Moravian wine

Best wine bars in Prague

Best wine bars in Prague

Sure, Prague nightlife may be mostly associated with Czech beer (and lots of Czech beer), but Czech wine, after a long but troubled past especially during the Communist rule, has been making a big comeback recently. Never heard of Czech wine? No wonder. With a production capped by the EU at about 1% of the French production of wine, there are hardly any exports of Czech and Moravian wine abroad. Yes, we like to keep it all to ourselves. Sorry.

And that’s exactly whyvisiting a wine bar is one of the best things to do in Prague. Prague wine bars tend to be intimate, small bars that serve good wines from the Bohemian and Moravian wine regions and from abroad. They also sell somewine gifts, like organic grape seed oils, grape jelly and other produce made by Czech and Moravian winemakers, which would make for a great, conveniently small souvenir. And you will be surprised how good Czech and Moravian wines can be. Many of our guests surely are, and that's why we make a point of tasting Czech wines in the course of our Prague food tour. (And of course, we taste Moravian wines during our Moravian wine tours, too.)

These are the best wine bars in Prague in our opinion. You probably weren’t planning to create your own wine tour in Prague, but a visit to any of these wine bars in Prague may change your mind and plans for good. Hey, you were warned, okay?


Prague Drinks Wine Festival 2015

Prague Drinks Wine Festival 2015

We make a point of having a glass of wine on our tours. We have figured you will have the beer anyway. It’s cheaper than tap water in many restaurants here, and it’s so ubiquitous we would not believe you if you said you did not have one in Prague. But wines? No. Czech wine production is tiny and exports are rare, so most foreign visitors do not associate Prague with wine.

Well, we think that’s a mistake and that’s why we are trying hard to change that perception. Luckily, we are not alone. Far from it. There are other people in Prague working hard on the same thing. Take the good people of Veltlin, the wonderful local wine bar in the heart of the Karlin district. Mr Bogdan Trojak and his colleagues have long focused on the “natural” wines of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. (You can see the Empire painted on the wall that dominates the bar.) 

The very same people have decided this year to organize the second installment of Prague Drinks Wine, a festival of natural wines from the former empire in Prague, to be held on 6 and 7 June. The festival tries to follow on the long-forgotten tradition of meetings of Empire winemakers held before WWI. The festival will host about 50 Central European winemakers offering about 400 samples of wine. 


Meet a local: Bogdan Trojak of Veltlin Wine Bar

When we first scouted locations for our Moravian wine tours and talked to smaller winemakers who made natural wines and who had a great reputation here in Prague, one name in particular kept coming up: Bogdan Trojak. His recently established group of winemakers who made natural wines without any additives, “Autentiste”, started to make waves as something new and exciting both here in Prague and clearly in the Moravian wine country, as well. All of the winemakers we met talked about him and his efforts with the highest respect.


Our Prague to Vienna Trip

Many of our guests come from overseas and in addition to Prague, they also want to see other Central European capitals, especially Vienna and Budapest. Some of them have the comfort of a rented car, which gives you a bit more freedom and the opportunity to see something else than just cities. And if you are traveling from Prague to Vienna (or vice versa), the trip gives you a great opportunity to taste some great Moravian wines (at least for those not doing the driving) and to meet some great Moravian people, too.

And because we want you to travel like locals, we give you our model route when we travel from Prague to Vienna. You do not have to visit everything but in any case we recommend that you make a day out of your Prague-Vienna travel. You don’t have to rush (and when you take the D1 Pague-Brno highway, you won’t anyway - you’ll see when you get there) but instead enjoy some countryside in addition to the cities you will visit.

EMA Espresso Bar, Prague

Our Moravian trip always starts with good coffee. EMA opens at 8am, which is reasonable, and we always get coffee to go (cortado for Zuzi, flat white for Jan) and a sweet bun, just like “Honza”, the proverbial hero of many Czech fairytales when he left his humble home to slay the dragon.

Villa Tugendhat, Brno

If you want to see this marvel of late 1920s architecture, you should stop reading this, go to their site and book now. Because it may already be too late: they tend to be fully booked for months ahead. However, our experience has shown that their booking system is not the last resort. If they are fully booked, try to call them and ask directly. (And if they are still fully booked, try to call again in a week.) They may actually have some spots available. In any case, this is the villa to see if you love modern architecture: Villa Tugendhat offers some great views, spaces and history behind them. Even if you decide to see the villa without a reservation, you can visit the garden and see the villa from the outside.

brno .jpg

Lunch in Brno

Despite the slight rivalry between the two towns, we actually love Brno - the capital of Moravia - and its friendly, laid-back atmosphere. Brno is also home to a few foodie places we would love to have in Prague. For a lunch on a budget, we recommend Castellana Bistro, Ruzova slepicka, Bistro Franz and Ebisu. While the former three are popular local bistros with daily specials, the latter very simple serves Japanese fare.
For an upscale lunch, head over to Koishi, Pavillon or Forhaus. Il Mercato is a sister restaurant of Aromi and La Finestra in Prague and serves Italian cuisine. Koishi serves lunch specials and focuses on fish and Asian fusion. Pavilon offers a fantastic, airy and light space in the central park and also offers quite nice lunch specials. Finally, the cooking at Forhaus pays tribute to the Austro-Hungarian tradition (think schnitzels, goulash etc.) and their outdoor seating is really nice.

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Industra Coffee

We absolutely love this place. Housed in an old industrial park, Industra Coffee (part of the Industra gallery) is very hard to find but when you do, you’ll reap the rewards: excellent coffee, English-speaking staff (both co-owners used to be baristas in London) and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. You will not want to leave. At least we don’t.

Sonberk

No other winery offers a stunning view of the Palava hill like Sonberk. It is a larger winery but the wines are still pretty good, especially the Rieslings and the Palavas (the latter is a Czech crossing of aromatic grapes). If the weather is great, we can spend a lazy afternoon on the wooden terrace overlooking the vineyards, the ponds and the Palava hill. 

Krasna Hora

A beautiful small winery in the Stary Poddvorov village. The winery building is beautifully integrated in the vineyard and we already plan to retire there (shhhh, the owners do not know yet). You can skip the lunch in Brno and instead call ahead and ask the lady of the house to prepare a cold spread for you. It’s all delicious, and Mr Vybiral, the husband and winemaker, will help you with the wines and share his views on just about anything.

Velke Bilovice

It is a telling sign of the size of the winemaking in Moravia when the biggest winemaking village, Velke Bilovice, sports 2,000 acres of vineyards... and 700 winemakers. We recommend that you drive to "Velke Bilovice - sklepy" where the wine cellars, some of them centuries old, are nested one next to each other under leafy trees. Drive beyond the cellars to see the real vineyards and the "Na hradistku" chapel. The view is nothing short of stunning. 

Mikulov

We never miss a chance to visit Mikulov, dubbed “A bit of Tuscany in Central Europe”, on our way to Vienna. As a former seat of both the Cardinal and Moravia’s Regional Rabbi, the history of this picturesque small town just breathes at you. During Communism, the locals would go to the top of the hill to “have a look at the West”, while the recently expelled Sudeten Germans were looking from behind the nearby Austrian border to have a look at their former place of residence. Unlike many other small countryside towns, Mikulov does not suffer from brain drain and is full of lively cafes and small galleries.  

Cafe Fara

This little gem of a cafe and restaurant in the Klentnice village is hardly a secret: the former parish is one of the most popular stops for many cyclists cruising the wine country, and for good reason: the kitchen grows its own vegetables and herbs and puts emphasis on using local ingredients, and you will not get better coffee within a 30-mile radius. Add the great view and the lovely courtyard and you have a winner. 

People on Caffeine

After the long drive, the food (and for some, the wine), we need a serious coffee fix. And there is no better place for us to have coffee in Vienna than People on Caffeine, the wonderful small cafe run by our friend Robert. This is not amateur hour: Robert has represented Austria in the World Barista Championships and will prepare anything from a tasty flat white to drip coffee. On top of that, he's a really nice guy and it shows in the café and in the kind of regulars he gets. One of our must-visits in Vienna.


Czech wines you should explore in Prague

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. 

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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.

Pálava
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.

Kerner
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

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.

Solaris

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:

Neronet
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).

Cabernet Moravia
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. 


Savor Moravian wines and traditional food at wine harvest festivals

The Czech Republic is so much more than just Prague. Sadly, only few tourists ever venture out into the beautiful Czech and Moravian countryside, passing their time only in Prague, save for the occasional visit of the nearby Karlštejn Castle. Although there is nothing wrong with that, to actually get to know the Czech Republic, or any other country for that matter, you must leave the “big city" behind and explore smaller towns and the countryside.