The History of Albanian Wine
Albania, a country with a viticultural history as rich as its landscapes, is making a remarkable comeback in the world of wine.
From the coastal plains to the mountainous terrains, Albania offers a diverse range of wines that are as unique as they are flavorful.
Albania’s viticultural history is rich and complex, dating back to the 8th century BC when the Illyrians inhabited the region.
This area was one of the few places where grapes survived the Ice Age, with seeds dating back 4,000 to 6,000 years.
The country shares the longest continuous viticultural history in Europe with its neighbor, Greece.
The Roman Empire’s expansion into the Balkans increased wine production and organization, evident in the decorations on religious and household items from that era.
However, the arrival of the Ottoman Turks in the late 15th century led to a decline in vineyards, mostly found in Christian-majority regions.
Albania’s modern viticulture faced another setback due to phylloxera in 1933 but began to recover after World War II.
The most significant production area was around Durrës, where communist state enterprises grew the grapes.
Despite the challenges, the Albanian wine industry has been on an upward trajectory, especially since the institutionalization of democracy and capitalism.
Albania’s wine industry faced colossal challenges, especially during the communist era when quality was compromised for quantity.
However, the collapse of communism in the early 1990s marked a turning point.
Forward-thinking oenologists and growers have since been elevating Albanian wine to impressive heights, some even gaining international experience in renowned wineries in Italy and France.
Albania’s wine industry is closely tied to its burgeoning agrotourism sector. Wineries often offer more than just tastings; they provide a complete cultural experience.
From farm-to-table dining experiences to guided tours through vineyards, Albania is positioning itself as a leader in agrotourism in Europe.
Albania’s diverse geography offers a unique terroir for grape cultivation.
Albania can be separated into four wine regions, mainly defined by their altitude.
Central Hilly Region
This region includes Elbasan, Krujë, and Berat and is home to robust red wines that pair well with Albania’s hearty cuisine.
Eastern Sub-Mountainous Region
Surrounding towns like Pogradec and Korçë, this region is known for aromatic whites and reds that are as complex as they are delicious. This region surrounds Pogradec, Kolcha, and Peshkopi.
The highest vineyards sit at altitudes of approximately 1,000–1,300 meters on the slopes of the Albanian Alps and Pindus Mountains.
The wines from this region are unique and offer a different flavor profile compared to the other regions.
The highest vineyards here offer unique wines with different flavor profiles.
Indigenous Grape Varieties
Albania is home to many indigenous grape varieties, including Shesh (black and white), Kallmet, Vlosh, and Serinë.
These grapes are the soul of Albanian wine, offering a unique flavor profile that distinguishes it from wines produced in other countries.
The main indigenous grape varieties found in Albania are Cheche (black and white), Calumet, Vroš, Celine, Puures, Cerce, Mereshnik, Devin (black and white), Klikis, Myartez, Mavrd, Manakku, Kotekke. , Vranatsu, Stamboreche, Mr. Baba, and Taiga (Kohaku).
Wineries to Watch
Albania’s wine scene is burgeoning from traditional family-owned wineries to modern establishments.
Notable wineries include Çobo, known for its seasonal festivals, and Kokomani, renowned for its “Shesh” variety.
Duka Winery is another must-visit, offering a range of red wines like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Located in Eminas village, Kokomani Winery is renowned for its “Shesh” variety, an autochthonous wine in White Shesh and Black Shesh.
With 15 years of experience in Tuscany’s prestigious wineries, the owner has brought Italian expertise to Albanian soil.
Situated near the UNESCO town of Berat, Çobo Winery offers guided tours that explore the history and traditions of the Çobo family.
The winery organizes two seasonal festivals attracting tourists and locals.
Set on a hilltop overlooking Green Lake, Duka Winery offers a range of red wines such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo.
The winery has modernized its operations and is known for its full-bodied and balanced wines.
List of Wineries Albanian wineries:
Medaul, Carmeti, Lirinja, Skenderbeu, Çobo, Luani, Barda, Alberi, Sala, Alimani, Vintage, Constantino Surantis, Cardinal, Zika, Belba, Nulerari, Balaji, Coto, Villa Duca, Villa Shehi, Villa Hadaj, Belba, Enol, Colca 2000, Cocomani.
According to experts, the best wine varietals native to Albania are Devina (noir and blanc), Calumet, Mereshnik, Myartes, Serina (rouge and blanc), Chez y Barde and Vroš.
The best wine-producing regions are Berat, Korça, Tirana, Durrës, and the region between Léger and Skodar counties in Northern Albania.
If you’re planning a wine tour, these are the regions and varieties to explore.
Albania’s wine industry is a blend of ancient traditions and modern innovations.
With its unique terroir, indigenous grape varieties, and passionate winemakers, Albania is poised to become a significant player in the global wine industry.
So, why not take a sip and discover the rich flavors of Albanian wine?