, think PineSol.  Retsina is made into white or rose and is served cold. Although it is an acquired taste, it is worth a try, especially with some Souvlakia or lamb pie.

From: The Beverage Alcohol Report - Feb, 2006, Liana Bennett.
The Beverage Alcohol Report (The BAR) was published on a monthly basis until May, 2006 compliments of Liana Bennett. Its main purpose was to further the knowledge, appreciation and general enjoyment of all alcoholic beverages. Your comments, questions and tasting stories can be sent to



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