The Czech Republic is synonymous with beer. After all, an entire style of beer is named after a certain west Bohemian town. Czech wine, on the other hand, maintains a rather more modest profile, and although there are over 18,000 hectares devoted to wine production, the domestic demand is so strong that there’s very little left for export.
As such, Czech wine has historically been overlooked on the international stage, but that is beginning to change.
We've put together an explainer on where and what to sip, how to talk about Czech wine, and most importantly how to visit wine country. Our guide has everything you need to raise a glass to your adopted homeland's celebrated wine culture.
Czech wine: A History
Wine came to Bohemia and Moravia in the 3rd century A.D., courtesy of the Romans, who brought the wine-growing tradition while expanding their empire beyond the Alps. The first mention of it taking roots in the Czech lands was a 9th-century legend about Moravian Prince Svatopluk, who sent a barrel of wine to the Czech Prince Bořivoj and his wife Ludmila on the occasion of the birth of their son Spytihněv.
Another milestone came in the 11th century, the time of the first written documents about viticulture, which originated from the country's monasteries. Viticulture then flourished in the 14th century thanks to Charles IV, who enjoyed wine himself.
The majority of the country’s vineyards are in South Moravia, nestled near the nook of the Austrian and Slovak borders. The area benefits from a warm and sunny microclimate, which suits grape cultivation. Its two main centers are Znojmo and Mikulov – two historic towns that, wine aside, are well worth a visit, but with wine in mind, are definitely not to be missed.
In the capital, the St. Klara vineyards produce grape varieties of Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Sauvignon, Blue Portugal, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir. Try and buy them at its Troja tasting room which also features a wine trail and exhibit devoted to winemaking.
Limited numbers of grapes are also grown in Bohemia, including some vineyards in Prague itself (yes, they are vines that you see when you look up the hill at Prague Castle; allegedly planted by St. Wenceslas himself) and in the charming town of Mělník – perched on the hill that overlooks the confluence of the Vltava and Labe rivers – 30 km north of the city.
Varieties of Czech wine
Czech vineyards are remarkable for the breadth of different wines that they produce. The landscape changes every couple of kilometers, allowing for the production of multiple varieties. Often vineyards will produce at least five varieties, and sometimes as many as twenty.
Traditionally, the majority of wines produced in Moravia are whites, and Central European varieties dominate the field. Given the ethnolinguistic background of the region, you can expect to meet the same wine with either a Czech or a German name (and sometimes both).