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Savatiano & Retsina from Attica

Greece is a country filled with myths and legends, but also with excellent wine! The Greeks have been making wines for thousands of years, long before Western-Europe (including France) was. A country of ancient civilization and some of the most ancient wine regions in the world. Due to the economic growth in Western-Europe, Greek wines have been pushed to the background in the worlds image, because Greece did not share the same growth. The last few years more and more Greek wine regions are beginning to get noticed, however it is still an intense battle with classic greats like Bordeaux and Burgundy. This ensures that the wines remain affordable, but do not get the attention they deserve!

My fascination for the wines of this beautiful country started rather random. A few years back I had just founded the blog and was travelling to Athens to catch up with some friends from the US. Before travelling with them, I spent a few days alone in the capital and my 'Wine-curiosity' brought me in contact with some local wineries around Athens. The wine region surrounding the city is called Attica and is seen as one of the oldest wine regions of the country. The pride of this regions is the Retsina wine, but at the same time the wine that brought the most damage to the image of the region. Retsina is a wine that has pine resin added to the mix. In the 1960's Greece was focussed on the export of local products such as Moussaka and Souvlaki, and Retsina was produced as a bulk export wine. The two named dishes were presented to the world in a similar matter. That way a consistent product was created, losing most of its quality and authenticity. Retsina was produced with an overload of pine resin, and barely tasted like the grape it originated from. After a period of huge popularity, people across the world became more and more aware of what they ate and drank and that way Retsina created a very bad reputation for Greek wines in general, and Retsina in specific. On top of that the amount of pine resin that can be added to the wine, is not regulated by the Greek goverment. With that said a lot of wineries used large amounts of pine resin to cover up mistakes and flawes in the wine.

A very sad affair that makes it very difficult to sell Retsina in certain countries. Because believe me, quality Retsina does in fact exist! I visited several wineries that are know for their qualitative and innovating expressions of Retsina. By carefully measuring the amount of pine resin, and of course start with a quality base wine, a Retsina can be made that is a beautiful combination with dishes that are hard to match with. Think of dishes with lots of green garden herbs, garlic and many Mediterranean fish dishes.

In order to fulfill the requirements of the appellation, the base wine can only be made of the local Savatiano grape, originated from the region of Attica. It is a grape that has many sides to it, too often compared with the Chardonnay. I was one of the lucky ones to try Savatiano in its different forms, going from very fresh and acidic, aging on the lees, aging on oak, with pine resin to even sparkling! Savatiano can do it all!
A fun fact about the Savatiano grape is that shape of a full grown grape bunch will have a similar shape as the region of Attica on the map, referring to its origin.

  • Produced as a crisp white, you will find aromas like pickled lemon, lime peel, crisp citrus fruit, saline and green herbs.
  • Aging on the lees provides us all above aromas, along with a creamy texture and some riper fruit like yellow apple and sugar melon.
  • Oak continues on the ripeness and adds vanilla, toast and salted butter

Due to the already present aromas of fresh green herbs and saline, the wine blends remarkably well with the aromas of pine resin, creating Retsina. A well made Retsina will have the scent of a walk through a pine forest, just after summer rain, but without the scent overpowering the wine. It blends with pickled peels of citrus, yellow apple and green herbs. A medium level of acidity will support the crispiness, while a medium full body ensures a match with marinated light meats, such as pork, veal and poultry. Think of dishes from the Mediterranean cuisine, but also Mexican or South America.

A sprakling Retsina is one of its kind and I have only seen it with one winery. Beautiful aromas of ripening fruit, bread yeast, salted butter and pine resin. Gastronomically a very interesting sparkling!

In conclusion we can state that in every appellation there is a level of quality, even though the reputation may suggest otherwise. The best way to discover the surprising quality of certain wines is to travel to the region of origin and get enchanted by the passion of the winemakers! Keep tasting, keep exploring!