Albania has one of the oldest wine-making traditions in Europe, dating back to the Bronze Age. During the Roman and Byzantine periods, the country’s wine production increased significantly, although under Ottoman rule there was a decline in production. During the communist dictatorship, there were several operating wineries and grape production sites handled only by the regime (not private owners). The most common varieties of indigenous Albanian grapes are Kallmeti, Shesh, Debin, Vranac and Vlosh, among others. The Land of the Eagles can be divided into four big wine regions, including the coastal plains, central hilly region, the eastern-sub mountainous region and the mountains.
Albanian wineries to visit
Çobo Winery is a family winery scenically situated at the base of Mount Tomorr near the Unesco town of Berat, which can easily be visited before or after the wine tour. The Çobo family organizes tours of the cellars in English, Italian and Albanian, showing visitors the wine-making 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.
Located 11 km far from the town of Lezhë, Kantina Kallmeti is hidden in the hilly area of Kallmet, known in Albania for its old tradition of grape cultivation. Kantina Kallmeti was established in 2006 by two brothers with a huge love for their land and a great passion for good wine. The winery produces raki liquor and olive oil too. The best thing to do here, after the tour, is to buy a bottle of Kallmet Prestige, their premium product, made with a grape cultivated in this sandy terrain.
Another beautiful winery to discover in the surroundings of Lezhë is Kantina Arbëri. The tour of the winery offers the chance to taste several varieties of the Albanian native grape Kallmet. Stroll among the vines and admire the stunning natural panoramas of this untouched Albanian region, then don’t forget to taste the award-winning Kallmet Riserva.
Nestled between Tirana and the coastal town of Durrës, Kokomani Winery is famous for being the home to the autochthonous grape Shesh, one of the best in Albania. Kantina Kokomani produces both red and white wine, three types of high quality wine known as Sheshi i Zi, Sheshi i Bardhë and Shën Mhill, distinguished for their special fragrance and flavor.
Where to drink wine and taste excellent Albanian food
For those who prefer to sit at a comfortable table, drink excellent local wine and taste delicious Albanian food, there are two not-to-miss places during a wine tour in the country, Mrizi i Zanave and Uka Farm.
Mrizi I Zanave
Set in the village of Fishta, near Lezhë, Mrizi i Zanave is the most famous restaurant and farmhouse in Albania. Mrizi I Zanave is the place to be for those who want to taste excellent traditional Albanian food prepared in a modern way. The chef, Altin Prenga uses the freshest seasonal products from his garden or bought from local farmers to realize culinary masterpieces, such as jufka with mushrooms and fermented cream, a typical pasta of the north of Albania, and yogurt pies made with local berries, among others. The restaurant is located in a gorgeous natural environment surrounded by green hills. Don’t forget to order a bottle of Kallmet Prestige to accompany your lunch.
Uka Farm is a restaurant situated in the outskirts of Tirana, founded in 1996 by the former Minister of Agriculture, Rexhep Uka. He started an interesting program of agricultural production and nowadays 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 great homemade wine produced by the Uka Winery. If you’ve had enough of red wine, make sure to order the white wine Ceruja produced here.