Become a sommelier this summer

The Prague Post

Moravian wines are unique and accessible, even if you only know red from white

Summer is here, and if your plans call for entertaining, you’ll be looking to surprise your guests with a lovely buffet of food and drink. Wine is usually a good choice: Most people like it, and there are some delightfully refreshing options out there to match whatever goes on the plate. Why not consider a Czech variety? We asked for some recommendations from a Prague aficionado, who says even novices can appreciate Czech wine.

Vladimír Pokorný, who is in charge of the wine menu at Zinc Restaurant at Hilton Old Town Prague, recently returned from a Moravian research trip, during which he visited nearly 15 wineries as a part of preparations for a new wine menu for the restaurant. He was pleasantly surprised at what he found.

“There are new-style, modern vineyards producing really good wines at a good price,” he says. “The technology is becoming more modern; people are learning about wines and investing money. The quality is really increasing.”

The Czech Republic has four main wine-growing regions: Mikulov, Znojmo and Velké Pavlovice in Moravia and Mělník in Bohemia. Pokorný says, in general, Moravian wine is better.

“In Moravia, there are lots of minerals in the soil, and wines have been growing there for 1,800 years,” he says. “Moravian wine is usually better because they have more sun, and it’s very important to have lots of sun, especially in August and September.”

According to Pokorný, the Czech Republic produces better white wines then red. He says the growing conditions here are good for Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Tramín grapes, plus the country’s special grapes like Müller Thurgau, Pálava and Veltlínské zelené.

“These are good, light white wines with interesting character,” he said. “In the coming years, we’ll see more good Czech restaurants serving good Czech wine.”

For red wine, Pokorný says producers must cut away most of the grape bunches from the vine, leaving only a few. This is so the majority of nutrients go only to a few grapes, making them very strong. He says this is expensive, and vineyards need modern technology to do it right. If you are looking for a Czech red, he recommends Rulandské modré (Pinot Noir), Frankovka, Merlot and Svatovavřinecké.

Some of Pokorný’s favorite producers include Sonberk, Gala and Znovín Znojmo. Producers that made it onto Zinc’s wine list include Tanzberg Mikulov, Kolby and Nové Vinařství, which created the restaurant’s signature wine, Cuveé. Whether you are looking for a red or a white, Pokorný says it is the creator that matters.

“The grape is the most important. If the grapes are of good quality, you can create a good wine,” he says. “Producers who care a lot about the grapes will produce a good red or white.”

He also adds that you should look for a winery with a varied range.

“Every producer has its basics: a ‘cheap’ line, something above and then special wines like dessert or ice,” he says.

While in Moravia, Pokorný was also impressed by the offerings of the wineries, of which many present tours and tastings to educate about the vineyards and how the wine is produced. “You could spend a week in Moravia, and it would only be the beginning,” he adds.

If you’d like to try your hand at wine tasting, whether by yourself or with friends, Pokorný makes it sound pretty easy. He says you should already have an idea of what type of wine you like, for example red or white, dry or fruity, etc. Then ask friends, the waiter at your favorite restaurant or a specialized wine shop for recommendations. Find something you like, and then choose two or three similar products.

“Try two or three sauvignons from different producers, for example. You’ll feel the difference, and you’ll find out what you really like,” he says. “I used to only drink reds but was introduced to some really good whites, and now I drink mostly them.”

And what does a connoisseur drink when relaxing at home?

“Usually a light, fruity Pinot Noir or a Riesling,” Pokorný says.

And remember, it’s not necessary to be a wine expert or snob to enjoy a nice glass.

“You can say the taste of the wine is complicated, but, then again, it’s easy: You like it or you don’t,” he says. “You don’t need to smell it or figure out the flavors. Drink wine and enjoy it. You can look for complicated things, but it’s not necessary. … If you like it, drink it.”