By Valentina Phillips
The Czech Republic is quite rightly famous for its beer but there is a whole world of wine awaiting travelers who visit the country. Particularly the wine region of Moravia, which is increasingly becoming a popular destination for wine enthusiasts seeking new and authentic wine experiences. The city of Brno is viewed as the gateway to the Moravian wine region. Surrounded by vineyards, the second largest city in the Czech Republic after Prague is a great place to start exploring the unique world of Moravian wines.
Over the past quarter of a century Brno has expanded significantly in terms of population diversity, cultural and culinary growth.
“In recent years Brno has experienced a real boom in the whole gastronomical scene. The city offers various types of cuisine and interesting food and drink concepts in top restaurants, wine and cocktail bars, distinctive pubs, historic beer houses, fashionable bistros and trendy cafés”, explains the mayor of the city, Dr. Markéta Vanková.
Entrepreneurs in the Moravian community are enthusiastic and eager to make Brno the newest food and wine destination. In 2016 the tourist information center launched the “Gourmet Brno” project, which includes the annual publishing of the Brno Gourmet Guide – a list of the best restaurants, bistros, confectionaries, cafés, wine bars, pubs and bars in the city.
Along with the whole gastronomical revolution, the wine culture in Brno is also thriving. Sommeliers and wine buyers are introducing foreign wines and rare grape varieties never before seen on wine lists in Brno. Wine bars and restaurants are inviting winemakers from around the world to host tastings as demand is constantly growing for international events and services.
Tomáš Látal, manager and co-owner of justWINE – one of the popular wine bars in town – has been observing this growing interest in wine for the past five years:
“People are becoming more and more knowledgable and curious about wine. They are more open to tasting new wines from different countries but also new styles, like natural wines for example.”
At 21 liters per capita, annual Czech wine consumption is still far behind the European average (36 liters per capita per year) but nevertheless, drinking wine is becoming more and more fashionable. An increase in tourism to wine drinking countries and westernization in terms of lifestyle are the main reasons behind the trend. Young urban professionals are the main drivers behind the increased demand for wine.
With regard to Czech wine preferences, Thomáš Látal stresses the potential for sparkling and natural wines, but also for wines that intrigue consumers:
“I see big potential for Cavas from Spain which might soon even outstrip Prosecco. There is also a trend for natural wines, which sell very well in our location in Brno city center. But what really attracts our clientele are wines which tell a story. They give customers the feeling they are drinking something special and exclusive.”
JustWINE was established in 2015 and currently has two bar locations and one wine shop in Brno. According to the manager, the bars owe their popularity to the versatile wine list, which includes a mix of local and international wines in different styes and price categories. ”JustWINE bars are for everybody”, says Látal. But although international customers are a daily occurrence, the audience remains predominantly Czech and loyal to local wines.
“Many people in the Czech Republic are traditionalists and drink only Czech wines, which I think is normal and good”, claims Látal. “The most popular wine among the local varieties is Pálava.”
It is not only the Czech people who enjoy the local wines. Over the past decade, Moravian wines have been awarded medals at international wine competitions around the world, thus boosting the popularity of Czech wines and generating revenue for the wine industry:
“96% of total Czech wine production originates in the region and that means a significant economic impact for all of its inhabitants”, says Brno’s mayor.
Expectations for this years’ Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, taking place in the Brno exhibition center from September 4-6, are therefore very high.
“Due to the scale of this wine competition, the large number of international tasters and media representatives, the event has great potential for the promotion of Brno. We have the opportunity to show off the city as a friendly, modern location with good weather, where you can live and work but also eat and drink well”, concludes Dr. Markéta Vanková.