GREEK WINES: HOT, HOTTER, HOTTEST! (2)
My visit to the Greek area during ProWein 2014 was really educative, pleasant and fascinating. After the great tasting at the stand of Artemis Karamolegos (Santorini), my friend, fellow #winelover and specialist of Greek wines & food, Ted Lelekas, whispered gently in my ear: “Would you like to taste one of the very best Retsina wines I ever tasted?” Well, of course I couldn’t refuse, surely because if was at the other side of the path. From Santorini to … Thessaloniki.
To be fully honest, among the more than hundred times I did have to taste retsina, there were maybe 2 or 3 moments where I really did enjoy it! What is retsina? Retsina is a typical anachronistic Greek speciality, wine flavoured with Aleppo pine resin. There are more stories about the origin of this emblematic wine. According to some people, the old Greek seemed to consider it as a necessary evil to seal the wine amphorae with a pine-resin-impregnated cloth to avoid the deteriorating influence of oxygen on the wine during transport and storage. That practice worked safely but also strongly flavoured the wine with resin smell and taste. When the Romans started to replace amphorae with barrels, there was no oenological need any more for the use of resin. However, says the story, the consumers were used to the flavour and the style had to be continued. Another story says that the Greek were so upset about the Roman conquest of Greece and their huge and wild thirst for wine, that they actually added extra resin to their wine to disgust the ‘barbarians’ from Rome and save the Greek wine store… True or not, I have no clue. Fact is that the strong harsh resin smell and taste was not really popular among the Western visitors for centuries. The modern retsina is produced by adding little pieces of Aleppo pine resin to the must during fermentation. The taste is not as strong as it has been in the past, but still many Retsina wines are not likely to please the palate of unaware Western consumers. Retsina is protected by a specific appellation regarding the traditional character of it. I still remember the awful smell and taste of some retsina wines I tasted some 30 years ago, especially the at that time omnipresent Kourtakis wines… It was said to be a good disinfectant for some ‘questionable Greek ‘taverna’ and their not always safe food… A few glasses of Ouzo and retsina could avoid an accelerated peristaltic movement in your belly and a 24 hours travellers’ disease free run to the toilet bowl. There surely was a part of truth in this…
However, there were also some ‘good’ retsina wines. What is good retsina? Well, it starts with a good basic wine! There is no secret about it. The better the wine and the lower the resin smell and taste, the better the result. Balance is the key; a good wine with a ‘touch’ of resin has its charm, especially combined with typical Greek food.
The Greek wine & food specialist Ted Lelekas introduced me to Stelios Kechris (oenologist) and Kostas Theodoridis (export manager) of the Kechris winery in Thessaloniki. I just had to taste ‘the best retsina’ Ted even tasted in his life… I have to say that I was first quite sceptical, but still wanted to try it. Kechris winery offers a range of retsina, white and… rosé.
Κεχριμπάρι– KECHRIBARI (= amber) retsina dry white is made of roditis (and savatiano?) grapes, modern vinified in stainless steel under controlled low temperature. The smell is quite dominated by typical Greek scents like pine resin and mastiha (mastic resin). Behind the resinous smell, some nice fresh white fruit gives a pleasant sensation. The wine is crispy fresh, well balanced, easy drinking and even enjoyable. Not a high-flyer but a nice and rather elegant retsina wine for the Greek ‘mezedes’, appetizer dishes as seen in many Mediterranean countries (from mezze to tapas and pintxos). Rather this traditional retsina than a cheap ouzo or raki, killing the great taste of the appetizers. Try it especially with good feta and/or kefalograviera cheese, the best green olives and some good olive oil, or with grilled squid or sea-fish. **(*) Nice wine with its own character, recommended with food.
Το δάκρυτουπεύκου –THE TEAR OF THE PINE is a traditional retsina, based on dry white assyrtico wine. Wow, that is quite a difference with the previous one! More wine, better wine, more body, more complexity, more length, incredibly tasty! The fermentation and ageing of the wine in new barrels give a mind-blowing difference. This is really a serious wine, full aromatic, reminding me fresh Mediterranean herbs, with the scent of pine tree and mastic resin on the back and a buttery, luscious kiss of the oak. This is a gastronomic wine, which surely will match deliciously with grilled shellfish (lobster, scampi, scallops…) and sea-fish. You might even try it cooking and serving with white meat and poultry! ***(*) (Very) good wine with character and complexity.
σε φόντοροζέ – ON A ROSÉ BACKGROUND traditional retsina rosé wine, produced from the emblematic red grape variety Xinomavro, cultivated in Goumenissa of Kilkis. The nose is quite complex and unusual for rosé wine, it seems to be the only rosé retsina in the world. Scents of sun ripe fruit combine with integrated oak nuances (6 months ageing) and resins from pine and mastic. On the palate, this rosé is deliciously fruity, fresh and spicy, multi-layered and well-balanced. Very nice gastronomic wine for the best mezedes (especially grilled seashells, scampi, squids) and grilled sea-fish with spicy tomato sauce, but you could try it as well with rice or pasta dishes. *** Good wine with character and complexity.
Just before leaving for the #winelover #rapsanilover vertical tasting at the Tsantali stand, I tasted a last wine… no retsina!
T by Kechris is an IGP dry white wine from Macedonia, a brilliant blend of assyrtico and sauvignon blanc. Absolutely delicious wine, crispy fresh and fruity (citrus, exotic fruit and more) in the nose and on the palate, with a complex structure (partly due to a wonderful work on the lees for 5 months in new oak barrels), lots of juice, freshness and elegant minerality in the long finish. Gastronomically valuable, not only with shellfish and sea-fish starters, but also serious dishes with grilled sea-fish, shellfish or even poultry in creamy (white wine) sauce. ***(*) Good wine with character and complexity.
It was a short but wonderful tasting giving me a warm feeling about the skills of this winery and their oenologist Stelios Kechris. If you happen to be in the surroundings of Thessaloniki, you simply must make this experience and taste the whole range of wines. Σας ευχαριστούμε Στέλιος για αυτό το ωραίο ευκαιρία να ανακαλύψουν τα κρασιά σας!
More information about the Stelios Kechris Winery: website