Znojmo, city of the grape and the gherkin: Wine tourism in Moravia

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Znojmo. Pretty isn't it?

Not just here for the beer: wine tasting in Moravia

I’ve always been a bit afraid of wine.

Not the substance itself you understand, but all the fuss surrounding it. The pretentious waffle about bouquets and vintages.  All that swilling and spitting at degustation seems showy and a bit disgusting. And anything we need to borrow a french word to describe is always off-puttingly pretentious.

A weekend in Znojmo, however, has cured me of my wine-phobia. For those readers whose Czech geography is poor, Znojmo is a town in Southern Moravia not far from the Austrian border. It also happens to be smack bang in the heart of the Czech Republic’s wine producing region.

Wine? I hear you say. In Czechland? Turns out that the nation which brought the world Budwar also produces a decent Pinot Blanc – or Rulandské bílé as they say in these parts.

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset. What I know about wine can be summarised thus: there’s red, there’s white and if you drink enough of the stuff, you risk making an arse of yourself and waking up with a sore head the next day.

Fortunately for me  it seems that when hitting the wine cellars of Moravia your chances of ending up with a hangover are pretty low.  Your Moravian vinter doesn’t add much in the way of chemicals to his vintages and provided you line your stomach with some of the home cured ham and gherkins – yes, Znojmo is famous for them – then you won’t end up feeling the worse for wear.

Back to my preconceptions. I always imagined a wine cellar to be a vast, cavernous space with hundreds of labyrinthine passages which I would be lead around by a balding man with a perfectly pressed white teatowel ostentatiously thrown over one arm. He’d also have a snooty expression and a very silly moustache.

I’m not quite sure where this vision came from but thankfully, I was completely wrong. Having explored the vinné sklepy of Nový Šaldorf – a hamlet on the outskirts of Znojmo – I can confirm the following:

  • A wine cellar can be a room about the size of a garage.
  • A Moravian sommelier is more likely to look like they used to be the frontman of Metallica: ours had heavy metal long hair and was wearing combat shorts.
  • You could well end up chatting to the sommelier’s grandma, who has been roped in to keep an eye on his kids, while sipping a glass of the good stuff.
  • If you want a warm welcome, don’t confess to being from Prague.
Czechland, you’ve won me over with your down-to-earth charm once again. Na zdravi!
-What about the wine caves? You have to tell them about those!
-Ah yes. Sorry. Wine cellars come complete with a wine cave – a long tunnel out back where the booze is kept which is full of giant glass distilling jars like a crazy science experiment.  Don’t forget to ask to have a look: it’s a key part of the experience.
-And it’s vinobraní time this month too!
-Indeed. As if an excuse were needed, this month Moravian towns like Znojmo will be having their wine harvest festivals which means a big torchlit parade of folk in medieval costume, fireworks, brass bands and of course, plenty of opportunities to sample the vino with the locals.
Znojmo’s vinobraní takes place the weekend after next (14th – 15th September) and they’ve bothered to translate the website into English so they must want your company.
If you were hoping to attend the Znojmo gherkin festival then sadly you’re too late.
Ah well, perhaps next year.

17 Comments

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17 Responses to Znojmo, city of the grape and the gherkin: Wine tourism in Moravia

  1. Jana Zilinkova via Facebook

    ■A Moravian sommelier is more likely to look like they used to be the frontman of Metallica: ours had heavy metal long hair and was wearing combat shorts……. HAHAHAHAHAHA You never fail to entertain us, thanks Miss Girlova 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Jana,

      Glad my observation tickled you. That’s what I love about Czechland: everything here is always that little bit more down-to-earth.

      Wine tasters of the world unite – and headbang in unison!

      GIC

  2. Mike in Bohemia

    Excellent 🙂 I liked your preconception of the guy taking you round a wine cellar. Made me chuckle :-))

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Mike,

      Glad that bit tickled you: my aim is to amuse but it’s always nice to have confirmation that I (occasionally) succeed!

      GIC

  3. Sarka

    Moravian wines are really good, praised also abroad 😉

    http://www.wineofczechrepublic.cz/en.html

    especially white and ice wine.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Sarka,

      Yes, it’s funny that most British people would be surprised to hear that any wine is produced at all in the Czech Republic but perhaps what’s funnier is that Staropramen – which most Czech people seem to regard as an inferior brand of beer – has become a cool brand in pubs in England. I suppose if it really was that good, Czechs wouldn’t allow it to be exported!

      Anyway, whether it’s the grape or the grain you’re indulging in, let me say ‘cheers!’

      GIC

  4. Hi GIC,
    Sorry for being rather slow to leave you a comment here, not that you’ve left me one on my blog for quite some time 🙁

    Czech wines, especially most of their white wines, are very drinkable. And I’m with you in just appreciating them rather than trying to describe them with a whole load of waffle.

    I did like your comment, ‘If you want a warm welcome, don’t confess to being from Prague’. Yes – the old Bohemia – Moravia rivalry about which I’ve written http://rickyyates.com/rivalries-within-small-states-nations/ . Ignore it at your peril!

  5. Milda

    Hi GIZ,

    I have been reading your blog for sometime now. I love your witty writing style (eventhough my bf doesn’t seem to agree with your comments about his city sometimes:D). But one of the reasons why I like it because you were able to voice my thoughts about Czech Republic. I noticed some of the things you write during my short visit there but I thought it was because I was seeing it from my Asian eyes:)

    This one blog for example explained what I was feeling when my bf and I were in Mikulov:) Wine was like an ordinary drink and the cellar was like an old lab where some professor was doing some dangerous experiments. I found the whole thing fascinating and I think being in a Moravian city with beautiful landscape and visiting the wine cellars is so romantic! I wondered why the Czechs were not making this as something that Asians would like to visit when they go to Europe!

    Look forward to reading future your observations! Would love to have a coffee with you when am in Prague next time if you’re free! 🙂

    Milda

    • I think if they did make it into something tourists would be visiting, it would lose most of its charm… Other than that, I’m glad you enjoyed it, and you please be glad you got the chance: I’m Czech, and I have not been to a Moravian wine cellar yet. 🙂 I kind of have no one to go with…

      P.S. to everyone: it’s not just Moravia. Wine is grown around Mělník as well, and other places in Bohemia. But Southern Moravia is the warmest part of the Czech Republic, thus the best place for wine-growing.

  6. Kate from Znojmo

    Hi! It’s really interesting to read this kind of experience from the other side. I come from Znojmo and love that town. I recommend to try Lahofer viniculture, they also have website and you can get it in Prague too, it’s perfect! Good luck in Czechland! 🙂
    Kate

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Kate,

      It’s nice to hear that someone who actually originates from Znojmo enjoyed the post – hurrah! Not sure when I’ll be knocking back the vino again but when I do, I’ll check out the place you suggest.

      GIC

  7. Lenka

    Yeah, don´t say you are from Prague. That´s so true! Funny thing is that you may have a great evening, everything will be gooing smoothly up until this moment, after that your so called friendly moravian host will totally change his attitude. And they say people from Prague are proud!

  8. Petra

    Hi!! I come from Znojmo, I just find your blog. That´s nice that sombody is writing about Znojmo or Moravia and our wine! I´m in Germany now and almost everybody think thatour national drink is beer. I prefer wine, in our willage and others too could you find plenty of wine cellars, smaller and bigger. I love Moravia 🙂 (but other place in Czeck too, even Prague :)).

    P.S. Sorry for my English, like I sad I´m staying in Germany, my brain is programed for German.

  9. Jůůů, hustý blog! Hřeje mě u srdce číst takový článek. Trefná poznámka o Pražácích na Moravě./Yay, what a cool blog! Feels good reading such an article. Apt remark about people of Prague in Moravia.

  10. Lilo

    Hello,
    your article about Znojmo brought me here and I enjoyed it very much. Ever since it happens to be my hometown I could not help but leaving a comment.
    You got the wine tasting athmosphere just right. Most of the sommeliers and vintners I know are pretty down-to-earth people. Pretty much like the one you met.
    But their only attempt seems to be getting their guests totally wasted. I think the term “wine tasting” does not describe the activity properly. Ever since you have to taste way too many samples and then you are usually asked to get back to those you liked the best.
    My advice: Keep in mind that you will have to climb up the stairs to get out of the cellar :))

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