The Czech Republic may be famous for its beer, but the country also has a thriving wine industry. In fact, wine is deeply ingrained in the Czech culture and lifestyle.
One of the reasons why Czech wines haven’t yet garnered the international popularity of their French or Italian counterparts is that with around 18,000 hectares under vine and output that fails to satisfy even half of Czech wine consumption, it is hard to find a bottle of Czech wine outside the country. This makes them even more interesting for inquisitive wine enthusiasts.
The warm, bountiful region of Moravia is responsible for 96% of the wines produced in the Czech Republic and wine has been grown here for hundreds of years.
“The region of Moravia dispels the cliché that excellent wines are produced in the South”, says Jaroslav Machovec, director of the Czech Wine Fund. “Although we are a northern region and a country of beer, foreign visitors are very surprised by the exceptional quality of our wines.”
Czech wines also have an incredibly broad-ranging array of varietals to dip into. There are over 50 different grape varieties grown throughout the country. And although international grapes like Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet-Sauvignon dominate Czech vineyards, there is a special group of varietals which encapsulate the original flavor of Moravia – the crossings.
The wines listed below are unique to the Moravian wine region and although they are enjoyed by domestic consumers, they are nearly unheard of outside the country’s borders.
Current area under vine in the Czech Republic: 594 ha (3.3%)
Pálava is one of the most popular native grape varieties in the country. It is a crossing of two aromatic grapes: Müller Thurgau and Gewürtztraminer. The resultant wines are full-bodied and aromatic with lovely freshness and subtle sweetness. The refined harmony of the wines makes them attractive for a wide audience of consumers.
Pálava is golden yellow and shows aromas of vanilla, roses, apricots and tropical fruits. One of the wine’s hallmark features is its subtle spiciness with hints of pepper and nutmeg. It pairs well with spicy dishes and desserts as well as smoked, full-flavoured cheeses. The wine is full-bodied with fairly low acidity and a long finish.
Pálava was created 1953 by Ing. Josef Veverka in Moravia and is named after a hill in the region. It is only grown in the Czech Republic and in small parts of neighboring Slovakia.
Although it is very popular among Czech wine drinkers, Pálava remains mostly unknown outside of its home country.
Current area under vine in the Czech Republic: 193 ha (1.1 %)
Cabernet Moravia is a hybrid grape created by crossing Zweigelt and Cabernet Franc. The origins of the grape are firmly rooted in Moravia. The variety was bred in the 1970s by an independent vine breeder, Lubomir Glos, in the southern Moravian town of Moravska Nova Ves, but it was only officially registered in 2001.
The medium-bodied wines made from Cabernet Moravia combine the spicy notes of Cabernet Franc with the fruitiness of Zweigelt. After spontaneous malolactic fermentation, which reduces acidity levels, the wines are nicely balanced, smooth with well-structured tannins and a lengthy finish. Cabernet Moravia wines are usually dark garnet in color with typical aromas of blackcurrant, cherries, blueberries, and peppery nuances. Cabernet Moravia makes a fine accompaniment to game, steaks, dark meat, creamy and spicy sauces.
Current area under vine in the Czech Republic: 451 ha (2.5%)
Moravian Muscat or Muškát moravský is another original Moravian variety bred by crossing Muscat Ottonel with Prachtraube and registered in 1987. It reflects more than any other variety the skill and experience of the winemaker.
Although the grape is also suitable for the production of sweet and sparkling wines, it is mostly used as a blending grape and for producing dry varietal wines.
Dry wines produced from Moravian Muscat are golden-colored and delicately aromatic with fine acidity and tell-tale Muscat aromas of tangerines and oranges. The best examples of Moravian Muscat show excellent balance between residual sugars and acidity.
Moravian Muscat is best served as an aperitif, possibly alongside delicately flavored paté or asparagus. The semi-sweet wines pair beautifully with sweet desserts.
Current area under vine in the Czech Republic: 208 ha (1.2%)
Though the Czech Republic does produce some delicious light-bodied red wines from Pinot Noir, Zweigelt and other varieties, perhaps the most unique offering is from the André grape variety.
The André grape was developed in the Czech Republic as a cross between St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch (also called Lemberger, Kekfrankos and Frankovka). The harmonious wines made from this native Moravian variety are reminiscent of the deep, full scent of sour cherries, black cherries and ripe blackberries. If the grapes are left to ripen very well, the wines have a deep garnet color and full body; after barrel-maturation, they deliver smooth flavors of ripe tannins. The wine is produced in dry and semi-dry styles.
André is served with game, dark meat, hearty dishes or mature blue cheeses.
The Czech city of Brno is hosting the 2020 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, which will take place from 2-6 September. 8,500 wines will compete this year, 370 of which are from the Czech Republic.