The Czech Republic may be famous for its beer, but the country also has a thriving winemaking industry and proudly celebrates its viticulture with plenty of lively wine festivals spread throughout the spring, summer and autumn months. Whether it’s a romantic tasting of Moravian rosé within the pretty confines of Prague Castle, or a showcase of the beloved national drink burčák, visitors to Prague will have plenty of opportunity to sample the local wine scene. Here, Klara Kollarova, local wine expert and founder of Prague’s popular Vinograf wine bars, tells us why we should all be drinking more Czech wine, and reveals her pick of unmissable wine festivals in Prague.
Why did you decide to found Vinograf wine bars?
Jan Horešovský and I really felt we were lacking a wine bar in Prague, so we decided to open one ourselves. We wanted to have the opportunity to taste different wines and there was nowhere in the city to do that. We started with the small Vinograf, which focuses on local wines. Then, we wanted to include more international flavours, so we opened the Big Vinograf in 2013. The third outpost opened in 2015.
Can you tell us a bit about the wine growing regions of the Czech Republic?
There are two. A tiny one in Bohemia, in the northern part of the Czech Republic, which has about 700 hectares of vineyards spread across diverse conditions including a few small vineyards in Prague. Here, you can find some really great wines; Riesling and Pinots being the top grapes, with strong terroir influence. However, the majority of the vineyards are in Moravia, close to the border with Austria and Slovakia. The climate is a bit warmer here, and the range of grape varieties is larger. In this area, you can expect to find central European white grape varieties like Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling and Müller Thurgau, with Frankovka (Blaufränkisch), Blauer Portugieser and Svatovavřinecké (St. Laurent) varieties used to make red wines. We also grow international grapes like Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. A special group are crossings and hybrids like Hibernal, Pálava or Cabernet Moravia. Czech wines can be diverse in style but 60% of the total production here centres on white wine.
What are your favourite Czech wines?
I like the ones made from central European grapes like Grüner Veltliner, Welshriesling or Frankovka and Svatovavřinecké.
What makes Prague’s wine festivals so special?
It’s the atmosphere of the city itself that makes them special. Most visitors to Prague have never even heard of Czech wine, so they are surprised to see quite a strong wine culture here, and to sample the excellent quality of our local wines.
Can you recommend any festivals that are particularly good for visitors looking to learn more about Czech wine?
The most romantic one is The Tasting of Rosé at Prague Castle. For an impressive selection of authentic Czech wine, I always recommend the Prague Drinks Wine festival in May every year. During September, there are festivals all over Prague with possibilities to taste burčák, an alcoholic grape juice produced from fermented grape must sourced from Czech vineyards.
What are your predictions for the future of Czech winemaking?
My hope is that the quality will keep on getting better and better. I also hope that Czech winemakers will be able to collaborate more closely with sommeliers to boost the image of our wines abroad. The more visitors are able to try the best Czech wines, the more interested they will be in exploring our wonderful wine regions.