When we think of the great wine-producing nations, these are the countries that we tend to gravitate towards. You can even throw in the likes of Germany, the UK, and the United States into that list.
It’s certainly not the first country that you’d think of when you’re asked to name a country with a thriving wine industry. But all of that may be about to change in the coming years.
Now, we’re not saying that Albania is likely to get close to the level of the Italian wine industry here. But what you may not realise is that the country has always had a small industry of its own. And if the current generation of producers have anything to do with it, Albania will become a mini-powerhouse of wine by the time they’re through.
That’s why we’re going to take a look at the country’s wine industry in this article. And unfortunately, we’re starting with a bit of a negative viewpoint…
Albania’s Wines Have Been the Source of Ridicule
Assuming that you even knew that Albania had a wine industry in the first place, you probably “know” one thing about the country’s wines.
They’re of a poor quality.
That’s been the pervading opinion of wine lovers for many years. And it’s even been the opinion of people who live in Albania for many years. Those who love wine in the country tend to avoid wines produced by Albanian producers.
The extent of the issue is highlighted by Flori Uka. He’s the man behind Uka Farms and he’s had plenty of problems with the misconceptions that still exist about Albanian wines. As he puts it:
“When I took Uka Farm wine to local restaurants they said, ‘Oh, it’s Albanian, so we’ll pay you €2 a bottle’. Each year Albania produces only a million bottles for a country of three million – we import €50m of Italian wine instead.”
€2 per bottle is an absolutely tiny amount of money to pay for a bottle of wine. And with those prices seeming to be the standard in the country itself, it’s little surprise that a lot of producers stopped putting in as much effort as they could. After all, would you work your fingers to the bone to produce a great wine, only to have your own countrymen tell you that it’s practically worthless?
Of course, this creates a difficult cycle for the Albania wine industry.
Buyers don’t want to pay much for the wines, which means that producers put less effort into their products. Of course, this enhances the negative reputation that Albanian wines have, which means that buyers are even less likely to spend money on the wines…
And so on the cycle could go.
However, the newest generation of Albanian winemakers wants to change all of that. And Flori Uka is a part of that generation.
The Amazing Albanian Wines Renaissance
What if we told you that there’s a wine that’s made using a grape that’s grown natively in Albania?
It’s cultivated from a vine that grows on the country’s Mulberry trees. And it’s typically a grape that’s grown in biodynamic conditions. That mean the producers use no artificial chemicals in the production or cultivation of the grape.
That grape is the Ceruja and you’ll only find it in Albania. And in Flori Uka, we have the world’s biggest producers of this gorgeous chilled wine.
You can also look to the Cobo Winery, which operates under the shadow of a huge castle. There, Muharram Cobo cultivates Puls i Bardhë, which is another tree-climbing vine that’s unique to Albania. The wines that he produces have been sampled by many curious drinkers, including Tristan Rutherford of The Guardian. And when speaking of the wine, he says:
“It sips like an olfactory firebomb of tannic citrus, and pairs well with indigenous Berat olives, which he serves with cellar dégustations. After sampling his 12-day-old sparkling rosé, we crack a bottle of Shendevere, a mouth-poppingly good méthode champenoise, which is as good as anything I’ve tasted.”
It’s producers like Uka and Cobo who wish to rid Albania of the poor reputation it has for wine production. And they aim to do it by shining the spotlight on the country’s native grape varieties. Simply put, the wines that they produce can’t be found anywhere else in the world. It takes a great deal of skill to properly cultivate the grapes that they work with. And the wines that they produce have already seen positive reviews from those lucky enough to taste them.
Where Do We See the Future of Albanian Wines?
It’s certainly an interesting time for the country’s wine industry.
We don’t for a moment think that Albania’s producers will start competing with the great winemaking nation’s industries anytime soon. And when we say that, we mean it in terms of pure volumes produced and popularity of the wines amongst the general public.
But when it comes to quality…there’s plenty to explore.
The key to making any great wine is to have a producer that’s truly passionate about their grapes and the processes that they use. In people like Cobo and Uka, you have producers that have a deep desire to ensure the Albanian wine industry gets the respect that it deserves.
And we believe that this respect will come.
It may take some time, but we envisage a future where Albanian wines start making appearances at international events. And over time, we believe that they work of producers like this will cause a turning of the tide of wine opinion within Albania itself.
Of course, this could mean less money spent by Albanians on importing Italian wines.
But if the trade-off is that we get to see more passionate producers getting their chance to show their stuff, we are all for it. After all, we’re fans of any great wine here at Xtrawine.
Right now, we don’t have an Albanian wines in our online catalogue. But with the strides the industry has made in recent years, we think we may have to look into adding some!