The Czechs are the world’s leading beer drinkers, working their way through an average 146 litres per person per year. And yet, this tiny country in the heart of Europe has a history of winegrowing dating back to the 2nd century. Its history, grape varieties and burgeoning wine tourism activities make it an exciting region to discover, sooner rather than later.
- Vineyards in the Czech Republic – 98% of the area under vine is located in South Moravia
- The Czechs and wine consumption
- A wine industry marked by its Communist past
- Grape varieties in Czech vineyards
- A prime destination for cycling around the wine regions
- How global warming is benefiting Czech vineyards
The Czechs and wine consumption
One Czech observer likes to comment: “We are patriotic. We like to drink the wines we grow!” Annual per capita wine consumption is in excess of 20 litres, including 6 litres of Czech wine. To cover their consumption needs, the Czechs import two-thirds of the wine they drink. France is their fifth largest supplier country by volume. Exports are virtually non-existent.
A wine industry marked by its Communist past
After the Communist coup d’état in 1948, everything was nationalised and collectivised. Nobody owned anything any longer, and everything belonged to everyone. As the only objective was quantity, nobody showed any concern for quality. After the Velvet Revolution and the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the restitution of vineyards and emergence of private investments led to the restoration of family wineries and the establishment of new companies. In 1995, the wine law and membership of the European Union on May 1, 2004 were the ultimate steps in the revival of the Czech wine industry.
Grape varieties in Czech vineyards
Czech vineyards are home to 35 white wine grape varieties and 26 red wine varieties listed in the national plant variety register. Among them are international grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon blanc, but also varietals such as Welschriesling, Blaufränkisch and the native variety Palava, a cross between Savagnin rose and Müller Thurgau. Driven by tropical notes, Palava is very aromatic and extremely popular in the Czech Republic. In fact, Miroslav Volařík, a winegrower at the Vinařstvi Volařík estate, even goes as far as to say that it is “our country’s flagship grape variety”.
A prime destination for cycling around the wine regions
For all cycling and wine enthusiasts, South Moravia is the ideal wine region to visit. It is home to 1,200 km of signposted cycle paths joining one village to the next. The network’s backbone is the Moravian wine route which runs for 289 km in length between Znojmo and Uherské Hradiště. From traditional establishments to modern wineries, no effort is spared to attract wine tourists travelling by bike.
How global warming is benefiting Czech vineyards
Vineyards located in Moravia are along the same latitude as Alsace and Burgundy. The climate is damp continental with no dry season; the winters are harsh and the summers hot. The growing cycle is shorter than in Western Europe and the grapes ripen later in the season. Harvesting takes place between mid-September and the end of November. According to some observers, with this type of climate, global warming is “fairly beneficial for vineyards in the Czech Republic”.