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Thursday, 18 June 2015

Retsina (Ρετσίνα): The Best Wine in the World - and a Song for Confused/ Bombarded Negotiators

A classical dry white table-wine with a slight suggestion of pine resin (once used as a preservative) reminiscent of the days of Homer, Achilles and Odysseus, with subtle hints of your first discovery of the Greek world - and of yourself (as Lawrence Durrell might say). Whether you prefer it straight from the barrel, a glass carafe or a metal jug, or served in a small half-litre bottle (Kourtaki, Malamatina or Georgiadis), it could change your life and spoil your palate for the most expensive wines from renowned chateau cellars. Retsina refreshes your taste-buds and cleanses the doors of perception!

It's perfect with squid, whether grilled or fried, especially after a swim in the sea, and before taking some sips of Greek coffee - or retiring for a short siesta under an olive tree.

After a delicious, simple meal at a taverna beside the sea-shore, I am quite prepared to forgive Greece all its debts - I must admit that I am the one who feels indebted! So pass round the bottle in Brussels!

Here's a verse from a little song I wrote when I first came to Greece, a long time ago. It may still be suitable for singing by muddled politicians and frustrated debt negotiators:

The Wine Speaks

Retsina, retsina, I'll drink you no more,
My resistance is low, my mind is unsure.

I hadn't planned it all,
It just happened,
It's the way of the world
Since the Fall;
I hadn't planned it at all
It just happened -
It just happened
That's all.

Retsina, retsina, I'll drink you no more,
My resistance is low, my mind is unsure.

(from Corfu Blues, Ars Interpres, Stockholm, 2006)

Jeremy Lewis wrote about retsina in the July 2015 issue of The Oldie. I read it on the plane to Corfu.

"Altogether more worryin is the fate of retsina, which is on the verge of becoming an endangered species. I first drank it while hitch-hiking round Greece in 1962, and thought it the most delicious wine I'd ever tasted...It's increasingly hard to find, and our local Waitrose no longer stocks those welcome bottles of Kourtaki. Maybe if we all started ordering retsina the Greek economy would enjoy a sudden resurrection; but I wouldn't count on it".

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