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Category Archives: Czech Republic

Czech Out The New Word in Old World Wines

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 …

Castle Mikulov - the heart of the Moravian wine region

Castle Mikulov – the heart of the Moravian wine region

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.

Monastic vines growing in the middle of Prague.

Monastic vines growing in the middle of Prague.

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.

Where is Moravia?

Where is 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

Cabernet Sauvignon

WHITES (makes up the rest of vineyard planting):

Müller-Thurgau

Veltínské zelené – Grüner Veltliner

Ryzlink vlašský – Welschriesling

Ryzlink rýnský – Riesling

Sauvignon blanc

Rulandské bílé – Pinot Blanc

Chardonnay

Rulandské šedé – Pinot gris

Tramín červený – Gewürztraminer

Neuburské – Neuburger

Muškát moravský – Moravian Muscat

Veltlínské červené rané – Frühroter Veltliner

Irsai Oliver

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.)

MoraviaIceWein  Ice Wine, Moravian styleMoraviaScareCrow

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Visiting Cellar Door: The Czech Republic

I’ll bet you’re surprised that there actually IS a wine region in the Czech Republic.  Bet your life there is – and it’s one of the most stunningly unique and historic wine regions I have ever seen.

I first visited the wine region in southern Moravia in the deep winter of 2006.  New-found friends drove me from Olomouc to Mikulov – just before the Austrian border, stopping at deserted cellars along the way.  The vision of ice-covered vineyards appearing like spectres remains one of my favourite memories of Cellar Door roaming.

Not far from Mikulov, is Valtice, where in the majestically restored Chateau Valtice, you’ll find the Národní vinařské centrum (National Wine Centre).  This majestic chateau belonged to the Liechtenstein family from the 1100’s until the communists siezed it post WWII.  The real Baron von Liechtenstein used to stage his jousting tournaments here, and the floors on the first floor are still covered with original Afghani hunting rugs.  At the National Wine Centre, you are able to taste the finest wines of the Czech Republic all in one place in the cellars of the old chateau.

If that’s not historic enough for you, head over to Palava, a short distance from Valtice.  Palava is a rocky outcrop of pure, hard, and white limestone of Upper Jurassic origin.  Needless to say, they produce some fine white wines here.

Hectares of vines spread around Palava’s gentle slopes, and the hills themselves are crowned with no less than two castle ruins.  If I remember correctly, they date back to 11th and 15th centuries.

Winemaking goes back much further than that.  They say the Celts brought viticulture to Palava, but there’s no tangible evidence. There is, however, archaelogical evidence that Roman legions brought the practice here in the first century AD.  And they weren’t the first inhabitants.  The Věstonická Venuše found here dates back over 25,000 years BC.  It’s the oldest ceramic statue in the world.

Yep, this place is a wonderland of exploration and ancient history.  I feel so lucky to have stumbled across it.

I loved the place so much, I went back in 2007 and lived there for 3 years.  I was also honoured to lecture at the NVC in wine marketing and tourism in 2008/09.

There’s little industry consolidation in Moravia, and in its 16,000 hectares of vines, you will find 10,000 producers.They were very appreciative of the information I shared with them.  It was the most rewarding work I’ve ever done in my wine career.

 

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