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What is Retsina?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Retsina is a unique wine product made almost exclusively in Greece. It is made with a base of white or rosé wine that is flavored with pine resin. The wine is quite pungent, and not to everyone's taste. However, the Greeks have been making and drinking it for over three thousand years, and people often find it more enjoyable when it is paired with Greek foods. Retsina also varies widely in quality, and an inferior product can taste suspiciously like turpentine. Consulting the staff at a Greek wine store may be the best way to find a good wine.

The name for retsina is derived from a Latin word, resina. The official explanation for the drink has it roots in early wine making practices. Lacking airtight containers for fermentation, many early white wines soured as a result of exposure to oxygen. To stave off this problem, wine makers covered their wine jugs in pine pitch, the same material used to waterproof boats. The pitch effectively sealed the containers so that the wine did not spoil, and consumers developed a taste for the resulting resinous wine.

Only whites and rosés are used to make retsina, as red wines have a pungent flavor and mouthfeel all their own. The wine should be served extremely cold, and in wide, open glasses. Lipped glasses will tend to trap the resinous aroma, rather than dissipating it like a wide mouthed glass will. This is an undesirable result, even for diehard Greeks, because the concentrated flavor can be rather intense.

Retsina pairs best with strong, spicy, savory foods like those served as appetizers, or meze, in Greece. Many meze integrate pickled, salty, or garlicky ingredients, which counter the strong flavor of the retsina very favorably. The wine could also be paired with spicy cuisines, such as Indian or Chinese food, but should not be consumed with subtle foods, like many Japanese and French dishes.

To find retsina outside of Greece, consumers will probably have to go to a specialty import store. It is an unusual item, and many stores do not carry it. Consumers may also consider ordering it from an online retailer, if they live in an area where they can accept shipments of alcohol. It's important to remember that retsina is a highly acquired taste, and not all drinkers will find it to their liking.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon966245 — On Aug 18, 2014

Anything with pine resin can't be good for your kidneys or any other part, unless you have a wooden leg or other part.

By anon136890 — On Dec 24, 2010

I have heard that this wine has some medicinal properties. Does anyone have any knowledge of this. I have dysfunctional kidneys and am looking for something to stave off the disorder. I would like to hear about anything you might have heard. Thank you. I will await an answer.

By anon100818 — On Jul 31, 2010

I think the article on Retsina is very informative. Good work to the author who wrote it!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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