Wines of Albania

The wine of Albania is characterized by its unique sweetness and indigenous varieties. Albania produced an estimated 17,500 tones of wine in 2009. The geographic elevation of Albania makes it a perfect setting for wine production. During the communism era, the production area expanded to some 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres). The Albanian wine industry is striving to re-establish an international presence in line with its long reputation as a quality wine producer.

History

Antiquity

Albania has one of Europe's longest histories of viticulture  Ancient Roman writer Pliny describes Albanian wine as ‘very sweet or luscious’ and refers to it as ‘[taking] the third rank among all the wines’. Albanian families are traditionally known to grow grapes in their gardens for producing wine and Rakia.

Communism up to present

Albanian wine held a reputation among foreigners for its distinct and good quality. During the communist rule, almost all plantations were dedicated to export. After the collapse of communism, many new wineries were opened by expats returning home from Italy and other countries.

Wine regions

Albania is divided into four wine producing regions:

The coastal plain (Western lowland) rises to 300 m/990 ft and encompasses the towns of Tirana, Durresi, Shkodra, Lezha, Lushnja, Fier, Vlora, and Delvina.

The central hilly region varies between 300 and 600 m/1,980 ft altitude and includes Elbasan, Kruje, Gramsh, Berat, Prmet, Librazhd, and Mirdita.

The Eastern sub-mountainous region lies between 600 and 800 m and surrounds the towns of Pogradec, Korca, Leskovic, and Peshkopi.

Mountains (Highlands) vines are also grown as high as 1,000 m/3,300 ft. Soils are generally clay silica of varied depths and exposures.

Wineries & Grape Varieties

Some of the most important wineries (Albanian: kantina) in Albania include Rilindja, Skenderbeu, Çobo, Luani, Bardha, Arberi, Sara, Vintage, Kardinal, and Kokomani.

The main indigenous grape varieties

White: Shesh i bardhe, Debin e bardhe, and Pules,

Red: Shesh i zi, Kallmet, Vlosh, Serine, and Debin e Zeze.

Shesh i bardhe and Shesh i zi are the two most important vines, accounting for about 35 per cent of the crop, and take their name from the hill village of Shesh 15 km from the capital Tirana. At low yields the former has an attractive floral aroma while the latter is capable of producing wines worthy of ageing.

Kallmet is the country's noblest red grape, cultivated in ancient times around the lake of Shkodra.

As disseminated by the Romans as the variety is known in Hungary as Kadarka.
Vlosh is a specialty of the village of Narta, makes full bodied, quite astringent wines that may have some rancid character.

Preferences
According to Nasse and Zigori (1968) the best Albanian wine varieties are Debine (noir and blanche), Kallmet, Mereshnik, Mjaltez, Serine (rouge and blanche), Shesh i bardhe, and Vlosh. The best wine producing areas are around Berat, Korca, Tirana, Durres and between Lezha and Shkoder.