“I am not tasting a glass of wine but a part of your spirit,”– Portuguese poet, Di Brito.
“A fabulous wine from a magnificent city,” – Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag.
“An oasis of civilization,” Albanian writer, Ismail Kadare.
“A perfect taste,” former Italian Premier, Romano Prodi.
All these quotes, coming from the best sensations of these personalities, go to “Çobo” wine originated from the 2400-year museum city of Berat, southwest of Albania. The latter has a name in Albania when it comes to winery, agro-business and gastronomy in general.
As other local wine brands originate from Albania, the question arises over what makes “Çobo wine” to stand out among the others. “To be a real good one, every product, apart from knowledge, experience and technology, should filter passion, desire and I would include a term which might sound a bit of naïve – sincerity. In the first label, I described our wine as earnest, deep and seductive and continues to be like that even to date,” Muharrem Çobo, owner of Çobo winery.
This mountain- and field –smelling wine dedicates much of its success to its place of origin – Berat. Muharrem’s mother is from Skrapar, region of Berat, and since he was a kid, he took delights in the taste of the very original dishes she prepared. “I think this has had its own influence on me,” Muharrem said.
In addition, the city of Trento in Italy was a real school to him. “I lived there for 10 years. Besides the studies for law, I worked there as a waiter in the most awesome places and I had the chance to try various wines,” he said.
Dating back to 1900, “Çobo” wine is a family product embodying the efforts of Muharrem, his father and brother while an Italian enologist, friend of the family, takes care of the wine tests two or three times a year.
Luckily there are as many as 10 various grape varieties which are grown in Albania. Unfortunately 2-4 varieties are prominent; the others are located in very small areas. Given the size of Albania, it can be said that this number of varieties is considered high.
“The White of Berat” (E Bardha e Beratit); Kashmer (a blend of Cabernet (Cabernet Sauvignon) & Merlot and Sheshi i Zi ; Shesh i Bardhe; Shesh i Zi and Raki me Arra (Brandy with Nuts) – a raki flavored with unripe nuts – are the major products sealed by Çobo winery, which currently produces 100,000 bottles annually.
The story of Çobo wine is about travelling, human contacts and life moments. “I think contacts play a great role in everyone’s life. I won the right to attend the Erasmus Exchange program in Sweden. As you may know, the alcoholic drinks are state’s monopoly in this country. There I saw Macedonian, Bulgarian wines and many others but not Albanian ones,” Muharrem confessed.
Even in Italy, where he lived for 10 years, all he found with Albanian authorship was a book of Ismail Kadare and an Albanian poetry anthology. “Such an absence pushed me to create an Albanian wine brand. Let’s put it that way: an inner patriotic urge pushed me to create an Albanian wine brand,” he said.
One of the main successes of “Çobo” wine is its variety, called “Kashmer.”
Launched in September 2000, this variety hit as a name and as a taste. “Its name attracted attention and itched the imagination. It was a fantasy name. Without Kashmer, we would not have today’s success,” he said.
“Kashmer” was a result of his brain release. “At that time, I recall that I was stressed and tired since I had to sit to two remaining exams. In order to release my brain out of this stress, I needed to do something different and I started thinking how to mix some wines. And I came up with the name “Kashmer” which was a mix of Cabernet (Cabernet Sauvignon), Shesh i Zi and Merlot. This unblocked my mind and I achieved good results in my exams,” he said.
At the law graduation ceremony, his acknowledgment card contained even the words “Grazie Kashmer!”
Rather than the owner of this winery, Muharrem prefers to be called the creator of Çobo wine. Every step of this process is creative ranging from the construction of the wine cellar to the feast celebrations around this wine. “When we built our wine cellar, which is a French-Italian-Albanian effort, we intended something unique, not a copy of something else, and an embodiment of creative elements. I have not seen such a cellar with such a concept else. I think it is unique,” he said.
The architect of the wine cellar is Zaim Elezi, a native from Diber, who is a painter and stage artist by profession.
Muharrem admits that he is prone to creativity. “In everything I do, I try to be creative though this is related to experience as well. Creativity resembles to eating. When you just only eat and eat and eat, at some point you need to poke and what you get is something processed,” he said. Another creative element is the feast of the first grapes leaves which belongs to Çobo winery. It is celebrated on the last Saturday of April. “The idea was why not to enjoy the moment of life rejuvenation,” he said.
Last September, Çobo wine organized the grapes harvesting feast which brought together many wine lovers, diplomats and artists. This feast is celebrated all over the world but nothing like in Çobo winery which serves it differently every year. Apart from the traditional elements, the competition of the fastest feet belongs to Çobo winery. The latter hosts many tours at Çobo winery where the visitors can taste the wine accompanied by cheese, olives and baked bread, all home-made.
“I have always quested for the traditional elements, meaning the return to our roots. That is the search for the autochthonous grapes varieties. It has always been clear to me that if we want to be competitive to the domestic and foreign market, we need to offer something good and different,” Muharrem concluded.
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