Albania is a gem waiting to be found by the travelling world. The country has so much to offer the tourist industry, with coastlines meeting both the Adriatic and Ionian seas and an interior landscape rising up to meet the Albanian Alps. The varied climates throughout the country have produced many singularly unique wine variations, as well as some other curious alcoholic beverages. It is well worth sampling a few of these authentic Albanian tipples while on your visit to this amazing country.
1. A Wine Renaissance
Albania’s long history under communist rule suppressed not only the nation, but also its wine industry. However, today over 30 innovative wineries have cultivated the native grapes into a variety of unique vintages that can easily hold their own on the world’s stage of popular wines. Shaking off Albania’s poor reputation in the wine world has not been easy, but is proving successful!
Produced at a single vineyard located in northern Albania, ceruja is an experience to be had. Sampling a glass of chilled ceruja at Uka Farm is like tasting the history and culture of Albania in a glass. Ceruja is made from a peculiar grape that climbs the mulberry trees near Lake Ulëz and can only be harvest once every few years.
This vineyard has made a name for itself by producing several ‘micro-fermentations’ a year of only 100 bottles at a time. The wine is made from 100% Albanian grapes and has succeeded in proving Albania’s potential in the world’s wine market. The vineyard is located in the county of Berat. Sampling a glass of Cobo’s finest after a day of touring the ancient city of Berat, which has also been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the definition of a tourist’s paradise and should not be missed!
As with many Albanian delicacies, Raki can only be made over time and with great patience, lest you spoil the entire batch with the slightest mistake. A basic translation of Raki is ‘a fruit brandy’. With its very high alcoholic content, sometimes as high as 50%, Raki should be drunk by itself and has historically been touted as a digestive drink. The traditional recipe uses local grapes, but variations of the traditional drink can be made from plums and are sometimes infused with walnuts or unripe nuts and herbs.
Boza, unlike Raki, has fairly low alcohol content and is made from the fermentation of maize or wheat. The result is a thick malt beverage with a slightly tart sweet flavour. Albanians hold the title of the world’s best boza producers, so be sure to enjoy a tall chilled glass of this traditional beverage with dessert while watching the sun set over the Adriatic Sea.
Most travellers will admit that one of the highlights of visiting any new country is exploring their traditional cuisine and beverages. The Albanians’ alcoholic drink production is steeped in history and steadfastly retains its authentic flavours and original recipes. However, be wary that if you finish the drink you are served, your empty glass will quickly be refilled over and over again, promising a definitively miserable ‘morning after’ effect! The key is to go slow and savour the best, in manageable quantities, surrounded by beautiful scenery and welcoming hosts!