Let’s face it — when you think of the Czech Republic, you probably think about its deep-rooted history, its ornate castles, and incredible beer drinking culture. From the Celtic and Germanic tribes of its founding to the Protestant Reformation and Communism, the country boasts great stories of a medieval past, fascinating architecture and of course, Prague’s well renowned 9th century castle which is worth seeing if you’ve never been.
Above, the southern Moravian Countryside, not far from Kyjov. Photo credit: Daniel Rerichaby.
You’d be hard pressed not to have a packed agenda even if you stay in and around Prague. And, you will drink incredible beer night after night. The reason most people know about the Czech Republic’s beer is because they’ve been brewing it since 993, starting at the Břevnov Monastery. In fact, the city of Brno had the right to brew beer as far back as the 12th century. Today, impressive stats remain. Pilsner Urquell is known as the world’s first Pilsner and the Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world.
So, doesn’t it seems more fitting with this kind of impressive beer history, that you’d have your heart set on drinking beer as soon as you hit Czech soil? Perhaps, unless of course, you’re a wine lover like me and so many We Blog the World readers.
Before you head out of Prague, be sure to check out Velky Vinograf, a quaint wine bar and St. Wenceslas Vineyards where you can sample some great Czech wines. There’s also Veltlín, the Vinograf Míšeňská Wine Bar and Vinárna U Sudu, a subterranean brick-vaulted space for wine, local beers, table football and outdoor space where you can sip all evening along in their courtyard garden. Additionally, there are six vineyards in Prague with nearly 12 hectares and an annual production of about 45,000 litres of wine.
Photo credit: www.tasteofprague.com.
When you’re ready to hit the countryside (take another look at the stunning first photo in this post if you’re unsure), be prepared for a remarkable journey. Enter Moravia, located in the Southeast of the Czech Republic, a region so beautiful and so pure, you won’t want to leave. Among other natural accolades, consider it the land of rolling hills, green pastures and vineyards. In this region, you can also find UNESCO monuments, castles, and interesting folklore culture, but if you head to Moravia, you will definitely want to taste wine.
South Moravia covers marked trails known as the Moravian Wine Routes. They’re easy to find since you’ll see a symbol of the wine routes on signposts (the silhouette of a cellar). These routes run through unspoilt countryside and past rows of cellars, connecting you to the best known wine producing villages in the country. You can do this on a bike if you’re equipped for it and because of the views, you’ll likely want to stop frequently to take pictures.
If you’re a more advanced cyclist, opt for the Kyjovská Route, which is quite hilly and takes on some bigger ascents and descents. On this route that cuts through the Slovácko Region, be ready for some fabulous Moravian Muscat and Pinot gris. The Strážnická Route, which goes through the gorgeous White Carpathians, is much flatter (and easier to cycle) is a great choice for Riesling and Silvaner fans. En route, be sure to stop in Strážnice, a quaint town with a pretty open-air museum of folk architecture.
Not a cyclist? Rent a car and explore the the Znojemská Route, which is the longest of them all. On that agenda should be a tour of Znojmo, resting in the Šatovský painted cellar and visiting the impressive Gothic ruins of the monastery in Dolní Kounice. Lednice-Valtice Park, known as the Garden of Europe, is also on the way. Red wine lovers will particularly appreciate the Velkopavlovická Route, which passes through the Modré Mountains.
You’ll find that more than 90 percent of the wine production comes from the southern part of Moravia, especially in and around Dyje, Svraka and Morava. For those of you who love Austrian wine, you might find some similarities with its varietals since a large part of the Moravian wine region borders with Austria. And, it’s OH so beautiful!
Photo credit: www.elleedecor.com.
The Czech Republic’s Moravian Wine Region is broken down into four sub-regions: Znojmo, Mikulov, Velké Pavlovice and Slovácko. Depending on the style of wine you prefer, you’ll either get excited by the dryer white varietals, which apparently makes up roughly 75% of Czech wine production, or go for one of the trails that is dominated by reds. Well known white varieties include Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Blanc (Rulandské bílé), Gewürztraminer (Tramín červený) and Grüner Veltliner (Veltínské zelené) and popular red varietals include Frankovka (Blaufrankisch), Modrý Portugal (Blue Portugal), and Svatovavřinecké (Saint Lawrence).
Above, the Rulandske Bile – photo credit: www.cellartracker.com.
For the nostalgic among you, head to Velké Bílovice, the wine capital of the Moravia region. There’s no shortage of quaint and charming qualities about this tiny little town of only about four thousand inhabitants.
There’s a local ethnic museum here with a permanent exhibition of garbs and agriculture tools, as well as some interesting archaeological finds from the area. There’s also an interesting exhibition about Czechoslovakians living in Argentina. History lovers will take to the Narozeni Panny Marie Church from the 14th Century, which has been rebuilt into a granary today.
Velke Bilovice has the largest viticulture area in the Czech Republic and it is surrounded by picturesque vine-colored hills, a place so lush that grapes thrive. There’s a lovely bike path worth doing, which takes you into the vineyards and up to the Hradistek Hill, which boasts a beautiful view. You’ll also be able to see a historical chapel, which is known to be sacred apparently to Cryil and Metodej, St. Vaclav and to the patron of St. Urban wine-growers.
Photo credit: Czech Tourism.
Each Spring, wine lovers can experience the annual Ze Sklepa do Sklepa event, translated to “From Cellar-to-Cellar,” which is a fun way to explore the many wines the region has to offer. From Cellar-to-Cellar is the largest wine event in the Czech Republic focused on the journey through the cellars with a tasting at each winery.
One ticket gets you access to all open wine cellars and tasting of local wines. As an aside, you can also hear traditional dulcimer music as well as taste some of the local gastronomic offerings. The event is a big deal since the town’s size doubles — it attracts roughly 4,000 visitors each year. There’s free bus transportation transfers so you don’t need to worry about driving and despite traveling by bus, you’ll still get access to some of the most remote cellars. The event includes the small and mid-scale wine makers from Pavlov and the surrounding villages, as well as the state-of-the-art visitor centers of the Sonberk and Gotberk wineries.
Photo credit: http://velkebilovice.com/.
Useful for planning purposes: there’s a great mobile app that gives you an overview of wines from Moravia and Bohemia on your phone. WINE IN TOUCH (Vino na Dotek) provides information on where to buy wines and what food to pair with particular styles of wine from the region.
The app also gives you information on where to buy Czech wines and background on individual wines, including the variety, quality classification, residual sugar content, acidity, price range and so on. The database has over 2,000 wines from nearly 135 producers. Search on both Google and iTunes to download the app.
Nothing quite compares to being on the ground and tasting in any or all of the cellars that the region offers however. Even if you’re not there in the Spring for the From Cellar-to-Cellar event, you can easily explore the wineries independently on your own.
Photo credit: www.experiencze.eu.
Additionally, TRAKTOR features several different wine tasting programs focused on different wine topics and themes with an emphasis on the Mikulov wine area and Palava Viticultural features. Tastings are guided in both Czech and English by Petr Ocenasek, a senior wine specialist and an industry expert who has worked in several local and foreign wineries. More info can be found at www.skleptraktor.cz.
Photo credit: www.skleptraktor.cz.
Stay at a Winery
For the romantic or wellness minded among you, it’s worth mentioning U Kapličky Winery, which is a family run winery where you can stay on the premises.
Since we love wellness experiences around here (be sure to read our upcoming write-up about Wellness and Spas in the Czech Republic), its also worth noting that U Kapličky has a wellness center on-site. You can choose from a variety of herb, flower or wine baths for two in a whirlpool tub, or take a dip in the pool with a counterflow and massage jets. Their on the premises Retro Grill Restaurant has an eclectic presentation of historical motorcycles. On weekends, they have music as well and the restaurant offers food pairings with their own Predikátními Wines.
They’ve been around since 2005, so it’s grown and can even accommodate large parties and groups: think weddings and corporate gatherings. More information on where they’re located and how to make reservations can be found on their website at: http://www.vinarstviukaplicky.cz/ .
Lednice, Valtice and Mikulov
Lednice and Valtice are two small towns that border each other and span across 120 square miles. These gorgeous (and largest) artificial landscapes are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, cited as an “outstanding example of human creativity.” Apparently, Valtice and Lednice Chateaux and surrounding area were transformed by the Dukes of Liechtenstein between the 17th and 20th centuries, and Baroque architecture lovers will love appreciate all that remains. All of it is accompanied by beautiful English-like landscaping — talk about raw beauty! Both towns are easily reachable and only a 160 mile drive from Prague.
The Lednice-Valtice Complex truly is spectacular — the surrounding park area is full of rare tree species, romantic buildings, fishponds and serene sitting areas. Not far from the Lednice-Valtice Complex is the royal town of Mikulov, which is dominated by a chateau set on a rocky cliff and boasts high quality Moravian wine, another place to stop and do some sipping.
Photo credit: Czech Tourism.
Nearby Valtice is home to the headquarters of the National Wine Centre, whose primary objective is to promote Moravian wine. In addition to holding wine competitions, it holds an exclusive wine tasting exposition, the Wine Salon of the Czech Republic, which is a great bucket list addition for any wine lover. The aim of the competition is to select the best wines, crowning them the titles of the Champion, the Winner of a category, or the Best Collection. The competition leads to a public wine-tasting exposition of those top 100 wines taking place in the Valtice Château Cellar and is open daily throughout the year. Cyclists will be keen to know that there are a variety of bike paths and cycling tours in and around Valtice, Lednice and the Palava Hills.
Photo of the Palava Hills — credit: Czech Tourism.
Czech Wines Along the Visegrad Wine Route
Lastly and worth mentioning is a wine route I discovered called The Visegrad Wine Route, which is essentially an initiative aimed at promoting some of the smaller wineries from Visegrad Countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia).
Given the scarce diversification of their business, it makes them extremely sensitive to drops in production and/or sales of their product and since smaller single winegrowers don’t have the critical mass to market in the same way larger vineyard brands do, it’s great to see a program that helps get the word out about some of the lesser known wineries from this area.
Wineries which are part of this route in the Czech Republic include the following. Get your notebook ready and start planning your route!
- Vinařství u Kapličky
- Fučíkovic sklípek
- PATRIA Kobylí, a.s.
- Sklep MARYŠA Šitbořice
- Rodinné vinařství Knápek
- Selský sklípek
- Templářské sklepy Čejkovice
- Vinařství rodiny Lůbalovy
- SYFANY spol. s r.o.
- Stapleton-Springer Winery
- Vinný sklep U Vrbů
- Vinný sklep Kurdějov
- Vinařství Bauman
- Vinařství Josef Padalík.
Here is a summary of a handful of them so you can better acquaint yourself with some of the varietals and better plan your wine tasting trip to the Czech Republic. All photos below are from the http://visegradwineroute.eu/ website, a useful resource on the Visegrad Wine Route.
So, wine lovers, what are you waiting for?
Below, Vinný sklep Kurdějov, is located at Kurdějov 230, 693 01, in the Czech Republic. The winery was founded in 1987 and sits on 0,7 hectares of vineyards where they grow 15 varieties of wine. Their most famous whites are Riesling and Sauvignon and reds include Blauer Portugieser and Blaufränkisch. They also have a B&B on-site which can accommodate 20 people.
Below, Vinařství u Kapličky, is located at Vinařská 484, 691 05 Zaječí in the Czech Republic. Look at this stunning property, a visual that is beautiful enough to make you want to visit alone.
Below, Stapleton Springer Winery, is located at Bořetice 476, 691 08 in the Czech Republic. This vineyard has been around since 2004, and specializes in Pinot Noir, the family winery’s signature and dominant variety. Their winery operates an organic or BIO regime and they have planted the Čtvrtě, Trkmansko and Terasy vineyards primarily with the Pinot Noir grape (75%) although other varieties include Saint Laurent (10%), Blauer Portugieser (10%) and Chardonnay (5% ). In total, the winery operates on 16 hectares of vineyard.
Below, Vinařství Bauman, located at Růžová 354, 691 02 Velké Bílovice in the Czech Republic, currently farms on 4.5 hectares of vineyards and produces 20,000 bottles a year. This family winery, which has been around for three generations, specializes in white varieties Traminer, Riesling and Gruner Veltliner and in red varieties Blauer Portugieser, Zweigeltrebe and Blaufrankisch.
Below, Selsky-sklipek, which is located at Bořetice 92 69108 in the Czech Republic, has been around for over 30 years. Mr. Svasta’s cellar is the oldest wine cellar in the village of Bořetice and in the ‘Republic of Kravi Hora’. The cellar produces twelve varieties of wines.
Below are useful links and resources for you to help with planning your trip.
- Czech Tourism and Moravia – general and useful activities in the Moravia region
- Taste of Prague – wine tours in Moravia
- Wine Tasting Programs in the Czech Republic
- Czech Republic Vineyards – where to go for wine in Prague
- Taste of Prague – info on where and what to taste in Prague
- Czech Tourism on wine trails (also includes some accommodation choices as well)