Czech Republic: A wine heaven too!
January 1, 1970
by Radek Oravec
Wine in a beer country?
When you hear about the Czech Republic and think of drinks, you will probably have beer in your mind. Or absinthe. But you might be surprised about the fact, that specific parts of this country are well known for its winemaking too! There are few tiny wine areas not far away from Prague (Mělník, Roudnice, Litoměřice), but the biggest vineyards are situated in the district of South Moravia. Actually, this region has grapes even in its coat of arms 🙂 The wine and everything related to it is so deeply rooted in souls of many locals, that there will always be a bit of clash about the ultimate center of Moravian viticulture. Nevertheless, for me it is with no doubts the picturesque historical town of Znojmo, by coincidence also my place of birth 😉
This town has traceable history of winemaking back to 9th century with important milestones in 12th (foundation of monastery with big wine production) or 14th (imperial approval for export of local wines to Bohemia, Silesia and Brandenburg) centuries. But it is not just a history, wine is a living element of the days of local people even now!
Wine in Znojmo nowadays
Wine makes inseparable part of lives of many Znojmo citizens, either directly through businesses like wine making, wine selling or running of wine cellars or indirectly through businesses connected with wine tourism like running of hotels and restaurants or participating in very popular wine cycling business. During the season from late May to early September, you can actually hardly find a day without some activity connected with wine. Popular local mountain bikes race is called Wine 50, twice a year a group of local traditions keepers is bringing to or taking from a vineyard „Grape Goat“, a mythological creature which should protect the crop, or you can visit, or even participate in competition in wine grapes stomping!
Very popular are so called “opened wine cellars” when local producers from the same village open their cellars to the visitors in the same day. This festivity is usually connected with live music and food stands and for little money you can taste as much wine as you can handle. Nevertheless the point here is not to get wasted but to have unique opportunity to taste the production which normally cannot be found in stores and have a chat with direct maker about his beloved profession. The makers will be more than happy to share thoughts about their joy but do not expect from them to share their secrets of perfect wine making! 🙂
During such or similar occasions you will have an opportunity to try wines from many varieties of wine grapes but you should focus your attention on local masterpieces: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Green Veltliner. These white varieties fit perfectly local weather and soil conditions and they are even included in local appellation system. Therefore, if you find a bottle with label VOC, you can be sure that you will be sipping something typically local, something which was selected with care and love and something which will make your palates feel just great 😉 And there is no need to be worried, the prices of even such wines are really friendly.
The end is the beginning
As previously written, the end of the tourist season is in early September, but this is actually just the beginning of the season of the wine from current year. The harvest typically starts in these days and it is being celebrated by huge wine festival. During the second weekend of September, the town grows twice in its size, from about 35.000 to 70.000 inhabitants or even more. All the visitors come to taste the first stage of the new wine, thick and sticky burčák of low level of alcohol. But since the festival also hosts loads of artists, buskers and musicians, they can be sure to have their portion of culture too. The festival is for sure unforgettable experience for everyone and many keep on coming year after year to enjoy the great atmosphere and local hospitality.
When the last visitors leave on Sunday afternoon, the hard work for locals actually just begins. Now it is their responsibility to turn this gluey liquid into yet another extraordinary product. And be sure that they will manage! You can get the first prove of it already on 11 November, which is the day of tasting the young wine, St. Martin’s Day. But if you are busy or not feel like travelling in foggy autumn, just trust them and come in spring when the wine will be full and ready and when next tourist season will be about to begin. Come and enjoy, you will for sure not regret. After all, for wine there is no end…the end is actually the beginning, isn’t it? 🙂
By the way, if you are not really into wine, your still should consider visiting Znojmo. It has amazing historical atmosphere with its romanesque rotunda, gothic cathedral and town hall and four floors of underground labyrinth, the biggest one in the country. If you are more into nature, you can visit national park Podyjí, which starts immediately behind the last houses of Znojmo. And since we are talking about the Czech Republic, there is a local brewery too! As you can see, just everyone can find something interesting in this lovely town. Therefore, don’t wait too long before finding out yourself!