Poros island actually consists of 2 islands; Sferia is the smallest one where Poros-town, the clock tower and the harbour are situated, and Kalavria is the bigger island. Kalavria is full of pine trees that reach the coast, with it’s beautiful beaches. The people of Poros have always valued the pine trees and treasured them. The recipe “chicken in retsina wine” is related to these beautiful pine trees; let me tell you how.
The tear of the pine: Retsina – Το δάκρυ του πευκου
The main reason that the people of Poros feel connected to our pine trees is the resin; the juice that comes out of the pine trees when ‘wounded’. It provides the tree with a way to heal and seal off its wounds, while also preventing the tree from getting infections that could further damage it. Pine resin has had a lot of different uses; as a sealant, a glue, a varnish or a natural oil of turpentine. Locals used the by-product (the resin tar) as a medicine for arthritis as well.
Because of all the different uses of the resin and it’s associated commercial value, there were a lot of people on Kalavria harvesting the resin and selling it to the merchants in Pireaus. The harvesting process was hard work, but it gave the people their daily income and also kept the forests clean of deadwood. Resin was a source of income on our island until the sixties, when plastic and petroleum replaced it with cheaper alternatives.
One of the main uses of the resin in Greece has been for aromatising our famous wine from ancient times; Retsina wine. Retsina wine is a Greek aromatised resinated white (and sometimes rosé) wine that has been made in Greece for at least 2000 years. This wine has a very special and unique flavour which is supposed to come from the sealing of the amphorae (wine vessels) in ancient Greece.
The Athenian wines were very well known and much exported in ancient times by sea. At the time they were not using glass bottles and the oxygen spoiled the wine within a year. Pine resin sealed the porous areas of the amphorae, kept out the air and simultaneously infused the wine with the resin aroma; It was therefore probably the first aromatized wine.
Nowadays the winemakers don’t have to seal their wine vessels anymore, but they still infuse the retsina wine with resin to produce their distinctive aroma. That aroma, the retsina, is not a taste that everybody likes. Retsina is a simple but “honest” wine that has a real Greek character, especially for the “ordinary” people and the students. You used to find it at the seaside tavernas in the summer, cooled down, an easy partner for our traditional mezes of olives and salty feta.
Chicken in retsina wine
Today, honouring the Greek summer atmosphere, I cooked this nice light dish that contains this very Greek aroma and taste: Chicken in retsina wine. It’s a nice, fresh, easy recipe that will give a twist to your cooking. Don’t throw away the rest of the unused retsina wine. Drink it chilled and Greece will come to life for you again. If you can’t find retsina wine, use any kind of dry, white wine. Let me know how this recipe turns out for you!
Photography: Annette Spaan
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