The History of Wine in the Czech Republic

Recently there was a successful exhibition for Czech wines at the London International Wine & Spirits Fair in May, 2003. In the exhibition booth were the Czech wine producers Víno Marcinčák, Tanzberg, Kolby and Mikros-vín showing off their best selections. The exhibition was visited by more then 15,000 wine specialists, importers, producers, agents, distributors, journalists and wine lovers. Exhibition visitors who tasted the Czech wines agreed on its quality and character. Those prognosticators in the know are saying Czech wines will be found more and more on shelves in the West in the future, as the Czech Republic is set to join the EU in 2004.

The Czech Prince Bořivoj is credited with planting the first vineyards in the area, with vintners associating themselves in guilds during the 13th and 14th centuries. The warmer, south-facing slopes of Moravia are quite suitable for grape growing, and with global warming, becoming even more productive and of ever-higher quality.

Early on there was a fascination with white wines, but during the 15th century red wines became the accepted standard, with several varieties of note including Sauvingnon Blanc and Rouge. Of interest were the Baptist monks who travelled through Bohemia, establishing monasteries and vineyards as they expanded their sphere of influence.

Around the turn of the 20th Century interest in wine was replaced by cheap beer and brandy, and of course water was clean enough to drink by this time. Only in the last decade, since independence from the USSR has there has been a huge resurgence in the popularity of wine in Czech, and with high import duties on wine, vintners in Czech are making a comeback.

Now there are many varieties of grapes grown here, White Reisling, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Neuburger, Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, and others covering some 17,000 hectares. In 1995 the Czech Republic established the Viticultural Law that now governs and standardizes the industry and it's production purity. Specialty wines such as Ice and Straw wines are also proving very popular these days.

After visiting Prague and spending time chatting with a local wine shop operator I began to appreciate the unique flavors of Czech wines, and hope that the prices will level out with other wines from the EU when they join next year. The Czech wines are good, but because of the high import duties on wine, they charge top prices for their local products. Competition might make the product even better, and more affordable.

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