Albania is small country on the Adriatic Sea wedged in between Montenegro on its northern border, Kosovo to the northeast, (the Former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia to its east, and Greece to the south.
Wine production in Albania goes back to the classical era, or even before—archaeological evidence of winemaking goes back at least six thousand years. Wine production was suppressed during the long Ottoman occupation, stagnated but survived during the communist era, and also survived the more recent transition to a market economy. In 2015, this small country had over 25,000 acres of vineyards, widely dispersed among mostly small family holdings.
Albania is known particularly for its indigenous grape varieties. Major whites include Shesh i Bardhe, Debin, e Bardhe, and Pules. Reds include Shesh i zi, Kallmet, Vlosh, Serine, and Debin, e Zeze.
The white and red forms of Shesh, Shesh i bardhe and Shesh i zi, respectively, account for more than a third of all plantings. The white Shesh has a fine floral element to it, while the red Shesh can benefit from aging.
Kallmet is Albania’s noblest red grape, cultivated since the Roman era. The white Vlosh makes full-bodied astringent wines that are sometimes fermented with intentional oxidation, to bring on a sherry-like character.
Albania has four wine producing regions:
- The coastal plains, rising to about 1000 feet above sea level, including the capital city of Tirana
- The central hilly region, varying in altitude between 1000 and 2000 feet
- The eastern sub-mountainous region, 1800 to 2500 feet in elevation
- The highlands, where grapevines grow as high as 3,300 feet above sea level