Czech wines unfortunately take a back seat not because they are not good—beer is a monolith—Czech Republic is known as being a very large producer of beer and of course the largest per capita consumption of beer anywhere.
Wine is not top of mind than say if you were in the epicentre of Napa, Bordeaux or Barossa Valley. And a dominant wine region spirits and beer may not be top of mind either. Fortunately we do not live in an either or world—we can have all three categories and don’t need to compete against. I do think of beer, wine and spirits as complimentary or at least in harmony with each other.
Czech wine producers have a lot of explaining to do–I mean this in a positive way—my intention is that Czech producers have to talk to their customers and create audience about the lineage of Czech wines.
Czech wines have remained elusive—I cannot find one in North America right now and my many travels to Europe I have never seen a bottle of Czech wine (though I knew that Czech wines are being produced). The only way I was going to taste Czech wines is to put my foot on the ground. I don’t buy that if it is not widely distributed or available there is a reason. Wine is held hostage because of a plethora of reasons—some include regulation, trade disputes or that wine is in the cross hairs of heavy taxation and protectionism. I believe and promote that we should be tasting wines from all regions and in doing so does the full story of wine become real. I am an optimist and that with all of the obstacles wine finds a way to get to the distribution channel and to the consumer.
Europe has had a long lineage for producing wines. The western culture and in particular the Judeo-Christian heritage requires wine for the respective religious experience. True not all Christian churches will allow for alcohol consumption but the heritage for many churches and wine is there. And of course for some wine traditions in Europe pre-dates the church.
Wine grapes have been cultivated since the second century before the common era—hence two millennia’s worth of experience. Despite this long lineage Czech Republic is not known as wine producing country.
There is an outdated notion of what wines can only pair with either particular foods or cuisine styles. I am a big believer and promoter that you can eat food from one region and drink from another and in doing so we can liberate how we drink and eat. I say this because you don’t need central European cuisine to pair with central European wine–it should seem obvious but I thought it important to mention it.
The Czech Republic’s top four white wines (and in parenthesis I place the Czech name for each variety and some varieties go by their international name) are 1) Müller-Thurgau, 2) Grüner Veltliner (Veltlínské zelené) , 3) Welschriesling (Ryzlink vlašský), and 4) Riesling (Ryzlink rýnský) and additionally produces Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc (Rulandské bile), Chardonnay, Pinot Gris (Rulandské šedé), Gewürztraminer (Tramín červený), Moravian Muscat (Muškát moravský), Frühroter Veltliner (Veltlínské červené ranéand) and Irsai Oliver and the top red wines are 1) Saint Laurent (Svatovavřinecké) 2) Blaufränkisch (Frankovka) 3) Zweigelt (Zweigeltrebe) 4) Pinot Noir and additionally produces Blauer Portigieser (Modrý Portugal) and Cabernet Sauvignon and there are other white and red varieties produced.
The largest wine region is Moravia and it has four subregions 1) Znojmo 2) Mikulov 3) Velké Pavlovice and 4) Slovácko and Bohemia has two subregions 1) Mělník and 2) Litoměřice. I cannot find a reliable source to give number of wine producers and how many hectares are currently planted – I understand that Moravia produces 95% versus the 5% in Bohemia. I found it surprising to find such little information on Czech wine production. But I hope to locate the information and update that here in this article.
My entrée for tasting Czech wines began at Vinograf – Senovážné nám. 23, Praha 1 (there are three locations) and I had several Czech wines by the glass and I also bought a bottle of wine. Vinograf cooks up delightful food and all within reasonable price points. I like the well edited wine list and how each wine selection was perfect. I found the wine professional here to be passionate and gave me great insights. I needed that!
Ševčík Riesling 2013
Scent: Green apple, slight touch of green citrus, flowers and honeycomb
Flavour Characteristics: Heirloom apple, white flowers, tea, awash in wet stones and gentle hint of almond
* * * * * * *
Jaroslav Osička Milerka Cuvée 2014
This wine is Müller-Thurgau 80%; Neuberger 15% and Sauvingon 5%; nicely dry–what I hoped for and it is what I got.
Scent: Heirloom apple, green fig, pine nut, beeswax and hibiscus
Flavour Characteristics: Green apple, gold citrus, hint of almond, white tea and nuanced mineral touch
Krásná hora Moravia Pinot Noir 2014
A wine that I simply didn’t know what to expect. I was thinking it might be acceptable, passable and I hope it is more than that. From the moment of smelling this wine to the taste–the wine unfolded and delighted nearly immediately. In a blind tasting it would be easy to say this is not French, German or any California region–it is decidedly Czech. Elegant and lean and yet expressive
Scent: Cherry orchard, rustic notes, cinnamon, moist forest floor and cedar.
Flavour characteristics: red cherry, Tayberry, freshly ground spices, pepper and rose petal.
Gala Farm Moravia Svatovavrinecke 2012
Scent: cherry orchard, leather-suede, cedar wood pile, and under brush
Flavour Characteristics: Tayberry, blackberry, black cherry, hint of black pepper, tea, cedar and violet notes
Each time I taste a wine from a region I haven’t tasted I try to stop and compare this with another region. Simply some varieties will pick up the terroir and express differently and that some regions may use an entirely different set of clones. I also want to think that climate my produce a slightly different wine. I also want to taste the technically the wine is made under quality conditions and then I take the wine for what it is and really think hard about the wine I am tasting. I don’t want to be overly critical and bottom line I want truly taste and acknowledge the wines at hand. I was delighting in the Czech wines I had tasted and wish I brought back some bottles.
I love the experience at Vinograf and it may be a great place to start your tasting adventure. The knowledgable staff was so welcoming and wanting to impart their thoughts. I ate well in Prague and the food offering at Vinograf is very nicely done.
Vinograf Senovážné (this is the location I visited – there are three Vinografs in total)
Address: Senovážné nám. 23, Praha 1
I can pontificate about these wines but ultimately I hope you get a chance to taste the virtues of these wines. I look forward to and will seek out as many Czech wines I can taste. I have found a wonderful wine country.
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
Wines courtesy of Côtes du Roussillon.
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