By Valentina Phillips
When you think of famous wine regions, South Moravia is not the first that comes to mind, but the area, which is located on the same latitude as Alsace and Burgundy and accounts for 96% of wine production in the Czech Republic, has a lot to offer.
In the past 25 years, wine production in the Czech Republic has undergone a sea-change.
“Particularly after the wine act of 1995, which is now fully compatible with European legislation, the situation for viticulture and winemaking began to change significantly“, explains Jaroslav Machovec, director of the Czech Wine Fund. “Improved technological equipment and vineyard management resulted in a substantial increase in production and higher quality wines.”
Nowadays, Czech winemakers use modern technology and innovative methods and many of them have adopted environmentally-friendly viticultural practices.
South Moravia has a continental climate with an annual average temperature of 9.42 C and annual average rainfall of 510 mm. The vegetative season is shorter than in Western Europe, but intense summer temperatures allows the growing of the varieties with late maturing grapes. The grapes ripen more slowly, promoting greater concentration of aromatics in the fruit.
Two thirds of the wines produced in the Czech Republic are white and they are typically highly aromatic, fresh and fruity. South Moravia is mostly renowned for its white wines which have garnered international recognition in many prestigious wine competitions around the world. The top grape varieties by percentage of plantings are Grüner Veltliner, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Welschriesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. Among native varieties, the most popular is Pálava – a cross between Traminer and Müller-Thurgau.
South Moravia’s red wines have yet to make the same name for themselves in the international market but aren’t to be overlooked.
“Moravia is known for its full-bodied white wines, but the region also offers amazing red wines”, says Jaroslav Machovec. “The vineyards in the so-called Modré hory or “blue mountains” in Velké Pavlovice are the heart of red varieties in the Czech Republic. The soils there are characterized by high magnesium content, which contributes to the unmistakable taste of Moravian reds.”
The typical South Moravian red wine varieties are St. Laurent, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch (Frankovka), Pinot Noir and the local variety Cabernet Moravia, a hybrid between Cabernet Franc and Zweigeld.
Moravia has more than 17,000 hectares of registered vineyards divided between the four sub-regions: Mikulovská, Velkopavlovická, Slovácká and Znojemská.
The sub-region of Mikulov (also referred to as Mikulovská), is home to the Palava hills, which are an elevated limestone mass. Apparently the first South Moravian vineyards were found on its slopes by Roman soldiers. Welschriesling is extremely well suited to the sloping limestone vineyard sites of Pálava. Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, along with Pálava, Neuburger and Sylvaner are among the other varieties grown in the region.
The wine sub-region of Velke Pavlovice (or Velkopavlovická) is situated in the central part of South Moravia and is one of the sunniest places in the Czech Republic. Velkopavlovická is home to the majority of the red grape varieties in South Moravia and is most famous for its red wines from Frankovka (also known as Blaufränkisch, Kekfrankos or Lemberger) and St. Laurent. Also worth trying are Blauer Portugieser and the wines from the local variety André.
The eastern part of South Moravia is home to the Slovácká wine sub-region. The very diverse natural conditions in the region are reflected in the complex palette of wines produced there. Slovácká is the birthplace of the local grape varieties Moravian Muscat, bred in Polešovice by crossing Muscat Ottonel with Prachtraube and Cabernet Moravia created in Moravská Nová Ves.
The sub-region of Znojmo (Znojemská) includes the western part of South Moravia. It is the cradle of aromatic white wines, spearheaded by Grüner Veltliner, followed by Müller Thurgau, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. The Znojmo region is also at the core of wine tourism in the Czech Republic. In the high season, tourists can explore the local vineyards from a special wine bus – Vinobus – with several wine tasting stops.
The Moravian Wine Trails
The Moravian wine trails is a project launched in 2009 in a bid to protect the cultural heritage of winemaking in South Moravia. The cycling trails are nearly 1,200 km long and interlace the four Moravian wine regions, including 230 wine villages and towns.