If you’re planning a trip to Prague, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, then consider adding a couple of extra days to your trip so you can visit Moravia- the major wine region of the Czech Republic. Only a short 2 hour drive south of Prague, this region delights with its landscape of rolling hills, tiny flower-bedecked villages, and delicious fresh wines paired with regional Czech cuisine.
I was fortunate enough to be able to visit this region in September of 2018 with my mother, right at the beginning of the grape harvest. While there we visited four wineries and two wine shops, at the invitation of the local wine associations and university. All were truly amazing, and should be on your itinerary if you are lucky enough to visit this unspoiled, and relatively undiscovered, wine region, which has been making wine since the 13tfh century!
Spend Several Days in Prague First
It is easy to catch an international flight into the modern Prague airport and then take a 20 minute ride via taxi or Uber to the old city. Here you can stay in a hotel (we stayed at the Prague Radisson) or Airbnb, and walk the ancient streets, which are only for pedestrians. They are filled with quaint shops, delicious restaurants, and hidden wine shops such as the Wine O’Clock Shop where we ate dinner the first night. Prague is also great for beer lovers, and we enjoyed a big bowl of goulash and two icy steins of beer for lunch the next day at the White Horse Restaurant with an outside table overlooking the bustling square.
Everything in Prague is within walking distance, including the Old Town Square with its famous Astronomical Clock, Prague Castle, and the beautiful Charles Bridge that spans the River Vltava. We also signed up to attend a traditional Czech dinner with music and dancing at Restaurant Michael. This was so much fun, and everyone in our room – we didn’t know a soul when we first got there – was up and dancing by the end of the night. My great-great grandmother was from the Czech Republic, and it felt like we were being welcomed back to join our relatives.
Great Czech Food, Wine, Music & Dancing in Prague
A Quick Overview of the Czech Wine Scene
There are now more than 1200 wineries – called “Vinarstvi” – in the Czech Republic. They are located in two regions: 1) Bohemia, which is smaller and located about one hour north of Prague, and 2) Moravia, located two hours south of Prague near the Austrian border, where 90% of the wine is produced. The major wine styles are delightful sparkling wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling, as well as still white wines from the same grapes. They also produce some red wines such as Pinot Noir and Zweigelt. Two very unique varietals they produce are Palava – a white cross of Gewürztraminer and Muller Thurgau, and Andre – a red cross of St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch. Both are described in more detail below.
Two Hour Drive South to Moravia Wine Region
After three days in Prague, we took an Uber back to the airport to pick up our rental car. It is easy to rent a car there because it is on the outskirts of the city and you can get on the freeway almost immediately. The Czechs drive on the right side of the road (same as the USA), and all roads are well-marked and in very good condition. From Prague, it is only a two hour drive to Brno, the capital city of Moravia. This is a great place to stay with many restaurants, museums, and a pedestrian walking area. From here you can take day-trips to the wineries, or you can stay in a hotel in one of the small wine villages, such as Hotel Kurdejov, or an Airbnb like we did.
Four Wineries to Visit in Moravia
The majority of Czech wineries are very small and family run, and therefore, you may need to make a reservation online with some of them. However, there is also a major visitor center and wine shop called the Wine Salon of the Czech Republic in the town of Valtice, which I highly recommend. It is located in an old chateau and you can even have lunch there. It should also be noted that during certain times in April, there is a Czech Winery Open House in Moravia where all of the wineries are open and offer free tastings. Click HERE for more information.
The four wineries we visited each specialized in a different style of Czech wine, so they are perfect to visit if you only have two days:
Proqin Winery (Vinarstvi Proqin) – specializing in Czech Sparkling Wines. This small and friendly winery is owned by Martin Prokes, who speaks perfect English and along with being a top Czech winemaker also teaches wine business at the University of Mendelu in Brno. Located in the small village of Velké Němčice, Proquin Winery is housed in a modest tasting room on the edge of town. Martin purchases all of his grapes from surrounding vineyards and produces around 100,000 bottles each year, which he exports around the world. Martin’s great-great grandfather came to the region in 1675 to become a winemaker, and now Martin is taking up the ancient family profession. “This region is located on the 49th parallel, just like the region of Champagne,” says Martin. “Therefore we are perfectly positioned to make world class sparkling wines.” Indeed if you ask kindly, Martin will proudly draw out his sword and saber (sabrash in Czech) a bottle of sparkling wine for you. Martin makes many great wines, but some of my favorites here were:
- Proqin Matthias Sparkling Brut NV – a sparkling wine made from Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, it has a lovely honey nose, green apple, yeasty notes and a cleansing minerality.
- Proqin Extra Reserve Sparkling Riesling 2010– a vibrant and exciting sparkling Riesling with floral and peach notes, electric acidity and a zesty energy.
- Proqin Neuburger 2017 – fresh and delightful, this wine tasted of grapefruit, grass, and mineral notes. It is a cross between Roter Veltliner and Sylvaner, and quite unique.
Slechtitelska Stanice Winery – specializing in wines made from the Andre and Palava grapes. This winery is also a hotel and restaurant, so you can stay here for the night and enjoy a view of the beautiful vineyards. Located in the small village of Velké Pavlovice, the vineyards were originally planted here by the Romans in the year 200. The Christians arrived in 860 and continued to plant grapes and make wine, and then in 1908 it was set up to be a cross-breeding station (Slechtitelska Stanice in Czech) to develop new grape varietals. This is how the grapes called Palava (a white cross of Gewürztraminer and Muller Thurgau) and Andre (a red cross of St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch) were developed. They also grow many antique roses of the most amazing colors and aromas, as well as produce honey, jam, and vinegar. We toured the ancient cellars, the modern winery in the vineyards, and then had a delicious lunch at the restaurant, but you can also just stop by to taste and purchase wine at the cellar door. They farm over 43 hectares of vines and produce around 500,000 bottles of wine per year. Some of my favorite wines here included:
- 2017 Riesling – fresh, crisp, aromatic with white peach and a salty minerality.
- 2017 Palava – very floral with notes of honeysuckle, apricot, and crisp acidity
- 2016 Andre – a medium-bodied red wine with ripe mulberry, spice, pepper, and earthy notes.
Sonberk Winery – specializing in Riesling and Palava wines. A beautiful modern winery and tasting room set on a hillside overlooking vineyards and Thaya Lake below. The region has more than 700 years of winemaking history and the hillsides are filled with limestone soil, which is ideal for producing fresh and dazzling wines. Sonberk was established in 2003 near the small village of Popice; has 45 hectares of vines, and produces around 150,000 bottles per year of all estate wines. They have won numerous awards for their wines, especially the Palava. While there, I got to see them drying the Palava grapes on special straw mats to make their famous dessert Palava, which received 96 points from Decanter. All of the wines here are excellent, but some of my favorites were:
- 2015 Riesling VOC– very fresh with notes of lemon and green peach, a creamy body with good acidity and a hint of salinity. A very sophisticated Riesling with character.
- 2017 Palava VOC – beautiful floral notes, apricot, lovely intense spice, good acidity and a dry finish.
- 2016 Straw Palava – delicious sweet dessert wine with honey, peaches, ginger, and refreshing acidity.
Kolby Winery – specializing in estate Welsh Riesling. Located only a few miles from Sonberk Winery, Kolby is in the small town of Mikulov, next to an old cellar with chateau from the 1700’s. With 38 hectares of vineyards spread out on the limestone and loam hillside above them, many of the vineyards are on ancient sites, and it reminded me of the Grand Cru vineyards of Alsace. The difference is that the majority of the vines are either Riesling or Welsh Riesling, which the Czechs call “Rynlink Vlasky”. I had a tour of the winery, where the grapes were arriving for harvest, and then we had a delightful tasting outdoors. The winemakers at Kolby believe in aging their white wines before release, which gives them some complex notes of minerality and salinity. They also practice organic and biodynamic farming techniques, but are not certified. Some of my favorite wines here were:
- 2017 Rynlink Vlasky (Welsh Riesling) – aromatic, floral and apricot, medium body, good acidity, fresh with nectarine and energy.
- 2010 Rynlink Vlasky (Welsh Riesling) – textured, complex, mineral, stony, salty, sur lie aging, 11.5%.
- 2013 Riesling – classic with diesel, lime, mineral, and straw; good complexity with hint of regional brine notes.
Wine Shops to Check Out in Moravia
In addition to the famous Wine Salon of the Czech Republic described above, with more than 100 top awarded Czech Wines to taste, also consider stopping at the Hotel Kurdejov Wine Shop. Here you can taste and purchase local wines in a friendly atmosphere, as well as dine in the restaurant and/or stay overnight in the hotel. On the hillside behind the hotel, the owner’s son has planted 15 hectares of vines in 2013. He explained that in the old days it was all vineyards, but the communists had torn them out to plan wheat. Now the Czechs are reclaiming their ancient vineyard land around the country, and are experimenting with new varietals. He has decided to plant three colors of Pinot: 1) Pinot Noir, 2) Pinot Gris and 3) Pinot Blanc, and is using organic farming and natural winemaking techniques.
Prague Castle at Night, Czech Republic