Travel diary among the vineyards in Albania. Daniela: I was excited and I realized that the homeland is really a beautiful thing.That Friday night the work lasted longer than usual. My colleagues, alarmed, point out to me the time:
-Daniela, it's almost two o'clock, you have to run away. You will lose the bus to Malpensa and consequently also the plane.
Yes, I had to take the 03.00 bus to Malpensa in the morning. It was raining hard. I asked my friend Ettore to forgive me; he should have taken me home first and then to the terminal. While driving like crazy, you can't afford to miss the bus, you have a thousand thoughts on your mind: "I don't have time to take a shower, I can't sleep in my bed, I can't stay close to my daughter ..."
At 08.30 I arrive in Tirana which welcomes me with splendid weather. Despite being the November 9, a warm sun shone that made me forget all the fatigue. I felt lucky: after removing my shoes, I slept at the back of the bus because I knew I could probably go home to my house in Albania only late at night.
My brother, who was together with the group of colleagues and my Italian superiors, began to tell me how the tasting of Albanian wines had gone the night before.
- It was a success! The producers calmly and willingly told their wine. There were also some members of the Ministry of Agriculture, someone had also come from the Agricultural University of Tirana. But do you know what the best thing was heard last night?
- That for more than twenty years a tasting of this kind had not been organized, with the presence of many Albanian producers. Does it seem little to you?
Certainly it didn't seem to me that little. I was happy because in Tirana there was for the second time what in Italy and in the world is considered the wine guru: Roberto Rabachino. I am not here to list all his offices and his career, I would need a lot of time and space. You can read or find information about him on the internet. Roberto Rabachino he set out to write about this trip to Albania for three Italian magazines, and one of these is even distributed on board Heron. Therefore the article on the viticultural history of my country and the impressions of this trip of his would have been read by a traveler, a businessman, an indifferent person to Albania, but who in the end will know something more about my country. How beautiful! Thanks Roberto!
We travel in the direction of Laknas where it awaits us Flori Uka, a young producer, who also earned a master's degree in oenology in Italy. The first thing we notice is an olive tree; has 1.500 years. Our cameras have long "courted" that wonder. With patience, Flori explains the usefulness of that underground plant near the roots of the vines. It was used for natural and organic fertilizer, in order not to use chemicals that could have altered the taste of the grape. We go down to his cellar. Although it is still under construction and there are no steel or wooden containers, it is a beautiful cellar! In my opinion, even very promising, just think that it is built almost 5 meters underground. But I wasn't the only one. While I expressed happiness with every part of my body, even Gladys, my friend and journalist specialized in wines and spirits, did nothing but repeat: "Beautiful! Beautiful!"
I tell her: for those of you who have traveled the world and a thousand wineries in Italy, perhaps a similar construction seems more than normal, but for me this is a palace. Because I know that only up until yesterday my fellow villagers made wine inside plastic containers, often not even completely sterilized.
And in fact as soon as we go out, we find the past of that cellar. The plastic containers. But it was the past! Roberto in that cellar gives an interview for an Albanian TV network. I was close to him, curious to hear his words. The sun continued to beat hard and I had to wear sunglasses. They were useful also to hide some tears that came down to me while I heard him speak with the heart of what he saw and the potential of Albania. I was excited and realized that the homeland is really a beautiful thing. It's a mother, a father, a child, that's all! And when you hear good things about your country, tears don't ask for permission, they come down on their own, and you're forced to "suffer" and accept. Maybe they knew better than me that some things in my country went differently, that maybe all those possibilities listed by Roberto could really be realized. But could my honest countrymen do all this?
We continue to Marikaj, to visit the cellar "Bardha".
-Daniela, are we in Albania here, or in Italy?
-Roberto, honestly I don't understand it either.
As we climbed the private paved road like few other state roads, my heart filled with joy. Beautiful, all beautiful! The manager of that cellar, Agim Dani, it was a real surprise. With an exceptional grace and great style he made us go around his cellar, this one full of wood and steel barrels. Everything taken care of in the smallest details. The olive trees, 680 in all, enriched the landscape. Mind spoke illustrating everything, I perceived the humility of that person. "The wine will go on the market only when the quality will be dignified!" It is not just hearing about quality in Albania ...
We continued to Ishëm to visit the cellar "Duka". The view was indescribable, much less in a few lines. The sunset touched the surface of the sea and sprayed a magical reddish color on the vines, also thanks to the autumn colors. The clouds danced around the sun leaving beautiful trails. But as I said the words are not enough, and so here is the photo taken in those moments.
At dinner we were guests of Mr. Duni at the restaurant "Square”, Where service and cuisine were impeccable. The wine, "Shesh i Bardhe", Was a new discovery. My country continued to amaze me and I felt more and more proud in front of my Italian friends.
I have already told you about the fatigue before leaving. I had been around for over thirty hours, but the fatigue was gone. I was fine, I was happy! I could always rest, sooner or later. I couldn't and didn't want to complain; my friends were around in my village and not for theirs.
On Sunday we have new surprises in store. We leave early for Rrëshen. There, Mr. is waiting for us Fran Kacorri, owner of the cellar "Arberi". This village has left me perplexed, but also happy. I was struck by the new buildings under construction, a sign that the citizens wanted to stop there, and not run en masse to Tirana, alas, all cemented. Mr. Fran begins to tell the traditions and history of those parts. Even the label of his wine spoke of history. It represented a church of 800 years, a church that had resisted the wars in Albania (even to the secular occupation of the Turks) and near two people who worked the vineyards with carts and oxen. Even now that I describe it, it still gives me emotions. The wine tells, but for me, even the label speaks ...
Lunch was from "Mrizi i Zanave"(" The Shadow of the Fairies ") from our friend Altin Prenga, back from Salone del Gusto in Turin. For the first time, Altin brought Albania into an event of this magnitude. Needless to describe how lunch went, almost finished at dinner time. An Albanian sculptor Llesh Biba, attracted by the Incas ancestry of Gladys, he wanted to take a picture of himself with his mother, dressed in the traditional costumes of those parts. He too, with his originality, was a source of pride for me.
The wine we drank in all the cellars was of good quality. The "Kallmet"He said:"I'm here too, like your Nebbiolo!". The Albanian wine now had its own personality. Don't let it slip away !! It is our duty ... ..
The next day, before taking the group to the airport, I invited everyone to have a coffee on the thirteenth floor of a new building. Tirana from there you could see everything.
- You were right, when you said that it is all cement-based ... ... That's right !!!
Here are those words you don't want to hear, even if you know they are true. Yes, my city is all tiled ... there are no trees, nor the green where children can play. Even when I was a child, I didn't have gardens around my home, but I had huge spaces to play. Who will think of our grandchildren? We will be judged by them. They will call us animals. But who will be there to tell them that they weren't all like that, but only a few jackals managed to reduce mine, our city !?
After the group's departure, I stayed in Tirana for a few days. I have often thought about this last trip around Albania. With a sense of poignant sweetness, but also of bitterness linked to the future of these cellars and in general of this sector. Now I support the glass full of nectar of good memories and rosy perspectives for Albanian viticulture, and I dive into reality.
LVIA the Association of Solidarity and International Cooperation, non-profit, follows some Albanian winery in the most remote rural areas. The funds of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, used both for economic aid and for advice, have been of help to many producers in Albania. I wonder: What did the Albanian government do for its farmers? Have any institutions or organizations ever thought of taking a look at the difficulties of those people? Some may argue that wine is a luxury. Eh, no, you don't have to say that, let alone me! Wine is wealth, it is history, we must cultivate and pass on this culture. We have the duty!
We cannot think that Italians or others should think of Albanian producers. We who live in Italy are aware of the problems this country is experiencing now. So deeply thanking those who are thinking of helping my country, but to be sure that these (many) money will not be lost, I will launch the same appeal as the viticultural agronomist Alberto Cugnetto who said "Your turn". If the foundations and the first brick were laid with the help of Italy, now it's our turn to continue. There is no need to follow the mentality that leads to taking the money earned for the moment, "so there will be someone else who will give me a hand". Instead, let us try to see in these aids, in these trips and consultations, the brick of the future. Let's not waste it, it would be a shame. Like a vanished wine.
I thank all the Albanian producers, and in particular my friends: Roberto Rabachino, Torres Gladys, Alberto Cugnetto and the coordinator of the LVIA project, Andrea Lo Iocono.
Thanks for everything!
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