In the south-east of The Czech Republic, a sleepy, ancient vineyard region has emerged, blinking its eyes at the modern wine world … probably wondering what all the fuss is about …
Insularity due to Soviet control over several decades has meant that this wine region missed the boat in terms of the current global wine boom, and as such, has little export history.
That’s the good news. Good because it means there is a new “Old World” wine region for vinophiles to discover! … and it comes wrapped in a turbulent history of castles, cathedrals and conflict. Sounds like a wine-marketer’s dream …
… after all, they’ve been doing this for ages.
Moravian wines claim to date back to the Roman times of third century AD. However, it wasn’t until the middle-ages that things got serious … and that was in the west, around the major city of Prague.
Vines were introduced to the fairy-tale Bohemian region as far back as the ninth century at the decree of Saint Ludmila, Queen of Bohemia. The vines were planted at Melník , for the sole purpose of mass wine production. After all, what’s a medieval monarchy without wine and banquets!
Emperor Charles IV, sovereign of the fourteenth century and educated in the French Court, ordered vines from Burgundy, France – heralding the start of a prosperous wine industry for Czech.
By the sixteenth century, vineyard cultivation and industry were peaking around Prague, but this was nipped in the bud by the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century.
Over the next two centuries, viticulture was virtually wiped out – to the point where most of the current wine industry in Czech these days dates back only around the 1920’s.
Two main wine regions … Bohemia and Moravia.
Bohemia is probably more widely reknowned for its excellent beers – Pilsener unequalled in the world for freshness, purity and quality … and crystal. Nevertheless, Bohemian wine has an affinity with German wine.
Prague is on the same latitude as the Rheingau and the Palatinate, and most of the varietals grown are the same as those grown in the German regions. Around 4,000ha of vines are grown in this region, just north of Prague.
Moravia, on the other hand, is the fruit bowl of Czech’s wine industry, providing most of Czech’s wines. This region covers an area of 11,000ha under vine, lying between Brno at it’s northern tip and Mikulov on the Austrian border to the south.
The average annual temperature around 9.5°C is undoubtedly the reason that 75% of the wines produced are whites. Grape ripening hence takes a slower pace, with berries developing a concentration of terpenes, producing highly aromatic wines.
What do they grow?
REDS (less than one third vineyard planting)
Svatovavřinecké – Saint Laurent
Frankovka – Lemberger
Zweigeltrebe – Zweigelt
Rulandské modré – Pinot Noir
Modrý Portugal – Blauer Portugieser
WHITES (makes up the rest of vineyard planting):
Veltínské zelené – Grüner Veltliner
Ryzlink vlašský – Welschriesling
Ryzlink rýnský – Riesling
Rulandské bílé – Pinot Blanc
Rulandské šedé – Pinot gris
Tramín červený – Gewürztraminer
Neuburské – Neuburger
Muškát moravský – Moravian Muscat
Veltlínské červené rané – Frühroter Veltliner
Labelling & Regulation
Well, this is, after all, part of Europe … and like any other European Wine Region, Czech wine is categorised to the “nth” degree … in accordance with the Wine Act of the Czech Republic.
Wine origin is specified:
vinařská oblast – (region)
vinařská podoblast – (subregion)
vinařská obec – (local village)
trať – (vineyard)
Wine type is labelled:
révové víno – (made from grapes)
stolní víno – (table wine)
jakostní víno – (quality wine made from must with sugar levels of 15g/L)
jakostní víno odrůdové – (max 3 grape varietals)
jakostní víno známkové – (cuveé, min 2 grape varietals)
jakostní víno s přívlastkem – (quality wine, max 3 grape varietals. Must required to have sugar level of 19g/L, with chaptalisation not allowed.)