Adventurous wine lovers seeking a weekend away from the city should consider the Moravian wine experience. Located in the southern region of Czech Republic, between Bohemia and Slovakia, Moravia has 17 hectares of vineyards grown around the River Dyje and accounts for 95% of the country’s registered wine stocks, 1,126 to be exact.
You’ll find an impressive collection of local wines proudly tasted and sold amongst the 312 small, charming baroque style towns which dot nearly one-third of the Czech Republic’s landscape. With its lush, green rolling hills, the entire region of Moravia provides a feast of beauty for the eyes and your taste buds.
Moravia’s soils, also called terroir, were created from sediment left behind from the sea, freshwater and loess, making it ideal for growing grape vines. The countryside maintains four sub-regions, Mikulov, Znojmo, Velké Pavlovice, and Slovácko (Moravian Slovakia), each offering its own unique variation such as the of the limey soil of Palava or the clay soil of the Slovacko area. It’s these individual characteristics of the regions that influence the bouquet and flavor profiles of the wine. Some believe the passion of the winemaker is also infused into the wine, and therefore creates a special connection between the vintner and the taster.
Each region has its unique terrain which enhances the flavor of the wine. For example, cold winds and thermoregulation from rivers within the highlands add a spicy flavor and fullness to the variety of the western most sub-region Znojmo. While in Mikulov, limestone Alps accompany an array of bottomland woods with large drifts of loess and calcareous clays add a unique characteristic to each sip. Velké Pavlovice is popular for the red varieties which are dominated by the region’s rich soils of calcareous clay, marl, sandstone, and conglomerates.
With the attractive closeness of these medieval towns, visitors can easily experience a few of the towns over a weekend stay.
Some energetic tourists might want to rent bicycles, which are readily available, and capitalize on the opportunity to cycle from town to town sampling many of the different kinds of wines available. While each town has its own special flare, Valtice, located in the Mikulov sub-region, catches the eyes of many. It is widely considered the crown jewel of the area. Valtice is known for its massive, breathtaking palace in the center of this traditional wine region. Not only the former residence of the Lichtenstein family, but Valtice Chateau, a UNESCO listed site, just so happens to be home to Czech Republic’s National Wine Competition.
In 2019, a record number of 2,199 wines from Moravia and Bohemia were entered into the Wine Salon, a national wine competition held within the intricate baroque chateau.
The Wine Salon chooses judges very carefully and must have passed international wine exams and fallen within the line of CSN ISO. The National Wine Centre adds another level of evaluation in order to pick the best judges for this competition. Their first task resulted in the initial entries being paired down to 1,231 of the top submissions which were then reduced to 398 semi-finalists from 112 wineries. In the final round, 101 were awarded a gold medal at the Wine Salon and chosen to represent the wine producers of the Czech Republic.
The exciting news for oenophiles is that these wines are all available for public tasting and purchase. The Wine Salon is open Tuesday through Saturday and includes Sundays from June-September only. There are several ways to experience the salon. Walking into the chateau through its grand entrance, you’ll find the Wine Salon’s access on the left through a breathtaking archway. Descending down the narrow stairway, the brisk air slowly welcomes you into a dimly lit, romantic cellar that boasts a pleasurable antiquity. The Wine Salon’s amber glow illuminates its stone facade and adds to the unique medieval appointment while making the aura much more charming. One hundred wooden crates line the cellar walls holding multiple cases of each gold medal winning wine with varietal specific information identifying the region and characteristics of that wine. The wines are organized beginning with the dry white wines, then transitioning to sweet white and progressing to reds, where the set up will be the same. A wine specialist is always on the premises to answer any perplexing questions that may arise.
There are plentiful options provided for the wine tasting. The three most popular choices are as follows: for 499 czk one can taste as many wines as desired in a 120 minute time span; for 100 czk one is able to taste 16 wines of choice from a wine dispenser; and lastly, supervised wine-tastings are allowed 5 wines of choice for 160 czk. The open wine-tasting is by far the most popular and spectacular of the experiences. Enthusiastic oenophiles will have a heyday with the opportunity to self-pour from the impressive wine selection.
Close to half of the assorted wines are white, some with undertones of spice and a mineral earthiness, while wines made from ryzlink rýnský can be surprisingly flowery. Reds are a bit more interesting with bold structure and notes of fruit as well as strong mineral characteristics. Some of the wines are Exceptionally unique, such as Chardonnay 2015, pozdní sběr, VINSELEKT MICHLOVSKÝ a.s. (#20), which has lovely notes of currents, sultanas, and apricots and a hint of sweetness on the finish. On the contrary, a popular red, André 2015, výběr z hroznů, BV vinařství a.s. (#85) has characteristics such as a deep garnet color, a blueberry nose, and it is well-balanced on the palate. This particular wine was barreled for 18 months in French oak. French oak and American oak are uncommon and used mindfully in Czech wines. Czech vintners typically use stainless-steel techniques when aging their wine. This is incredibly intriguing, given there are a select few within the Wine Salon that are barreled in oak.
A favorite souvenir from the region is a small wicker basket purchased from the Wine Salon holding 6 bottles of wine which can be shared and savored at home with friends. Whether you visit for a weekend or a week, South Moravia has many charms to be enjoyed. It’s history, beautiful architecture, vineyards and plethora of small towns to discover will leave you wanting to return.