Introduction to Czech Wine
Before we started researching the wine regions in the Czech Republic, I don’t think I had ever tasted Czech wine before. I’ve had Turkish and Hungarian wines, but never Czech wine.
This is surprising because Czech wine has a long history, dating from the Roman times. But, much of the wine production ceased during Communism. It’s only been the last two decades that the wine industry has had a bit of a renaissance. For all of these reasons, this wine research project seemed intriguing.
Czech Wine and the Wine Regions – Moravia
Wine is grown in both Bohemia (where Prague is located) and Moravia (where Brno is located). We were out to explore Moravia, basing ourselves in both Brno and Mikulov. Although Czech beer is common in Bohemia, and part of the daily ritual, in Moravia, it’s all about wine. It’s more common to drink wine, even though it is more expensive than Czech beer. It’s just part of the culture of Moravia.
For example, while in Mikulov, we were staying at Hotel Galant, a conference hotel that also has a vinoteka, or wine bar, on site. The people of Mikulov were surprised when Hotel Galant opened their own brewery as well. It’s just not within the culture of Moravians to drink beer. Walking around the town, it was much easier to find a vinoteka than a pub. The opposite is certainly true in Prague.
Within Moravia, there are four main regions that produce Czech wine. We only visited one, Mikulovská, which includes the area surrounding the town of Mikulov. The other four are Znojemska, Velkopavlovicka, and Slovacka. If we were having this conversation in person, I would show you the map, rather than trying to pronounce the names of the Czech wine regions. It’s not an easy language to pronounce.
Similar to Portuguese wines, which are complicated, loaded with varietals, and often blended, the Czech wine varietals threw me for a loop at first. Of course, there are the varietals we are all familiar with, like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. But, the more local varieties and the Czech wines we liked most were Welschriesling, Grüner Veltliner, Blauer Portugieser (Blue Portuguese), and Saint Laurent.
I was most surprised by the white and rose wines, and even the sparkling wines, many of which are made in the traditional method, similar to Champagne. In all honesty, I was not a fan of the reds. Something admitted to by some of the winemakers and Czech wine lovers we met. Many people reminded us that they don’t receive enough sun in Moravia to make a good red wine. For me, many of the reds tasted too much like plums or prunes. Although, Janko at Koishi, a Japanese restaurant in Brno, offered us a couple that were very good.
Dinner in a Czech Wine Cellar
We met, easily, one of the most eccentric winemakers ever in Mikulov. And, that’s saying a lot as we have met a lot of winemakers in Europe. Dining at Pod Kozim Hradkem was unlike any “wine dinner” we’ve ever had before.
We climbed a hill in the center of Mikulov, to a little wine restaurant. The owner, escorted us into a wine cave, with only three long bench-like tables. The room itself was carved out of the side of a mountain, with stone on every side. In the fall, the tables are removed and the pressing of the grapes occurs in that very room.
Immediately Ladislav Solarik, the winemaker, presented us with two carafes, one red and one white. We tried a Welschriesling, a white wine, and Saint Laurent, a red wine. The white wine tasted of honey and hay and helps to lower cholesterol, apparently. A surprising virtue of Czech wine. The red wine tasted of plum jam and, apparently, is good for the heart. This was the start of our educational lesson on Moravian wine, and women.
Women only drink the white wine. This started the eccentric explanation of Moravian wine and Moravian woman. While at the table, I dutifully obeyed and only tried the white wine. I was okay with that because I had yet to try a red I enjoyed in Moravia.
Ladislav served a stuffed goose, with portions fit for a king. It was hearty Czech food and paired well with the wine.
The dinner itself was over quickly, when Ladislav escorted us to his wine cellar, just a few steps away to learn more about Czech wine.
Here is where the explanations took off, in a direction a well-educated woman, and sometimes feminist like myself, might object to. For example, Czechs only cheers in the first round, because after that, the clinking of the glass begins to get messy. Then, the wives get mad, because the husbands spill wine all over their shirts.
There were many references to keeping secrets from women, and the characterization of Moravian wine as dragons. I understand it was all in good fun, and told as a tale of what he learned from his grandfather decades ago. I tried to play along, but when he served the men first and withheld some of the wines from the woman as part of his tale of Moravian women, I wanted to remind him that I was the only one in the cellar who actually writes about wine.
Towards the end of the tasting, which was, overall, fun, entertaining, and certainly unique, we learned the reason for his constant focus on dragons in his stories. It’s the dragon’s breath that results from the homemade Czech brandy he served at the end. So loaded with alcohol that it seemed more of a fire starter than an after dinner drink. Let the sipper beware of this one. For the women, he only poured a “teardrop” portion of the brandy. In this case, I was thrilled to be discriminated against.
Check out our video of our Czech winemaker:
National Czech Wine Centre in Valtice
In the town of Valtice, just outside of Mikulov, is the enormous, if a little rough around the edges, Valtice Chateau. Similar chateau in the region were renovated in recent years, but this one had yet to face a renovation. We weren’t there to tour the castle, though. In the cellar of the chateau is the National Wine Centre, home to the top 100 Czech wines.
There are over a thousand winemakers in the Mikulov Czech wine region alone, and obviously more than that around the country. Despite this, the National Wine Centre selects the top 100 each year.
The competition is limited to Czech wines, only made from grapes grown in Moravia and Bohemia. All of the wines entered into the competition must meet strict requirements. Each year, over 700 wines are entered and tested by wine experts, to narrow down the top 100. As a result, the display in the cellar changes each year.
A complicated, but intriguing, pricing system helps people to taste the wines, one at a time, or all of them at once. That’s right, it’s possible to buy 90 minutes, or 150 minutes, all you can drink, entry into the cellar.
In our case, we just tried a handful of wines, all poured by a representative of the National Wine Centre. It was a fun experience, and a good way to try different Czech wines. But, it is not the type of tasting where you can learn about the wine region in great detail. The presentation was a little rushed, with the young rep merely walking us from bottle to bottle without much explanation. Regardless, I would love to return and test out an all you can drink option. Who wouldn’t?
How to Taste Czech Wine
It’s easy to drink Czech wine anywhere in Moravia, including Mikulov and Brno, as restaurant menus offer great selections of local wine, often at very good prices. There are also many vinoteka, or wine bars, sprinkled around the region. And, there is the National Wine Centre in Valtice.
In Mikulov, we visited the Vinoteka Volarik, which has a rooftop patio with a view over the Holy Hill of Mikulov. A perfect place to walk through some of the Moravian wines. Try one of their bottles of sparkling wine made in the traditional method. I was truly surprised with the quality.
We also had the opportunity to try Moravian wines, and even Austrian wines, at Jáňův dvůr, a Czech agriturismo and goat cheese producer, just outside of Mikulov. This is a popular stopping point for people cycling their way through the region. Not only did we taste fabulously fresh goat cheese, only days old, but we got to play with the goats too!
The best way to taste Czech wine, though, is to plan a trip during the time of year when there are open cellar days, in April, September, and November. It’s also possible to take bike tours that guide you through the vineyards, along the Moravian wine trails. There is also a wine market in Valtice in May.
Otherwise, it is a lot more difficult to winery hop for Czech wine than it is for Californian wine. There are over a thousand winemakers in the Moravia wine region alone. Similar to the Emporda wine region in Catalunya and the Bologna hills in Italy, many of the wineries are small, family-owned operations. They are more focused on making wine or make wine on the side of their main business. As a result, it’s hard to taste wines by just showing up at a Czech wine cellar.
Watch our YouTube video all about Czech Wine:
Czech Wine – It’s All In The Details
The 90-minute open Czech wine tasting at the National Wine Cellar is about $15. Other wine tastings, starts from 5 wines at $5, up to $16 for 10 wines. The National Czech Wine Cellar is closed Mondays and all of February when they change out the new top 100 Czech wines for the new year.
Wines at many restaurants cost around 8 to 10 Euros, a real bargain. The same pricing applies at the wine bars. So, drinking Czech wine in Moravia is a really good bargain.
Almost all of the websites I’ve shared above are entirely in Czech. It makes it appear that it is difficult to travel in the Czech Republic. Although we had some Czech speakers join us during much of our visits, it was generally possible to find information in English, English speakers, and English menus! Czech wine menus and information, even at the National Wine Centre provided the more well-known names of the grapes, but also look out for their Czech translations too:
Welschriesling = Ryzlink VlasskyGrüner Veltliner = Veltlinske ZeleneBlauer Portugieser (Blue Portuguese) = Modry PortugalSaint Laurent = Svatovavrinecke
Looking For Unique Food, Beer and Wine Tours in the Czech Republic?
Looking for a unique way to learn about traditional Czech food in Prague, or farther afield in the rest of the country? What about an interesting beer tour, or even a Czech wine tour? Here are our recommendations for Czech food tours to learn more about Czech cuisine and traditions.
|Tour||Duration||City||Price From||Book It|
|Private Prague Bike Tour - Up to 15 People||1.5 Hours||Prague||$438|
|Bohemian Wine Tasting 4x4 Day Trip||7 Hours||Prague||$211|
|Prague Cooking Class & Market Tour||4 Hours||Prague||$157|
|Prague Food Tour With Local Foodies||4 Hours||Prague||$118|
|Mixology Bar Tour||3 Hours||Prague||$118|
|South Moravia Wine Trip From Brno||Flexible||Brno||$148|
|Pilsner Brewery Tour & Beer Tasting||5.5 Hours||Pilsen||$62|
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
We were supported by Visit Czech Republic, South Moravia, and JayWay Travel, who offers customized tours of the Czech Republic and all of Central and Eastern Europe. Of course, all opinions, and yummy sounds are my own. While in Mikulov, we stayed at the Hotel Galant, a conference hotel in the heart of Mikulov, with its own wine cellar and brewery.
Visit our Wine Tourism and Travel page for more information on traveling for wine.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.