Retsina Wine was originally the traditional wine of Athens. This happened a long time ago. Two thousand years, or so, and Greece has been exporting retsina ever since. In those days the ancient Greeks learned that air was the main enemy of wine so they began to use pine resin to seal the top of the amphorae where the wine was stored and shipped. They even added it to the wine so that it formed a protective film between it and the air. This resin is still added to the must today. It comes from the conifer “pino halepensis”. The reason why retsina turned into the traditional wine of Athens was that the vines of Attica (the region around Athens) were of the Savatiano variety that thrive in the region’s heat, arid climate. In addition, the abundance of pine trees in Attica provided the necessary resin. Originally, the retsina was stored and transported to the various taverns in barrels.
Many, many years later as more and more people poured into Athens, things changed considerably. In the 1960s, many of Athens’ taverns and wine wholesalers were demolished as rapid urbanization took place. The delivery of barrel retsina ended and bottled retsina took hold. This bottled retsina also became available outside Athens for the first time. It was inexpensive and was often the only wine available on distant islands. Its consumption reached millions of bottles. Greek wine became synonymous with resin-coated wine all over the world. This was the situation in the late 1970s. Things have changed quite radically since then. The number of vines in Attica has halved and the domestic consumption of retsina is in free fall.
The construction of the new Athens airport in Spata encouraged commercial development in that area, further reduced the number of vines and accelerated the decline of wine. The value of the Retsina has become almost folkloric; more non Greeks actually drink it than locals. Nowadays retsina is much less resin coated than it was in the recent past, although its distinctive minty flavor still cools the palate. Barrel retsina from taverns may be exquisite, but inadequate storage conditions, particularly in the summer months, can lead to oxidation and damage to the wine. For this purpose it may be wiser to order bottled retsina in a tavern. It is also always good to make sure that it is plugged when it arrives at the table. The quick change of retsina bottles in taverns guarantees their fresh taste. And, fortunately, the prices still remain extremely reasonable today.