Author: Ruth Farnon
The Czech Republic was formed in 1993, after the Velvet Revolution and the split with Slovakia. The country had been under communist control for decades and during this period winemakers were forced to turn their businesses over to the state. Vineyards were nationalised and turned into huge farms designed for easier and automated harvests, quantity not quality was favoured.
As Petr Ocenasek, a winemaker from Moravia, puts it;
“If ten comrades tasted one wine, you would have ten different opinions. That was in stark contrast with their ideology, appealing to uniformity in all areas.”
So, we can imagine what the wine culture was like during this period, mass produced blandness.
However, as with most cycles of life, things tend to go from one extreme to another, people react to homogeneity with a strong push for individuality.
Since the formation of the republic, producers have rediscovered the concept of terroir which, along with the introduction of modern winemaking techniques such as the use of stainless steel tanks and temperature-controlled fermentation, has led to an invigorated and exciting trend in winemaking.
Okay, let’s get the techs out of the way:
In preparation for EU membership, in 1995 the republic passed wine laws modelled on the German Wine Law. After EU reforms in 2008 the new terms CHZO and CHOP have been introduced, the former a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), the latter a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).
The most important wine producing region in the republic is Moravia, along the Austrian and Slovakian Borders. The climate is mild/continental with relatively low rainfall, on average a half to two-thirds that of Burgundy and Alsace which are on the same latitude. Warm days and cold nights mean that ripening is slowed down. Clay and sand dominate the soil. Two thirds of production is given to white varieties which yield highly aromatic, fresh and fruity wines with good acidity. The total area under vine is 17,500 ha.
Grape varieties grown include:
Riesling- Ryzlink Rýnský
Pinot Blanc - Rulandské Bílé
Gruner Veltliner - Veltlínské zelené
Silvaner - Sylvánské zelené
St Laurent - Svatovavřinecké
Blaufrankisch - Frankova
Blauer Portugieser - Modrý Portugal
Pinot Noir or Rulandské modré, has also become very popular in the newer vineyards of Moravia.
Fortunately winemaking techniques have fully recovered from the communist era. There is a group of small independent producers with a wonderfully descriptive moniker, the ‘Authentists’ or ‘Autentisté’.
Included in this group are; Petr Kocarik, Korab, Stavek, Ota Sevcik, Dobra Vinice, Jaroslav Osicka, Tomas Cacik.
The culture of natural winemaking has been promoted with the help of Bogdan Trojak, natural winemaker, distributor, poet and proprietor of Veltlin, a wine bar located in Prague. This establishment has become a hub for the natural winemaking scene. It’s the perfect venue for Trojak to showcase cult Czech wines. He also organizes an annual festival, Prague Drinks Wine, very much on the ‘to do’ list.
It is said that the Czechs drink more wine than their country can produce, an apocryphal exaggeration of course. However, much of the quality wine produced is exported to neighbouring Slovakia and Austria. So we are very privileged to be able to source high quality Czech wines for our customers. We currently have three producers' wines in stock.
Nestarec Forks & Knives
All of these wines are made with thoughtful winemaking practices, highly individual and of excellent quality. We are looking to extend the range of Czech wines we stock in the very near future. The quality of these wines is imbued with the energy and vigour of the producers. It’s like being part of a new scene, when all the protagonists have something exciting to contribute, before the new thing becomes ubiquitous, stolen by marketing and competitive sales. Fortunately, the winemakers of the Czech Republic remember the bland old days, when uniformity, conformity, were the normality. It will be a very long wait to return to the bad old days.