When it comes to alcoholic beverages Czechs are famous for their beer and beer-drinking - but increasingly every year Czechs can boast better and better wines produced in the regions of southern Moravia. In 2005 - thanks to an Indian summer - the quality of the Czech harvest was exceptionally good. We spoke to Martin Pucek, from the Czech Union of Wine Growers. He explains how a rainy summer and a gorgeous autumn combined to enrich this year's grapes.
"It wasn't a very hot summer but what we saw in the autumn was unusual: several weeks of beautiful sunshine. The weather had a major impact on the final taste of the wine. First, the grapes were waterlogged from the rain. Then extensive sunshine did the trick. The sun prompts the creation of sugars in the grapes leading to all kinds of aromatic flavours. In general terms, you can say the higher the sugar content, the higher the quality of the wine, the greater array and mix of aromatic elements. In terms of the taste this year's conditions were ideal."
But, if quality went up in this year's harvest, overall productivity unfortunately suffered: the summer drizzle had a flip-side: infestation. And, there was also extensive damage from starlings which all contributed to a poorer harvest. Czech wine producers now also face a more competitive market within the European Union, which has seen the arrival of cheaper foreign wines, so there have been some headaches. To combat cheaper imports, some 30 Czech producers recently established a new 'umbrella label' called "Saint Martin's". According to Martin Pucek, the label has already recorded success: wine tasters at this year's harvest celebrations were pleased.
"I was at an event on the main square in Brno just last Friday, where many tasters tried the Saint Martin brand and seemed quite happy and satisfied. I was also at an event in Prague and of the many wines I tasted I found nothing that would offend the palette!"
If you want to taste Czech or Moravian wine, the question most often asked is 'What should I try?' Martin Pucek recommends the choice you make always be based on 'local', reputation. For tourists he recommends wines traditionally found only here, for example in southern Moravia's Znojmo or Mikulov, the Czech Republic's two most famous wine regions.
"I'm from Moravia so naturally I recommend wines from the area. You can have a Cabernet-Sauvignon or a Chardonnay anywhere, but you can only get Veltlinske zelene or Ryzlink vlassky (Riesling) from Znojmo or Mikulov here. Those are two types I would recommend."
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