Albanian wine (Albanian: Vera Shqiptare ) is produced in several regions of Albania overlooking the Mediterranean. We often forget that the Balkans are as Mediterranean as Italy , France , Egypt , Tunisia or Spain. But good wines are also obtained from the vineyards of Slovenia , Croatia or Macedonia . The Mediterranean climate with mild winters and generally warm, dry summers, as well as fertile soils, make Albania a favourable place to grow grapes.
Vineyards in Albania
History of wine in Albania
Albania has evidence of one of the oldest winemaking traditions in Europe, dating back to the Bronze Age. The oldest seeds found in the region are between 4,000 and 6,000 years old. The ancient Illyrians and Greeks inhabited the territory some 3,000 years ago, cultivating vines to produce wine. The ancient Roman writer Pliny the Elder described Illyrian wine as very sweet and delicious.
During the Roman period, wine production increased and spread. Decorations on numerous religious and domestic objects testify to the wine culture. In the 15th century during the rule of the Ottoman Turks, vineyards declined as a crop, and were mainly concentrated in the Christian-majority regions.
After the Albanian Declaration of Independence, viticulture gained popularity but was destroyed in 1933 by phylloxera. The recovery started only after the Second World War, when the cultivation area was only 2737 hectares. The most important producing region was around Durrës, where the grapes were grown by communist state enterprises. The exported wine was mainly consumed in Germany, but the obsolete cultivation methods reduced the growing capacity. The most common grape varieties were Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Riesling. Wine production in communist Albania reached its peak in 1972. At this time there were 23 operating wineries and 47 grape production sites. With the fall of the dictatorship the wine sector has improved considerably in quality and quantity, boosted by foreign investments.
Wine-growing regions in Albania
Albania can be separated into four wine regions, which are mainly defined by their altitude, including the coastal plains, the central mountainous region, the eastern mountainous region and the mountain region. The highest vineyards are found at altitudes of approximately 1,000-1,300 metres on the slopes of the Albanian Alps in the north and the Pindus Mountains in the southeast.
Map of Albanian wine regions
The coastal plains (western lowlands) rise to 300 m / 990 ft and encompass the towns of Tiranë, Kavajë, Durrës, Shkodër, Lezhë, Lushnje, Fier, Vlorë, Pukë and Delvinë.
The central mountainous region varies between 300 and 600 m / 1,980 ft in altitude and includes Elbasan, Krujë, Gramsh, Berat, Përmet, Librazhd and Mirditë.
The eastern sub-mountainous region lies between 600 and 800 my surrounding the towns of Pogradec, Korçë, Leskovik and Peshkopi.
Mountain vines are also cultivated at an altitude of up to 1,000 m / 3,300 ft.The soils are generally clay silica soils of different depths and exposures
The main indigenous grape varieties found in Albania are: Shesh (black and white), Kallmet, Vlosh, Serinë, Pulës, Cërujë, Mereshnik, Debin (black and white), Kryqës, Mjaltëz, Mavrud, Manakuq, Kotekë, Vranac, Stambolleshë, Babasan, and Tajgë (red and white). The best wine-producing regions are in the districts of Berat, Korçë, Tiranë, Durrës and the region between Lezhë and Shkodër.
List of Wineries in Albania
The most famous wineries (kantina in Albanian) in Albania are: Medaur, Kallmeti, Rilindja, Skënderbeu, Çobo, Luani, Bardha, Arbëri, Sara, Alimani, Vintage, Constantino Spanchis, Kardinal, Zika , Belba, Nurellari, Balaj, Koto, Vila Duka, Vila Shehi, Vila Hadaj, Belba, Enol, Korca 2000 and Kokomani.
Çobo Winery is a family winery located at the base of Tomorr Mountain, near the Unesco town of Berat , which can be easily visited before or after the wine tour. The Çobo family organises winery tours in English, Italian and Albanian, showing visitors the winemaking process and telling interesting anecdotes about the origins of the family’s history and their wines. After the tour, visitors taste a glass of wine with a selection of homemade Albanian cheese and local olives.
Bodega Cobo in Albania
Çobo Winery, Ura Vajgurore, Berat, Albania, +355674070562
Located 11 km from the city of Lezhë, Kantina Kallmeti is hidden in the mountainous area of Kallmet, known in Albania for its ancient tradition of grape growing. LA Kantina Kallmeti was founded in 2006 by two brothers with a great love for their land and a great passion for good wine. The winery also produces raki liqueur and olive oil. The best thing to do here, after the tour, is to buy a bottle of Kallmet Prestige, their premium product, made from a grape grown on this sandy soil.
Kantina Kallmeti, Rruga Lezhë – Vau i Dejës, Kallmet i Madh, Albania, +355682035892
Another beautiful winery to discover in the surroundings of Lezhë is Kantina Arbëri. The winery tour offers the opportunity to taste several varieties of the native Albanian grape Kallmet. Stroll among the vines and admire the breathtaking natural panoramas of this unspoilt Albanian region, then don’t forget to taste the award-winning Kallmet Riserva.
Kantina Arbëri, Rruga Rreshen-Kurbnesh km1, Rreshen, Albania, +355694433773
Located between Tirana and the coastal town of Durrës, the Kokomani winery is famous as the home of the indigenous Shesh grape, one of Albania’s finest. Kantina Kokomani produces red and white wine, three types of high quality wine known as Sheshi i Zi, Sheshi i Bardhë and Shën Mhill, which are distinguished by their special fragrance and flavour.
Kokomani Winery, Unnamed Rd, Eminas i Vogël, Eminas i Vogël, Albania, +355694019166
Wine tasting places in Albania
For those who prefer to sit at a comfortable table, drink excellent local wine and taste delicious Albanian food, there are two places not to be missed during a wine tour in the country, Mrizi i Zanave and Uka Farm. There are organised activities and excursions .
Mrizi I Zanave
Located in the village of Fishta, near Lezhë, Mrizi i Zanave is the most famous restaurant and farm in Albania. Mrizi I Zanave is the ideal place for those who wish to taste excellent traditional Albanian food prepared in a modern way. The chef, Altin Prenga, uses the freshest seasonal produce from his garden or buys it from local farmers to create culinary masterpieces, such as jufka with mushrooms and fermented cream, a typical northern Albanian pastry and yoghurt cakes made with local berries, among others. The restaurant is located in a beautiful natural setting surrounded by green hills. Don’t forget to order a bottle of Kallmet Prestige to accompany your lunch.
Mrizi i Zanave, Rruga “Lezhë – Vau i Dejës”, Fishtë, Lezhë, Albania, +355692108032
Uka Farm is a restaurant located on the outskirts of Tirana, founded in 1996 by the former Minister of Agriculture, Rexhep Uka. He started an interesting agricultural production programme and today his son Flori, who is the chef of the restaurant opened in 2014, prepares excellent dishes made with organic vegetables, local cheeses and meats, and excellent homemade wine produced by the Uka winery. If you’ve had enough red wine, be sure to order the white wine that Ceruja produced here.
Uka Farm in Albania
Uka Farm, Rruga Adem Jashari, Laknas, Albania, +355672039909
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