Uncorked: Moravian Winemaking

Proud Moravians will tell you that this region of the Czech Republic produces not only 98 percent of that entire country’s wines, but also some of the most delicious, least familiar wines on the planet.

Winemaking is nothing new in Moravia, though the making of fine wine was put on hold by communism—just like the making of fine everything else. After 1989’s Velvet Revolution freed what became the Czech Republic, vintners went full speed ahead. With the freedom to do business came the freedom to taste, compare and learn. With the long-delayed freedom to travel outside the Iron Curtain came the freedom to see what (and how) peers were producing in France, Italy and Spain. The result is a small, and small-producer-driven, Moravian wine industry that is turning out some incredible wines.

The Lednice-Valtice Area (or LVA) is part of Moravia’s wine country that stretches around the larger town of Mikulov. All three of those places feature ancient chateaux that are well-worth a visit. When you visit wineries in the Czech Republic, you walk through the opening scenes from the film “Gladiator,” when Russell Crowe was battling Germanic tribes along the Danube and a host of other rivers with unpronounceable names. Winemaking is a tradition that dates back to the Roman Empire. Wherever the Romans “came, saw and conquered,” they planted grapes, giving us the good fortune of now having wines from many regions of the world.

The National Wine Center in Valtice stocks 100 regional wines each year based on ratings and rankings by a panel of experts. This public-private partnership gets substantial funding, as you’d expect, from the area’s larger wine producers but it also makes a point of fairly representing the mom-and-pop wineries as well. As the area tends to be chilly, there is a general preference for white wines made with grapes like riesling, muller-thurgau and gruner veltliner (presented in their Czech spellings, of course). Only one red grape absolutely thrives in such conditions—my favorite grape of all, pinot noir.

For a long time, Moravia called this wine by a Czech version of its most iconic place of origin—Burgundy. But this didn’t fly with the origin-crazed European Union when the Czech Republic signed up, so the name instantly became rulandske modre, meaning “blue rulandske.” Next time you are craving a pinot noir from Burgundy or the Willamette Valley, why not reach for something from the LVA instead? You might find a new favorite.

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