Portions of this post were originally published in WineBusiness.com
The Czech Republic has been making wine since the 13th century, yet most global consumers only know the country for Czech beer. So what are the major wine grapes that are grown and produced in the Czech Republic?
The answer is a little fuzzy because many of the ancient vineyards of the Czech Republic were torn out during the Soviet Era and replanted with wheat. It has only been about 30 years now that Czechs have been reclaiming their wine-making heritage. Now with more than 1200 commercial wineries there is a positive sense of entrepreneurship in the country, along with much experimentation to determine what grape varietals and wine styles may become the signature grape of the future.
Location and Climate Help Determine Best Grape Varietals to Grow
The Czech Republic has a cooler continental climate, and is located to the north of Austria. In fact the majority of their major grape growing regions (where 90% of the wine is produced) is in the southern part of the country bordering Austria. The region is called Moravia, with the town of Brno as the main city. The Czech Republic produces many of the same grapes as the neighboring countries, but also some unusual ones. For example, they produce much Riesling like Germany and Grüner Veltliner like Austria, but also have some very unique wines such as Palava and Andre, describe below.
Possible Signature Wine Products in the Czech Republic
In an analysis of Czech wines that have won the most awards and/or are unique and distinctive, there are currently several contenders for “Signature Wine Product of the Czech Republic”:
Czech Riesling: Even though Germany and Austria produce a lot of Riesling, this variety is a good contender for flagship wine, because Czech Riesling has a distinct taste of being “dry with high acid, intense dried apricot, and a hint of salinity.” It is also produced in the majority of the Czech wine regions, ages very well, and has received multiple awards at international wine competitions. It should be mentioned that the Czech refer to this varietal as “Rhine Riesling (from Germany)” to differentiate it from Welshriesling.
Welshriesling: Also known as Italian Riesling, this is a different grape from Rhine Riesling, and produces a wine with more honey, floral and exotic fruit notes, without the telltale diesel of its German cousin. Generally produced as a simple easy-drinking bulk wine, on the limestone slopes of Moravia, Welshriesling takes on some intense savory notes with wet stone, salt and green apple. It also develops more character as it ages, producing complex textured wines with personality. Some excellent examples are produced by Kolby Winery, who specializes in single vineyard Welshrieslings.
Palava: Perhaps one of the most unique Czech wine varieties, the Palava grape was actually born in the Czech Republic and approved as a registered variety in 1977. It is a cross between Gewürztraminer and Müller Thurgau, taking on the best qualities of both grapes to produce a highly aromatic medium-bodied white wine with notes of honeysuckle and apricot with crisp acidity. It is made in dry, semi-dry, and sweet styles, and is very enticing. Indeed a sweet Palava, produced by Czech winery, Sonberk, using the straw method to dry the grapes, achieved 96 points at the 2018 Decanter World Wine Awards. The other positive of this grape is the fact that it has a name that is easy for consumers to pronounce.
Andre: Though the Czech Republic does produce some delicious light-bodied reds wines made from Pinot Noir, Zweigelt and other varieties, perhaps the most unique is a grape variety called “Andre.” Developed in the Czech Republic as a cross between St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch (also called Lemberger, Kekfrankos and Frankovka), the Andre grape produces soft-bodied aromatic red wines with notes of mixed red berries, rose, and spice. It is produced in dry and semi-dry styles with minimal oak. Unfortunately it is not produced by many wineries, and its name, Andre, is already claimed by a large famous global wine brand. The most well-known producer of Andre is Slechtitelska Stanice Winery.
Czech Sparkling Wine: Given that the location of the majority of Czech vineyards are alongside the 49th parallel, the same as the Champagne region, it should not be a surprise that the country produces a large quantity of sparkling wine. Indeed, its largest winery, Bohemia Sekt, specializes in the category, with 9% of total country volume share, according to Euromonitor. Czech sparkling ranges from high-end traditional method wines made from chardonnay and pinot noir, to innovative blends of Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Gris, made in the charmant method at affordable prices. Currently more small high-end producers, such as Proqin Winery, are producing award winning Czech sparklers.
Time and Consumers Will Determine the Answer
Given the fact that there are so many options available to Czech Republic wine producers, and the current culture of re-establishing grape-growing independence is so strong, it may take some time before the country will come to agreement on a signature wine product. However, they can also choose to do nothing, and let the international wine judging world and consumers decide.
Classic Czech Cuisine with Czech Wine