By Fatima Gorezi
Memetjon Beqo is the co-founder of '' Fliari '', a 'wine bar' which is located within the space of Tirana Castle. A special and unique bar for tasting good Italian wine and some Albanian organic brands.
Although he has studied for a completely different field his passion for wines and knowledge about them, has made him work for several years as a sommelier. Although the Albanian tradition in the production and tasting of wines has not helped him much, he has managed to become the best taster thanks to his work, studies and talent in selecting wines in some of the best bars in Italy.
"Star Buisness" brings in this interview an excerpt from his career and the innovative business philosophy that he has set up in Tirana.
How do you remember the start of your career as a sommelier? How was your passion for wine conceived?
I left for Italy in 2001 to study in Italy for high school, but I have always been a manager, waiter and recently specialized in sommelier, mainly with sparkling wines, champagne and northern Italian wines. Automatically when I was given the opportunity to open such a business here at the Castle of Tirana, after seeing the environment I thought it would be ideal to open a classic Italian bar; as the glass service, with at least some 15 open bottles, as the food abstinence, only as it pertains to wine tasting. My basic idea was to have a wine bar and a 'wine bar' and a discount sale for those who take it with them or a direct bottle sale and tasting of a few glasses. I have always been passionate about bars and supporter of studies in Italy I have always worked in different bars, gaining considerable experience.
After that the idea was to open my own bar and my thoughts were like it was the ideal formula to open the bar I wanted, work Quietly and do what I knew how to do best.
I like to communicate directly with clients, talk to them, suggest to you, exchange opinions, information to find out what they like, what they like and the level of wine tasting are so that step by step we can change and improve tastes.
You come from an experience of several years in Italy. Are there any differences between Albanian and Italian wine tasters?
Italians have somewhat more experience and are more difficult to advise, while Albanians are in the first steps and are easier to advise. The idea is to understand at what stage they are and how you can put them in a family of better quality wines, but without killing them in the pocket and without compromising on taste. For example, if until yesterday they were used to a base, you can not say come on try the champagne that it is very good. Champagne is very good, but there are some tasting steps to go through before you get there.
There is an expression he uses often. "Life is too short to drink a poor quality wine." So drink less and learn.
On the other hand in terms of spending I see that a good portion spend a lot, but are not ready for what they are drinking, do not know, which means that this potential clients should be better advised.
What is your most typical clientele?
Here at Tirana Castle we are lucky to have a very large portfolio of clients, but the best target and the most frequented are from the age of 30 to 60-70 years old.
Those who are really better acquainted and with whom you have the comfort of talking and advising them better are from 30 years old and up. This certainly does not mean that even an 18 or 20 year old can not come to a 'wine bar'. I have encountered that there are many young people who are interested in wine, grapes, soil composition, etc. and are more interested to know if we in Albania produce quality wine. Local customers are mostly from Monday to Friday.
Talk a little about the origin of wines? Where do they mainly come from?
Mostly 99% are Italian as I said at the beginning that sommelier must specialize somewhere and can not recognize all the wines of the world. I have some Albanian products that I like to select well. I usually do not pick up these commercials. I really like the Balaj winery. Also a new winery in Pogradec that is doing well is Çaco, with some good white wines. Kokomani that is nearby also has quality wines. Among the Albanian wines is the Çobo winery, which is also part of the Castle, but even here you can find it. But as for the others I know them, but I have not yet made them part of my grass. I like the tourist when he comes to me to find something special that he does not find anywhere else. For example, the Balaj canteen is very special. It is a product that does not sell much in Albania because it is a natural product, extreme on the one hand, but most tourists understand, but Albanians still do not. From the fact that it makes '' orange wine '', a very heavy white wine, long fermentation, has many techniques inside and the one who produces it has lived in Italy and has always produced organic wines.
What is the best or most characteristic wine at "Filari"?
When a sommelier asks what is the best wine, the answer is: 'What I will drink tomorrow'. And secondly, I have to say it's a little more personal. The best for me is not good for the other. It depends on what the customer likes and at what tasting stage he is. If I am a beginner today I like a basic wine. Later when you train the mouth muscle, the best will be something else. Price and alcohol or variety does not affect quality. The balance of grape micelles, or CUVEE of grape vines, varies from year to year. The beauty is that even a label can change from year to year. Always the best is what we like.
How was 2019 for "Filar" in economic terms?
It was very good until the moment we had the Covid -19 problem. The first year has been difficult in some respects, but positive on the balance sheet. My business plan has been to suffer, but the clientele has been good; we have a portfolio of clients returning each week. For the first year of a new business it has been satisfying. For 2020 we are still waiting.
What is your philosophy for the future of the brand?
'Filari' is thought of as a brand, not only as a bar, but also in communication, service in terms of the wine world, etc. As a name it has an ancient meaning. In Latin it means "lines of grapes in a thread", while in ancient Greek it means "thread" and in Albanian "gold thread". Since Antiquity dealing with the vineyard and grapes has been something elite.
In the future we will also make a kitchen of foods that are best absorbed with wine, some pastas, some antipasti eliminating all products that are very strong. For example, the spicy in my bar will never enter because it greatly overshadows the taste of wine, or the very strong and spicy cheeses.
What are the products of the 'Filari' brand?
They are very selective because I like to be selective in what I use. From the olive that is as an accompaniment, to the bread, bacon and cheeses. Because I have coffee, I have selected coffee in the Filari brand. I come as a bartender and I also know coffee, or even bartender and bring some classic cocktails for aperitifs. Everything is selected and very detailed. We collaborate with "Tabacco Castle" with some cigars, or with "Hemingway bar" for some distillates, rum and whiskey, I try to have a selection of elite products even for products that are out of wine.
An important step is the training of staff. I myself have personally taken care to invest in staff training so that customer service is maximized as well as has the right training for wine recommendations.