When we were scouting the locations for our new route (coming soon), we spoke to the manager of one of the best Czech restaurants in town and in the course of our nice little talk, he complained that sometimes their customers would opt for foreign wines over the Czech ones because they did not understand them. Their sommelier and the entire staff were quite saddened by that fact - they thought that Czech wines deserved the attention.
That discussion gave us the idea for this post. In an effort to get more visitors to Prague go out of their comfort zone and try some typically Czech wines, we have approached Zuzka Vesela, the manager of the “big” Vinograf wine bar at Senovazne namesti, one of our most favorite bars in the city, and asked her if she could describe some of the local wines that can be tasted in the Czech Republic and nowhere else. She was happy to help and here are some of her comments. We discussed seven grapes in total: five of them are white and two reds; five of them are purely Czech, while two come from Germany.
Let's start with the whites:
“Mopr” (also known as "Muškát moravský” - or “Moravian Muscat”)
Crossed from Muscat Ottonel and Prachttraube (which comes from Germany), this white grape boasts nice aroma that is not as powerful as that of a Muscato. It is often dry and aromatic and has low acidity; therefore, it is a “pleasant” wine that tends to be mineral in Bohemia due to the stony soil. It is a grape that will make mostly novices happy, but more demanding drinkers may like it, too.
A white grape crossed from two aromatic grapes: Müller Thurgau and Gewürtztraminer. As such, it has been adapted to the Moravian soil and is rarely grown in the northern, Bohemian wine region. Heck, even the name is inspired by the Palava region in the south of Moravia. The resulting wine can be anywhere on the dry-to-sweet scale, but sweeter wines are more common, and even the drier wines tend to feel sweeter than they really are. The acidity and fruitiness are low, replaced by notes of traditional Christmas spices and rose tones. The Palava is very popular and some bottles are very good. The wine can appeal to a wide range of consumers from social drinkers to experts.
A crossing of Riesling and Trollinger, the motivation of this crossing was resistance, better sugars and taste. This is for those who love sweeter, uncomplicated wines: Kerner wines offer a nice floral aromas and fruitiness, almost like hard candy in a bottle. The wines are also juicy and sweet. This is a simpler grape that tends to get a simpler treatment but has been loved by some of our guests who are new to wines.
Hibernal is an originally German crossing of Seibel and Riesling that produces full-bodied white grapes with nice acidity and higher alcohol content. The flavors are dominated by black currant notes and fruitiness. Just like rieslings, it often produces semi-dry wines.
The very recent result of crossing the Merzling grape and Gm 6493 (crossed by Mr Kraus in Melnik), Solaris is grown mostly in the Bohemian wine region, especially at Kutna Hora. Known for its tropical and citrus notes and good acidity. It is fairly full-bodied, tends to be drier and more fruity than a Hibernal.
And now for the two reds:
This grape, crossed by Mr Kraus, a giant of Czech enology and the founder of the eponymous winery seated in Melnik, some 20 miles north of Prague, is a crossing of St Laurent, Blauer Portugieser and Alibernet (which itself is a crossing of Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Henri Bouschet). It combines the characteristics of these wines: the tannins and the edginess of a Cab Sauv, and the fruitiness and juiciness of a St Laurent (which is a Pinot grape). It has nice acidity and is fruity, but is a medium-bodied grape. It is successfully grown in Prague, too (by the Salabka winery).
Again a typically Moravian red crossing that combines the characteristics of Cabernet Franc (spicy, heavier paprika tones) and Zweigeltrebe (fruitiness and an easy-drinking character). It produces medium-bodied wines that are known for a nice blend of spicy and fruity notes. Look for bottles from the Slovacko region (Benes or Glos wineries in particular).
Where to have them?
That's easy. The biggest selection can be probably had at the Vinograf wine bars (they have two branches - a small, intimate one near the Charles Bridge, and a bigger one in the New Town area). If you wish to taste strictly organic wines (called "bio-dynamic" here) from the Czech Republic, definitely visit Veltlin, a fantastic and popular wine bar in the Karlin district. Finally, some fine dining restaurants in Prague may have a great selection. We know that the good people at La Degustation really take great pride in serving Czech wines, for instance.