Tue 25 Nov 2014

Retsina, But Not As We Know It?


Tetramythos (stress the second syllable) has deservedly been getting attention for its Retsina (£7.95 per bottle) from people who know what they are talking about:

Tetramythos team

With the Tetramythos team on my last visit.

Tim Atkin MW said, ‘This is no ordinary, drink-it-on-holiday Retsina. It’s biodynamic, fermented in amphorae with wild yeasts and highly unusual. The pine resin notes are restrained and enjoyable, adding a Mediterranean herb like dimension to the pear, beeswax and honey fruit. The wine finishes tangy and dry.’

David Williams of The Observer called it ‘the first I’ve tried outside Greece that actually invited a second sip. The pine is restrained, the base wine brisk and lemony: a match for fishy meze and stuffed vine leaves.’

The winery, owned by brothers Aristides and Stathis Spanos, is in fact beautifully equipped and spotless having been totally rebuilt in 2008 after the former place and much of the local village (but not vineyards) was destroyed in a horrific bush fire the year before.

The secret of their Retsina is that it is based on an excellent-quality white from the roditis grape. The pine resin, which I watched Stathis gather from their trees overlooking the Gulf of Corinth, is suspended in its amphora in a kind of tea bag, just enough to add a herby touch.

Tetramythos - pine resin

Collecting pine resin

The amphora allows some oxygen in to help the wine develop without altering the taste with wood.

Tetramythos amphoras

The wine is fermented without sulphur (a minimal amount is added afterwards) and the grapes are wholly organic. The wine can do you nothing but good!

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer for Greece

This wine is currently available in our Look East offering, which covers a number of exciting wines from Greece, Hungary and the Balkans, including three mixed cases.


  1. Gerry says:

    My father always used to call Retsina “essence of cricket bat”.

  2. Peter Brennan says:

    I recall asking the Society to stock retsina when I joined, 20 years ago. I haven’t tried this – but wonder whether it isn’t a misconception. Although acceptable bottled retsina once existed (Metaxas made a decent example) true retsina never came out of a bottle, but out of a large old oak barrel at the back of a traditional taverna. It is essentially a rustic wine in a natural, oxidative style. A substantial wine whose richness (not freshness) supports the resin, and makes it a blissful and very complex accompaniment to the local cooking – not entirely unlike an oxidative Jura Savagnin. I think, therefore, that snide comments about Anthony Quinn and cricket bats miss the point. Anyone who sought out the old rural Greek culture would know better. One only has to thumb through the 1990 edition of Faber’s ‘Wines of Greece’ by Miles Lambert-Gocs to appreciate how many profound vinous traditions have been quite wantonly destroyed in the past 25 years.

    • Sebastian Payne MW says:

      Thanks for your comment. You are describing the retsina that I drank in Greece in the seventies, which, as you say, was drawn out of a barrel and never should have been put in bottle.
      Frankly it was much better when the wine was freshly made and pretty dreary more often than not but acceptable because the competition from Domestica etc was worse. As such the bottled versions from the likes of Kourtaki and its successor never seem to me to have been worth taking out of Greece.
      Tetramythos is simply a completely different animal.

  3. Ann Gegg says:

    We love retsina – it must be one of the few wines on earth that hasn’t been globalised and is wonderfully matched with Greek food. There are numerous local varieties across the islands although the locals are often reluctant to share the best because they fear the kind of silly tourist reaction such as the cricket bat ‘joke’
    Glad to see the Wine Society is treating it seriously

  4. Laura Middleton says:

    Retsina but not as we know it ? Why – I love Retsina exactly as I know it. Its one of the happiest drinks on earth !

  5. David Wilson says:

    In 1978 in Monemvasia in the Peloponnese [as in Malmsey] I remember drinking a dark-brown retsina of fearsome strength; sadly not available when I revisted thirty years later. It was always better out of a barrel in the back of the taverna. Today Greeks seem to shun and despise it, which is a shame, as restina has an ANCIENT history. Wine amphorae found in the Ulu Burun wreck [c1300 NC] off Turkey had traces of resim in the bottom. I shall try this stuff!

  6. nicholas barker says:

    Being of greek extract the retsina I have most enjoyed was always from the vareli (barrel) in a taverna. None of the bottled ones have ever come close to it other than to be drunk as a ritual for being in Greece and trying to be Greek.!!! I would imagine that Tetramythos, as Sebastian Payne quite rightly says, is a different animal produced under completely different circumstances and something I will have to explore in the very near future. Thanks for highlighting this wine.

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