When you think about Czech alcohol, the first thing that will spring to mind is the famous beer brewed in parts of the country. What is less known though is the amount of wine that the country produces – a practice that has gone on since the Roman era, proved by the discovery of a vintner’s knife at a Roman camp in southern Moravia. King Charles IV even gave wine making the royal seal of approval in 1358, as he had been educated in France, a country long famed for its wine.
Charles IV’s involvement in the history of wine making in the Czech Republic is actually a large one, as he was the first person to start importing Burgundy grapes from France to be used in the process. Nowadays you will find vineyards all over the country, but particularly in Bohemia and Moravia, with the latter of these particularly noted for its wine.
In the region of Moravia, the hub of wine making is undoubtedly centered around the town of Mikulov, which has the perfect micro-climate for this practice. With cool weather mixed in with warm south facing slopes, it is a perfect combination. Although Czech wine is not as lauded as the wines from France or Spain, there are still a number of well-known varieties from the region; the red wines include Frankovka, Modry Portugal and Vavrinecke, while the white wines are represented by Muller-Thurgau, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and Weltliner. Most of the wines are made from grapes that are best used when young, and there is also a large amount of sparkling wine produced in the country.
Moravian Wine Tourism has not yet been discovered much by foreigner visitors, and the wine scene here more involves harvest festivals and leisurely cycle touring between family-owned vineyards. The region does not have big resorts, boutique hotels and top restaurants; rather you will find small family B&Bs with home wine cellars. Czech Tourism publish a Through the Land of Wine brochure, or see www.wineofczechrepublic.cz for details on wine tourism.
Under Communist rule the wine making industry fell into the ownership of cooperatives, as did many other businesses in the country. This had a massively detrimental effect on the Czech wine industry, as quality was sacrificed in place of quantity. Nowadays though these cooperatives have become private companies and dominate much of the wine industry in the country, although there are also some private families – such as the Lobkowicz family – who also produce a large amount of wine in the country. It is generally the smaller wine producers who make the best quality wine.