On Thursday the world celebrated the arrival of this year's Beaujolais Nouveau. The Czech Republic was no exception, but the country also has it's own equivalent of this great French wine institution.
Czechs are proud to be considered a nation of beer drinkers. But one of the possible reasons why beer consumption became so common was because of the bad quality of Czech wine during the Communist era. Now wine is on its way back to the Czech table. Wine expert Marek Foltyn describes the Czech equivalent of the French celebration of the Beaujolais Nouveau.
"It is called St. Martin's wine, and it is a celebration of new wine and marks the end of an agricultural season on the vineyards. It is on the 11th of November and the roots of this tradition are in the Middle Ages. It is a celebration of new wines of many categories and varieties."
Most Czech wine producers concentrate on high quality, because low quality wine can be produced more cheaply in Southern Europe. After the fall of communism in 1989, new small wine producers appeared on the market. It is often the case, that they buy grapes from other winegrowers, including from abroad. This means they can chose only selected high quality grapes. Many of the new producers have invested in modern equipment, and this, combined with good grapes, means that they can really focus on the quality. Marek Foltyn believes that things really are changing in the Czech Republic.
"I think that it is changing a lot- firstly the quality is getting better. People who drink and appreciate wine are looking for higher quality because there are many wines from other countries to compare to. I think it won't take long until we (Czech wineries) will be competitive on the European and international wine market."
There is a difference between Bohemian wine from the west of the Czech Republic, which is drier and spicier, and Moravian wine from the south-east, which is usually sweeter, with fresh, fruity aroma. Producers do not usually archive their wines because they need the money immediately to repay loans. One Czech speciality is St. Lawrence or "Svatovarinecke" red wine, originating in France, but nowadays grown almost exclusively in the Czech Republic. Another speciality is Andre - a mixture of two vine sorts, which comes from Austria under a different name, but since its original grower was a fascist, Czech producers after the war rejected it and cultivated their own identical variant.
Next spring will be the last chance for Czech winegrowers to plant new vineyards, since the European Union has a quota on the total area of vineyards allowed. EU accession in May will also put more pressure on the quality of wine because imported wine will become cheaper and some strict regulations concerning the amount of sugar added will apply to Moravian wine too.
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