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  • The Buyer on the road: the best wines from the Czech Republic

    It could all have gone so wrong. Our roving editor-at-large Roger Jones takes his son and 18 friends to Prague for a significant birthday. Instead of wearing bunny ears and downing flaming shots, Roger starts discovering Czech wines with varietals and winemaking methods he is unfamiliar with. And likes them very much.

    It could all have gone so wrong. Our roving editor-at-large Roger Jones takes his son and 18 friends to Prague for a significant birthday. Instead of wearing bunny ears and downing flaming shots, Roger starts discovering Czech wines with varietals and winemaking methods he is unfamiliar with. And likes them very much.

    mm By June 16, 2017
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    Both in Prague and back at his Michelin-starred restaurant Roger Jones tastes a range of Czech wines, and recommends the ones to buy in the UK.

    Czech wines, ever tried any?

    It certainly had not come onto my radar until I decided to take my son and 18 of his friends to Prague to celebrate his 21st birthday and, as my thoughts were that my wife and I would probably restrict ourselves to wine rather than go down the ‘Prague Party Shot & Cocktail Experience’ with the youngsters, I did a bit of research and managed to locate a few bastions of Czech wine.Czech wines

    Having booked a couple of Michelin-starred restaurants (there are only two) we were treated to an amazing food and wine matching on our first night at Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise, the food highlighted the ancient Czech cuisine, using a superb array of vegetables (with a tiny amount of fish and meat making a cameo appearance), matched by nine Czech wines plus a sparkling beer, Matuska.Czech wines

    The food was outstanding, but equally we were excited and enthralled with the wines, although they did serve a Chianti Classico in the middle of all the Czech wines!

    This clearly opened our minds and the following day we followed this up with a visit to the main Vinograf Wine Bar, which has three outlets in the city. Here they list pretty much all the best wines made in Czech, although we failed to find a red that satisfied our taste buds.

    Czech winesWhilst I was tweeting the Czech experience I was contacted by Basket Press Wines a new prolific Czech-only UK wine importer who arranged to visit me on my return, here I was introduced to further quality wines including a sparkling wine and an awesome Pinot Noir amongst other wines.

    Finally, by chance, whilst judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards I noticed on the daily Gold Table (an opportunity where judges can see how other regional judges rate Gold level wines) that a sparkling wine from the Czech/Hungarian region had won a Gold, you will have to wait and see what this was but it was fabulous, I hope it was from Czech but either way the depth, character and deep aged intensity of flavour marks it out as a sparkling wine that I will definitely buy.

    Before the tastings here’s a little background research 

    Before we dive into the Czech wines a bit of theory: all wines produced in the Czech Republic come under the state guidance, and have four categories;

    Stoini Vino – Table Wine

    This is the lowest category and can include grapes from any country in the EU

    Moravske Zemske Vino – Country Wine

    Wine produced from grapes solely from the Czech Republic.

    Jakostini Vino – Quality Wine

    Wine produced from within a Single Wine Region, and only grape varieties listed in the State Register of Grape Varieties.

    Jakostini Vino Priviastkem – Quality Wines with Special Attributes

    Czech winesWine produced from single sub-regions, and each wine has to be classified by sugar, weight, variety (single or blend), and have the following extra classifications:

    • Kabinetni Vino – (Kabinet) Normally relate to light wines
    • Posdni Sber – (late harvest) Normally full, dry or semi dry wines
    • Vyber Z Hroznu – (special selection of grapes) Full bodied with higher alcohol
    • Vyber Z Bobuli – (special selection of berries) Ripened on the wine, full, semi sweet or sweet wines.
    • Vyber Z Cibeb – (special selection of botrytis berries) Wines affected by noble rot.
    • Le Dove Vino – (ice wine) Grapes need to be picked at a max temp of -7c and must be frozen when pressed
    • Slamove Vino – (straw wines) Grapes have to be dried for at least 3 months on straw mats, or hung in a well-ventilated place.
    Czech wines
    Jiri and Zainab Majeriková from Basket Press Wines

    Basket Press Wines was set up by husband and wife team Jiri and Zainab Majeriková. Jiri is originally from Czech and has worked in the UK drinks industry for 15 years. Zainab’s background includes wine and food journalism, being a sommelier, and then working as an account manager with one of London’s top wine merchants.

    Basket Press Wines sources wines from Moravia in the South East part of the Czech Republic, although there are also wines produced in the Bohemia Region which borders Germany, whilst the Moravia wine region borders Austria. The Moravia region is subdivided into sub regions VOC Valtice, VOC Znojmo, VOC Modre Hory, VOC Mikulov, VOC Palava, VOC Blatnice.

    Czech wines
    Buying wine from the cask in Vinograf Wine Bar, Prague

    Given that Moravia neighbours Austria it shares similar topography, and shows superb potential to not only grow similar Austrian varieties but also Burgundian.

    There has been a major improvement in quality after years of neglect, during the communist regime that led to mass production, high yields and very little focus on terroir and quality.

    Czech wines
    Vinograf Wine Bar

    Jiri and Zainab from Basket Press Wines have invested a lot of time and effort to pick out the winemakers who have steered away from the somewhat base, old-fashioned practices but instead are revisiting more traditional, low-intervention ways.

    After discovering the top quality of winemaking and the new thinking, the duo felt the need to bring these wines to the UK and hopefully do them justice by giving them the right exposure.

    The following wines were tasted with Jiri and Zainab at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. We tasted through some 16 wines and these are the highlights. Prices marked are trade prices.

    Ktasna Hora, Ryzlink Rynsky, Dolni Poddvorov, Moravia, 2013 (£9.85)

    Czech wines100% Riesling, three different clones, three different harvest times, clean chalky, lime, lemon, soft, gently toasty, lime marmalade, flinty wet stone finish, good balance.

    Jaroslav Osicka, Chardonnay, Bratacky, Boretice, Moravia, 2012 (£16)

    This has an influence of the wines of Jura, slightly funky with some ‘flor’ attributes, deep full-flavoured with lots of fruit, but an underlying funkiness that gives it great character. It also has age and is currently drinking well.

    Ota Sevcik, Pinoty, Boretice, Moravia, 2015 (£15.60)

    Czech winesPinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay combine to give a racy, raucous wine full of bright citrus peel, honeycomb, stone-fruit. This is lovely and fresh and has lots of texture and layers.

    Ota Sevcik, Blanc de Pinot Noir, Boretice, Moravia, 2015 (£15.60)

    Czech winesThere is a touch of Pinot Gris added to this outstanding wine; salmon pink colour, richly textured, lovely balance, strawberries and rhubarb, touch of spritz, like a vintage still champagne. Fabulous.

    Jaroslav Springer, Pinot Noir, Ctvrte, Boretice, Moravia, 2015 (£15)

    Czech winesStunning perfumed Pinot Noir, fresh bright clean, fruit driven, then a sweet and savoury aftertaste, textured, layered, some underlying truffle aromas, great Pinot.

    Ota Sevcik, Frankovka, Boretice, Moravia, 2015 (£16.50)

    This is Blaufrankisch and is an elegant, fresh, light bright wine that has blackberries and spices running through it; a lovely, clean, vibrant wine.

    These wines were tasted at Vinograf Wine Bar

    Jakub Novak, Gruner Veltliner, Moravia, 2015

    Czech winesSuperb creamy, bright, fresh, deep yellow colour, savoury and spiced, back ground of acacia, honeyed, natural wine, lovely.

    Vinarstvi Krasna Hora Sauvignon Barrel Selection 2015, Moravia

    Czech winesOutstanding, handcrafted excellence, ripe nectarines, lovely purity, clean but rippling flavours, also produces top quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Blanc de Noir Sekt.

    These wines were tasted at The Michelin-starred restaurant Degustation Boheme Bourgeoise.

    Gala, Ryzlink Vlassky, Moravia, 2013

    Welsch Riesling, bright and clean – the freshness is incredible – zesty, vibrant, hint of orange peel, limes and stone-fruit. Good minerality. Wine maker Jaromir Gala makes a range of wine including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and sparkling wines.

    Hibernal, Petr Kocarik, Moravia, 2014

    Czech winesReminded me of Semillon, lovely intensity, citrus, melon, apple core, pink grapefruit, white flowers, attractive wine.

    Veltlinske Zelene, Dva Duby, Weinperky, Miroslav, 2014

    Czech winesUnfiltered, clean, fresh purity, clean stone-fruit, elegant, spiced.

    Matuska Sparkling Beer

    Hoppy, meady, fruity, more of a sparkling Chenin Blanc than a beer.

    So, in conclusion…

    The Czech white wines are certainly a highlight with most of the finer quality wines coming from the South in the Moravia wine region.

    The quality is very good and it will be interesting to see how these wines will evolve in the UK market, I certainly thought they were good enough to go on our list and have purchased half a dozen different wines. What was good about these wines are that they are food-friendly, light but impressive in taste and offer a different style to what I would normally drink.

    And this is what Roger managed to avoid by staying on the wine….

    Czech wine
    What could go wrong?
    Czech wine
    Oh dear

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