Not many people have heard of Berat, and even less have heard of Roshnik, a small village located about 30 minutes from Berat’s centre. Usually visitors to Albania spend a few days in Tirana before moving onto the next country, totally unaware of the beauty that lies just a 2 hour drive from Albania’s bustling capital.
Luckily for me, I’d heard too many good things about Berat to give this charming city a miss, and when I met an English couple in Tirana who invited me to go wine tasting with them there, I couldn’t possibly say no. Before long, we’d amassed a fairly sizeable group of eager backpackers who were willing to take the trip to Berat to see just what an Albanian wine tasting experience involved.
Our first stop was Berat Backpackers hostel, a beautifully renovated traditional house in the centre of Gorica with lush gardens and friendly volunteers. Because the staff at Berat Backpackers go on frequent trips to Kantina e Veres Alpeta, the winery at Roshnik, they were more than happy to arrange one for us, and that’s how we found ourselves speeding around the sharp bends around the mountains one Sunday afternoon to see what Kantina e Veres Alpeta had to offer.
Kantina e Veres Alpeta is situated a 20/30 minute drive from the centre of Berat, in the rolling hills of the Albanian countryside, beneath Tomorri mountain. It has been a winery ever since 1991 when, after the fall of communism, the land that once belonged to the brutal dictator was given back to the people. The Fiska family was given 3.4 hectares of land, some of which included vineyards, and so the winery was born! It took a while for the venture to take off as Albanian wine used to be very unpopular, but when the Fiska family began experimenting with the Pules grape that is native to Albania, they started to become successful.
When we arrived in the quaint village of Roshnik, our wonderful host Ardit took us on a 20 minute uphill walk to enjoy the panoramic views of his homeland, before leading us back down and to the winery itself, where we were given a tour of the vineyards and allowed to taste the Pules grapes that are native to Albania. As him and his Uncle Petrin led us through the vinyards and into the distillery where the wine and raki are made, they explained the whole process to us. We were surprised to learn that it only takes about a week to produce raki!
Alongside the raki (the Fiska family make two different kinds – regular raki and raki that is aged in an oak barrel, which is my personal favourite), the Fiskas also make a few different types of wine – the white Pules variety, a Merlot (2004, 2005), a Merlot-Cabernet (65% Merlot, 35% Cabernet), and a Merlot 2015 Reserve.
After we’d finished the tour, it was time for my favourite part – the tasting! Now, I have never actually been to a wine tasting before, but when I envision a typical wine tasting, I think about pretentious white people sniffing wine and seeing who can come up with the most creative interpretation of the wine’s flavour.
Luckily, this is far from what an evening at Roshnik is like. The Fiska family hold the tastings in their own back garden, where you can sit under the shade of a large tree and bask in the pink light of Tomorri mountain as the sun sets. Goats and donkeys meander by, lazily following the weathered farmers around the village, and the Fiska family waste no time in pouring large glasses of wine, which are to be enjoyed with the fresh olives, figs (the most famous in Albania!), goat’s cheese, almonds and home grown cherry tomatoes already on the table.
There is no pretention with a Fiska family wine tasting. The Fiskas like to make wine, but they like to drink it more, and when you’re in Roshnik, you can’t help but feel as though this is less about the money for them, and more about creating beautiful memories with new people…and drinking good wine of course!
After a glass of each type of red wine (I use the term ‘glass’ loosely as I lost count of the number of times mine was topped up!), it’s on to the white wine, before the oak-aged raki is brought out, poured into fresh green chilli peppers from which to enjoy the shot! By this time, both my friends and the Fiskas were suitably drunk, but that didn’t stop us all from having multiple shots of both rakis before dancing around the garden to classic Albanian music, led by Uncle Petrin, who doesn’t speak a word of English but knows how to party!
Although I’m not usually a red wine drinker, I have to say that I definitely developed quite the liking for it at Roshnik, although nothing can beat their airy sweet white wine in my opinion. It really is one of the best white wines I’ve tasted, and you can buy a whole bottle of it to take home for just 5 euros at Roshnik – unbelievable!
After a good few hours of partying with the Fiskas (we probably spent more than 6 hours at Roshnik), it was time to take a taxi back to the hostel to continue the party! However, if I thought that my Roshnik experiences were over, I was sorely mistaken – over the next 2 weeks, my friends and I found ourselves returning to Kantina e Veres Alpeta a total of 3 more times! On our final trip, we even combined the wine tour with a food tasting at the Fiska family restaurant, Restaurant Roshniku. Beginning the tour earlier in the day allowed us to make it to the restaurant by around 8pm, where we were treated to a seemingly limitless supply of wine, along with a mouthwatering selection of dishes from the kitchen.
All of the food at Restaurant Roshniku is 100% organic, from the baked hunted birds to the slow-roasted goat, fresh salads, grilled vegetables and a wide array of cheeses. We spent hours savouring the food, which honestly beat that of some Michelin starred restaurants I’ve dined in. I sat at the far end of the table with Uncle Petrin, who kept me in good supply of both laughter and raki before turning up the music and making us all get up and join him and his family in traditional Albanian dancing, which we’d come to understand was the usual fare at Roshnik, not that we were complaining!
Unfortunately this final night concluded my time with the Fiska family in Roshnik (at least for 2018 – I’ll definitely be back next year!), and I can’t thank them enough for their incredible hospitality, food, and of course, wine. I also feel that now is a good time to mention that this is not a sponsored post, and neither did I attend the wine tastings at Roshnik for free. I don’t recommend things because I get paid to on this blog – I do so because I value them and wholeheartedly believe that more people should get to enjoy some of the amazing things that I do whilst on my travels. I had an absolutely unforgettable time in Roshnik and the Fiska family wine tours are something I’m not just happy, but honoured to be able to promote.
You can enjoy a wine tour with the Fiska family at Kantina e Veres Alpeta for 1000 ALL (8 EUR) and a food tasting at the Fiska family Restaurant Roshniku for 1000 ALL (8 EUR).
Have you ever been to a wine tasting in Roshnik? How did you find it? Maybe you can recommend some other wineries in Albania? Let me know in the comments below!