When Flori Uka, an Albanian entrepreneur, decided to return to his home country after graduating in winemaking from the Agricultural University of Udine, he noticed a missing puzzle on the wine map of the world.
Looking back at the ancient tradition of winemaking in Albania, which goes back six thousand years ago, Flori saw his country’s great potential for producing high-quality wines. He embarked on a journey to make wines from ungrafted grapes that grow in the Albanian wild, are up to 200 years old, and have not undergone a pesticide treatment.
“We have incredible resources and treasures in Albania that the world should know about,” noted Flori Uka.
As a professional sommelier and winemaker, Flori rejected job offers from wineries around the world to lead the first generation of winemakers in his family. Driven by the mission to make wine from the Albanian’s native grapes and bring out their best potential in a bottle, Flori created a database of Albanian regions and autochthonous grape varieties. His vision was to make his winery a museum where wine lovers from all over the World could come and taste “Albania in a glass.”
Uka Farm, a winery, and a restaurant close to Tirana, the Albanian capital, all have a unique heritage, and they apply natural, regenerative farming, all in harmony with nature. The farm itself was founded by Flori’s entomologist father, Professor Rexhep Uka, who guided Flori to follow his business vision in balance with nature.
The Uka winery has quickly become an elite tourist attraction frequented by heads of states, dignitaries, and glitterati from all over the World and where visitors can request bespoke wine tours on demand.
The Uka family restaurant serves organic food from their farm which supplies the restaurant with local farmers’ products. The menu is based on traditional Albanian cuisine made from organic, fresh ingredients.
To make Uka wines, Flori collaborates with around 250 families from some of the most remote villages of Albania from north to south. He collects the best variety of grapes from their natural habitat, which has been there for thousands of years.
“The grapes have become the primary source of income for the local families,” shared Flori highlighting that not only he is behind one of the unique wine treasures in the World but also that his business is allowing him to create jobs for local people.
“I have been personally going twice per year to each family for the past fifteen years. We celebrate together. We cry together. We do everything together. I believe in them, and they believe in me,” said Flori.
Uka winery cultivates grapes based on the philosophy of autochthonous grapes from the most remote rural areas, which preserve their untold history.
Flori believes that the Western Balkans region have an enormous advantage because of the preserved biodiversity and untouched nature. “Biodiversity is life. Homogeneity is death. We are preserving our resources, history and culture without having to depend on global economy.”
Flori Uka’s life philosophy is to live life in balance with nature. As he thinks of his legacy, Flori is confident that he wants to inspire the new generations to understand and respect the nature and life and have a strong work ethic.
“That’s how I grew up,” he said. “I believe in dreams, ” revealed Flori as he is getting ready to bring the Uka wines on the American market in early 2023. “The man without dreams is a man without wings.”