Heart of the business Winery
Vendodhja Shko te harta
Nearby UNESCO World Heritage city of Berat, Mount Tomorr, Bogova Waterfall, Osumi Canyon
By car, 20 minutes’ drive south-east from Berat, signposted from the main road, ca. 500m along freshly paved asphalt.
6 rooms, starting from €45/night.
What to do
Wine tasting, excursions in the area.
What to bring back
Raki, olive oil and a bottle of your favourite Nurellari wine.
The winery of the Nurellari family stands out at first glance in the village of Fushe-Peshtan, a small village home to 1200 people. It is located to the south-east of Berat in a plain, framed by the river Osum to one side and the foothills of mighty Mount Tomorr to the other. The property is well-kept and the beautiful large brick building with some modern elements has been recently renovated. Admittedly, it looks a little out of place when beyond the gates there is rubbish, leftover construction materials, and the house next door without a roof is slowly falling apart.
The head of the winemaking family, Fatos Nurellari, previously owned a construction business, but always had a love for wine. Though he is originally from Fushe-Peshtan, the family relocated to Berat for a number of years before they realised the perks of living in the countryside. Since they had sold the old family home, they rented a house upon their return to the village and planted a small vineyard in the surrounding property, producing their first bottles of wine in 1995. Over time, the family extended the business and moved to its current location in 2000.
Fatos and his wife, both agronomists during the communist period, as well as their three sons, are involved in running the winery. Evi, 25, and Levent, 28, oversee production and take care of guests, while their older brother lives in London and is engaged in remotely promoting and supporting the business. Evi studied economics in Tirana, while Levent studied agriculture in Tirana and Kamez and additionally completed specialised courses in winemaking in France and Italy. Both have also taken part in a sommelier course in Switzerland.
The brick building that houses the production facilities was a communist warehouse, and was initially the only building in the complex. After expanding it in 2014, today this old warehouse hosts the wine fermentation part of production, in large stainless steel tanks. Through a wooden double door, touring winery visitors are led to the bottling plant, and down a curved wooden staircase into the wine cellar.
Designed by an Argentinian architect, the Nurellari wine cellar is truly a work of art. The long hall has wooden wine racks along its long sides, checkered marble flooring and plenty of arches that span across the ceiling and which rest on columns of light, hewn stones. In the centre run two rows of handcrafted wooden barrels engraved with the emblem of the winery. Along the staircase, curved high shelves displays bottles of various vintages.
Kantina Nurellari produces around 30,000 bottles per year, two-thirds are red wines and one-third white. The family doesn’t sell open wine or plastic canisters and never has. “Wine lives in the bottle” is a belief Fatos held right from the beginning. The wine is sold directly at the winery and at selected supermarkets in Berat, as well as supplied to restaurants in the region.
The varieties used at the winery include some well-known international grapes like montepulciano, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, as well as also four indigenous grapes. Pulsi and Debina e bardhe are the two local white varieties, while Debina e zeze and Serina e zeze are red.
The white grapes are fermented for 15 days in stainless steel tanks, and 16 to 17 days, or sometimes longer at a lower temperature, for the red wines. One wine, a blend of montepulciano, merlot and cabernet sold as Montemeca is also aged in oak barrels for 6 months. If you would like to witness the wine making process as it is happening, visit Kantina Nurellari in mid-August or the beginning of September, when the grapes are being harvested, until December.
The Nurellaris call 5.5 hectares of vineyards their own, 0.6 hectares of which are adjacent to the winery. More grapevines are being grown on a nearby hill, while a patch of land with more vineyards is located on the slope of Mount Tomorr along road to the village of Kapinove. Yet another hectare is leased by the family, and still more grapes are bought from other villagers for their wine production.
In addition to four different wines, the family produces a grape raki, as well as a raki flavoured with walnuts. Called Arrabon, the name is composed of the Albanian word for walnut, arra, and the name of Fatos’ wife, Libonike,who inspired the drink. Furthermore, the family sells olive oil produced from their own olives.
All of these products can be tasted during degustation, optionally including three wines, or four wines and raki. Small side dishes to accompany the drinks during the tasting include cheese produced in the nearby village of Mbrakull, olives and bread. The wine tasting takes place in the beautiful tasting room on the upper floor of the building, which has large windows that allow great views over the vineyards and the green hills close by, as well as some ingenious design features. The materials for the interior have been sourced locally, and all the furniture, shelves and lamps are handmade by local craftsmen from Berat.
On the same level as the tasting room there are six brand new guest rooms, opened as recently as May 2019, with individual styles and capacity for two or three. In accordance with the rest of the building, wood, bricks and local stone dominate the design of the simple, but tastefully decorated rooms. For overnight guests breakfast is included, though other meals are only available upon request, as the winery doesn’t have its own kitchen. However, catering can be arranged from nearby restaurants.
For the future, the family are planning to create another space outdoors for the degustation of their wine, namely amidst their grape vines behind the winery. To the benefit of the winery, there are also plans to renovate the centre of the village, including the building of new roads and demolition of run-down buildings. Last but not least, Fatos Nurellari has sent out an application to lease 30 hectares of land from the government in the nearby village of Vodice, midway between Fushe-Peshtan and Berat, to extend the family’s cultivation of indegenous grapes. Having their request accepted would enable them to greatly increase their output in the coming years. The family’s dream is to eventually only use local varieties, and to export up to 30% of their production, truly bringing Albanian wine the international fame it deserves.