Christian G.E.Schiller with Jan Culik at Vinograf and St. Wenceslas Square in Prague
Vinograf Wine Bar - Arguably the Best Place to Taste Czech Wines in Prague
The arguably best place to taste Czech wines in Prague is Vinograf, a small wine bar that belongs to the Hotel Pinot, close by the Charles Bridge on the Castle side. Bar tender Jan Culik speaks German and English very well and is very knowledgable, when it comes to Czech wines.
The Czech Republic is a very small wine producing country, with just about 19,000 hectares of vineyards. This is less than Germany’s larger wine regions such as Rheinhessen or the Pfalz.
More than 90 percent of the wine production is accounted for by the southern part of Moravia, particularly around the Danube tributaries Dyje, Svraka and Morava. The Moravian wine region is largely concentrated on the border with Austria. It is kind of a continuation of the Austrian “Weinviertel” region in the north-east of Austria. The Moravian Wine Region is divided into four sub-regions: Znojmo, Mikulov, Velké Pavlovice and Slovácko.
In Bohemia, north of Prague, vines are planted along the river Labe (Elbe) and its tributaries, totaling 400 hectares of vineyards only. It is a small wine region, although Bohemia acounts for more than half of the Czech Republic. It is one of the most northerly wine regions in Europe. Prague sits on the 50° north latitude, the same as Wiesbaden in the Rheingau. The original instigator of vine-planting in Bohemia was the Emperor Charles IV, who gave it impetus with his decrees issued in the year 1358. The wine region Bohemia is divided into two sub-regions: Mělník and Litoměřice. No wine is grown in Czech Silesia, the third of the three Czech regions, in the north-east.
About three quarters of Czech wine production consists of white varietals. The primary varieties are Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Blanc (Czech: Rulandské bílé), Gewürztraminer (Czech: Tramín červený) and Grüner Veltliner (Czech: Veltínské zelené). Typically, Czech white wines are dry, aromatic, and light wines.
There are also red varietals such as Frankovka (Blaufrankisch), Modrý Portugal (Blue Portugal, named after the grape, not the country), or Svatovavřinecké (Saint Lawrence).
Vinograf is a cosy wine bar in Míšeňská Street , the only street in Prague built entirely in baroque style, very close to Charles bridge in Malá Strana. Charles bridge is the oldest bridge in Prague. Charles Bridge replaced the former Juditin Bridge, which was torn down by ice-floes during the spring of 1342. Construction of the bridge was initiated in 1357 by King Charles IV. and was finished in 1402. Until as late as the mid-1800, Charles Bridge was the only bridge in Prague and a key stop on the routes through Europe. Throughout its history, the bridge was decorated by 30 statues and sculptures.
There are about 8 tables for not more than 20 or so people. It's quite small, square, quite simple in decor, with white-painted vaulted ceiling, artfully-placed bottles and menu boards.
The wine portfolio contains about 100 bottles. Most of them are from the Czech Republic, but Vinograf also carries a few international wines. Vinograf is also a wine shop where you can pay to go as you would do in your usual wine shop. The wines on the shelves have both prices displayed, the one to go, and the one to drink on the spot. In addition, Vinograf offers about 20 wines by the glass.
Most wine bottles are in the Czech Crowns 200 to 300 range. At the time of my visit, the exchange rates were as follows: 1 Euro = 25 Czech Crowns; 1 US$ = 20 Czech Crowns and 1BP = 31 Czech Crowns.
The food is simple, tapas-style. We ordered an interesting cheese plate with Czech cheese only. The selection of Czech sausages and ham also looked very good.
Vinograf is part the Pinot Hotel, which is inexpensive and nicely renovated. We did not stay there, but the Pinot Hotel appears to be THE hotel for wine lovers in Prague. It has entered into partnerships wine Czech wineries; each winery sponsors one room.
Wine Tastings and Excursions
Hotel Pinot has an interesting wine cellar, the Lustermannský wine cellar, which is used for wine tastings and other events. Hotel Pinot currently offers two wine lectures on Czech wines: The Wines of the Czech Republic and International Grape Varieties in Czech Conditions. Each lecture lasts for approximately 60 minutes. The lecture can be in Czech, English, German or French. It must be arranged at least two days in advance, but Hotel Pinot is very flexible in terms of the time.
The Wines of the Czech Republic: This lecture focuses on the basic facts of winemaking in the Czech Republic. You’ll get to know the Czech system of wine classification and taste typical Czech grape varieties. The wine tasting includes 8 samples of white, rosé and red wines.
International Grape Varieties in Czech Conditions: This lecture focuses on the well-known international grape varieties. The tasting includes ten samples of varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. You will always get two samples of each variety from two different places, which will make it easier for you to tell the difference.
Hotel Pinot also organizes wine excursions within Prague and to the Bohemia and Morovia wine regions.
Vinograf has a wine blog www.vinograf.cz and is on facebook. What I have seen there is mostly in Czech but looks very interesting. Apparently, the videos include interviews with winemakers and clips from tastings as well as thematic clips on issues such as wine and food pairing.
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