If you've read one of our previous articles, "Predicted Wine Trends of 2016", then you're familiar with the concept of wine consumers looking for something different this year; wines with a story, wines with a traditional and even lost or forgotten past. Wines of the Czech Republic fit every category, and they are wines which are a bit overdue for some recognition. The Old World of wines often get all the publicity from Italy, France, Germany and Spain, but the industry has forgotten the part of Europe where winemaking got its roots long before these listed countries.
Czech Republic's Longstanding Wine Industry
The first vineyards of the Czech Republic go back to the 3rd Century AD with Emperor Marcus Aurelius cultivating the first vineyards long before the Romans in the modern region known as Znojemska or Znojmo. It was in the 9th Century during the Great Moravian Empire when they primarily made wine for religious ceremonies and celebrations. As time went on, as in many other countries, it was the church and their monasteries who kept winemaking alive and cultivated hectares upon hectares of vineyards. However, the wine industry of Czech took a hit during the Thirty Years' War of the 17th century and again in the late 19th century along with the rest of Europe with the onset of phylloxera.
Today, Czech has once again established itself in the wine industry starting in the 20th Century with new plantings. By 2007, there were well-over 15,000 hectares of vine planted in the country and 18,000 vineyard growers.
Geography of Czech Republic Vineyards
The country is divided into two main regions, and their primary wine regions also follow under these regions; Bohemia (Cechy) and Moravia (Morava). Overall, Czech is foremost a country of mainly white wine with only one-third of the overall production being red wine. The region of Czech as a wine-producing country has the advantage of its continental climate with very warm and dry growing seasons that taper off into cool autumns; ideal for the cultivation of quality wine grapes.
If you might ever soon be in the market for a Czech wine or two, here are some of the sub-regions you're most likely to find on a wine label where quality wine is made.
- Valtice (the warmest region)
- Dolni Dunajovice
- Sedlec u Mikulova
The soils of the region consist of loess, clay and shale and you are likely to find some interesting still white wines and sparkling wines from these regions. Wines from these sub-regions are made from the grapes of Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and the Muller-Thurgau (commonly found in Germany).
In another larger region, the largest, Velkopavlovicka you can find over 5,000 hectares of vine in 75 municipalities. Some to look for; Nemcicky, Velke Pavlovice and Velke Bilovice, Cejkovice, Brno and Zidlochovice. Here, you will find wines made from the white varieties of Riesling and Muller-Thurgau and the red varieties of St. Laurent and Gamay (the main grape of Beaujolais).
Wine Classifications of Czech Republic
As with the other Old World countries of Germany and Austria, Czech wines are classified according to the weight of the must (juices) when the grapes are harvested. The overall process is overlooked by the State of Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority classification. It is under their restrictions that quality wines are made from a blend of grapes. Wines range in alcohol starting around 11% and go up to 14%. The official status of quality wine regions fall under the category of VOC or Vino Originalni Certifikace, this is synonymous to other European classifications of DOC and AOC. It is under the VOC that the wines must be typically of certain regions and of specific varieties.
The classification of Czech wines are as follows:
- Cabinet (aka Kabinetni) - dry wine
- Pozdni SBER - late harvest
- Vyber z Hroznu - selection (by hand) with residual sugars and or higher alcohol content
- Vyber z Bobuli (aka Beerenauslese) - semisweet or sweet wine
- Ledove Vino - ice wine
- Slamove Vino - wine made from grapes which have been dried on straw mats for 3 months (sweet wine)
- Vyber z Cibeb (Trockenbeerenauslese) - grapes which have been affected with noble rot or overripe berries (sweet wine, low alcohol content)
The Czech wine industry has roots that date back to ancient practices; its had struggles along the way, but it has also garnered many wine making practices that have helped it survive and thrive. Today, its wines, centered in highest tier of their classification models, are revered and beginning to draw the attention of connoisseurs and collectors again.