Once upon a time in a picturesque ottoman town called Berat in the Albanian mountains Eva and Nick visited the small but famous Çobo winery. They experienced Albanian history* at first hand while listening to Mrs. Çobo telling her inspiring story and what her family has achieved under uncommon circumstances: “The Çobo family has a long tradition in wine production dating back to beginning of the 1900’s. Our family was forced to stop the business in the 40-ies because private enterprises were not allowed anymore. When the communist government fell in the early 1990’s, our family resumed private wine production. While my husband Muharram, one of the Çobo brothers, was studying law in Italy, he met an Italian winemaker who sparked his interest in producing wine for a larger audience. Armed with the knowledge that the production of wine is often a matter of trial and error, Muharrem took detailed notes on the process, and endeavored to learn as much as he could from his Italian mentor. While back in Albania for the summer term, he decided to put his newly aquired knowledge into action. He harvested the grapes, let them ferment, and then bottled the wine. He took a bottle of wine back to Italy and was confirmed by his mentor that he got the process right and produced an excellent wine”.
Eva and Nick had the honour to taste their wines served with local cheese, olives and homemade bread and all rounded off with their Raki. They are both still impressed what this family has achieved. Today Çobo winery produces 100,000 bottles annually. They have been rewarded by Decanter London and made it into “The World Atlas of Wine” listed under the best eight wines from Balkan. If you ever make it to Albania don’t miss visiting the Çobo winery.
*Albanian history in a nutshell: Under the communist regime Albanians were not permitted to leave the country and they constantly lived in fear from the secret police ‘Sigurimi’. This was not long ago. Albania totally isolated themselves, the regime even prohibited religious believes. Albania was declared the first atheist state in the World. The economy was devastated and food shortages became more common. In 1990 many Albanians took refuge in Western embassies in Tirana. After a brief confrontation with the police and the ‘Sigurimi’ these people were allowed to board ships to Brindisi in Italy, where they were granted political asylum. The elections in 1992 ended 47 years of communist rule. Albania switched from a tightly controlled communist regime to a rambunctious free-market free-for-all.
Tasting the ‘Shesh i bardhë’ made from grapes only existing in Albania. One of the five wines Çobo winery produces.