The wine of Albania is characterized by its unique sweetness and indigenous varieties. Albania produced an estimated 17,500 tonnes of wine in 2009. During communism, the production area expanded to some 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres).
Albania has one of Europe's longest histories of viticulture. The today's Albania region was one of the few places where vine was naturally grown during the ice age. The oldest found seeds in the region are 4,000 to 6,000 years old. Ancient Roman writer Pliny describes Illyrian 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.
During the Ottoman occupation the vineyard experienced a decline and were mostly found in Christian-majority regions.
Communism up to present
After the independence, viticulture soon gained widespread popularity but was almost destroyed in 1933 by the phylloxera. A significant upturn began only after the Second World War One, at the end of which wine was still cultivated on only 2737 hectares. The most important producing region was Durrës area where grape was grown on communist state enterprises. In that time the nationwide acreage corresponded approximately to that of tobacco, but was significantly lower than that of olive and fruit trees. The exported wine was consumed primarily in Germany. The export decreased continuously from 61,000 hectoliters in 1971 to 22,000 hectoliters in 1985. The reasons are to be found mainly in outdated production conditions and insufficient technical material that made it difficult to transport and lowered the quality. On the other hand, the export of easily transportable graisins was continuously in increase (up to 3500 tons per year), while the export of fresh grapes was marginal. The most common varieties were Merlot, Cabernet, 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. They survived the transition to a market economy in good condition. Vineyards and wine production has been steadily increasing in recent years.
|Vineyard area (ha)||2,430||8,545||11,020||16,719||17,621||9,103||9,806||10,178|
Albania is divided into four wine producing 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, and Delvinë.
- The central hilly region varies between 300 and 600 m/1,980 ft altitude and includes Elbasan, Krujë, Gramsh, Berat, Përmet, Librazhd and Mirditë.
- The Eastern sub-mountainous region lies between 600 and 800 m and surrounds the towns of Pogradec, Korçë, Leskovik 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.
Indigenous grape varieties
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, Tajgë (red and white), etc.
Some of the most popular wineries in Albania include: Kallmeti, Rilindja, Skënderbeu, Çobo, Luani, Bardha, Arbëri, Sara, Vintage, Kardinal, Zika, Belba, Nurellari, Balaj, Koto, Vila Duka, Vila Shehi and Kokomani.
According to Nasse and Zigori (1968) the best native Albanian wine varieties are Debinë (noir and blanche), Kallmet, Mereshnik, Mjaltëz, Serinë (rouge and blanche), Shesh i Bardhë, and Vlosh. The best wine producing regions are Berat, Korçë, Tiranë, Durrës and the region between Lezhë and Shkodër.
- Other sources put the figure at 105,000 tonnes (FAO: Agribusiness Handbook Grapes, Wine)
- "Wine production (tons)". Food and Agriculture Organization. p. 28. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
- http://www.winealbania.com Wine Albania Portal
- Tom Stevenson (2011). The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 978-1-4053-5979-5.
- The Laws of Fermentation and the Wines of the Ancients. Bronson Press. p. 41. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
- "The technology of wine making". Avi Pub. Co. p. 42. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
- Albania. Bradt. p. 42. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
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