May 25, 2015

Kechris Tear of the Pine Retsina

By In Food and Wine, Visiting Northern Greece
On the journey back to Thessaloniki after several packed days of vineyard visits and tastings our little tour bus stopped outside a taverna for a light lunch. I don’t think anyone was hugely hungry, we had after all been over indulging all week due to the generosity of our hosts. But a little salad and a glass of something cooling was welcome. Bread and an array opening meza dishes soon arrived, followed by a local pan-fried cheese and piles of gorgeous battered rounds of courgettes. Then more dishes including large plates of chips, cold meats and so forth.

This being just a journey home I didn’t take photos or record the dishes offered. But after a plate of crepes the size and width of my forearm arrived I was beat. Everyone else was too by the cries of “enough” and “stuffed” from around the table. The crepes incidentally were not that great, to be honest, stuffed as they were with chips, melted cheese, ham and goodness knows what else. Two mammoth salads arrived – lettuce covered in cucumber, strawberries, sweetcorn and tomatoes. Then the main course. Plates over brimming with sausages (superb), steak and chops. And more chips.

I hate to say it but plenty remained uneaten. Though another round of beers for some and another bottle of Greek white for others seemed to wash everything down. Then we had dessert.

All that came to, if memory serves, just €30 a head. Staggering.

The tour around northern Greece was a week of joyous discovery, In particular the local grape varieties (Malagouzia and Assyrtiko, both white, being stand outs to me) and how superbly they accompanied local foods. Cheese, lamb, tomatoes and courgettes appeared often.

One vinous discovery was of a new style of Retsina. Forget the bottles of old. Todays Retsina specifically in the hands of the Kechris (Kikrus) Estate has little in common with the syrupy, heavy on the Dettol, frankly undrinkable styles of old. Think fresh and lively, crisp acidity and citrus flavours with just a subtle complexity lent to the wine by the addition of a soupçon of pine resin. The multi-award winning Kechris Tear of the Pine Retsina really is worth tracking down and such an evocative name too.

The workhorse grape Savatiano was noticeable by its absence during our tour. Traditionally Savatiano is the grape that made Retsina, along with Roditis. But at Kechris they have taken the Assyrtiko grape given it some new oak barrels and some time on its lees to lend some serious gravitas to their Tear of the Pine Retsina.

And what to drink with this new style Retsina? The producer recommends oily food, smoked food and dishes rich with rosemary and other herbs. In an attempt to encapsulate the memories of our Greek trip, especially that gigantic lunch I recommend a simple pasta dish – Spaghetti with Courgettes, Feta and Lemon.

Kechris Tear of the Pine Retsina

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