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 people visiting 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. Not only that but Albanian wine is possibly one of Albania’s best kept secrets, with few people knowing that Albania actually produces excellent wine!
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 in nearby Roshnik, 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 wine in Albania was all about!
Alpeta Winery is the name of the winery at Roshnik, and our hostel Berat Backpackers were more than happy to arrange a wine tasting there for us.
So that’s how we found ourselves speeding around the sharp bends in the Albanian mountains one Sunday afternoon to see whether wine in Albania was really all that.
Alpeta Winery 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 Albanian people. The Fiska family were given 3.4 hectares of land, some of which included vineyards, and so Alpeta 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, and now run a thriving agritourism business with a winery, restaurant and guesthouse all open to the public.
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 and the reason why wine in Albania tastes so darn good (according to, well, me).
As Ardit and his Uncle Petrin led us through the vineyards and into the distillery where the wine and raki are made, they explained the whole production process to us. We were surprised to learn that it only takes about a week to produce raki and that Alpeta Winery can boil about 6000 litres of raki onsite!
Raki is a kind of brandy popular all over the Balkans, and up in Roshnik village, it is almost a religion! The Fiska family make three different kinds of raki – Muskat Raki, Oak Raki and Grape Raki. The Muskat Raki is made from the Muskat grape, which gives it a very strong, distinctive taste. The Grape Raki is the most common raki in Albania (and all over the Balkans!) and the Oak Raki is aged in an oak barrel for several months, turning brown to match the colour of the barrel – this is my favourite raki that Alpeta Winery produce.
In addition to raki, the Fiska family 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 had finished wandering around the vineyards and the distillery, it was time for my favourite part – the tasting!
Now for anybody who has been wine tasting before, when you go to an Albanian wine tasting, it is very different! Forget any images that you may have of people swirling wine around their glasses, inhaling deeply and talking in riddles about the flavours that they are picking up – wine in Albania is there to be drunk, and they don’t have time to have anything less than a bloody good time while they do it!
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 (the mountain actually turns pink!). Goats and donkeys meander by, lazily following the weathered farmers around the village, and the only sounds you will here are chickens clucking and your friends chatting and laughing in the fading light.
Once everyone is seated, the Fiska family waste no time in pouring large glasses of wine for everyone which are to be enjoyed with the fresh olives, figs (the most famous in Albania!), goat’s cheese, almonds and home grown cherry tomatoes which are laid out on the table waiting for you to graze on.
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 – drinking wine in Albania is a serious business!), it’s on to the white Pules wine, before the oak-aged raki is brought out and 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 types of raki 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 white wine for me, which is airy and sweet and perfect for a warm summer’s evening.
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 EUR at Roshnik – unbelievable!
After a good few hours of partying with the Fiskas and drinking copious amounts of Albanian wine, it was time to take a taxi back to the hostel to continue the party!
However, if I thought that my experiences drinking Albanian wine at Roshnik were over, I was sorely mistaken – over the next 2 weeks, my friends and I found ourselves returning to Alpeta Winery 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. Some of the vegetables are grown on-site and the meat is either purchased from farmers in the village or raised by the Fiska family themselves.
We spent hours savouring the food, which honestly is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. 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, and I can’t thank them enough for their incredible hospitality, food, and of course, delicious Albanian wine.
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 recommend – this is not a sponsored post – I paid for all of my Albanian wine tastings at Roshnik and was not asked by the Fiska family to promote them.
You can enjoy a wine tour with the Fiska family at Alpeta Winery for 1000 ALL (8 EUR) and a food tasting at the Fiska family Restaurant Roshniku for 1000 ALL (8 EUR).