Vintage or, autumn has arrived – have a sip!
Anyone who likes wine should visit a traditional vintage at least once in their life. This is the most important time of the year for all wine-makers and is accompanied by lively, if merely symbolic, celebrations – the late and select grapes have not yet been harvested, never mind ice and straw wines.
The miracle of burčák
The king of Bohemian and Moravian vintages is not, however, young wine, but burčák – fermented grape juice, something between pressed, non-alcoholic juice and fully-fledged wine. It doesn’t have a long shelf-life, just a few hours, and the trick is to ‘capture’ the burčák. If it comes off, success is guaranteed. Good-quality burčák is a light yellowish colour, with a sweetish, grape taste. It’s thicker than wine, but mustn’t contain sediment.
The very best burčák can be had from wine-makers, tried-and-tested wine shops, or at the vintage itself, where you may also encounter red burčák, made from red grapes. Don’t hesitate and give it a try – it’s the taste and scent of a true vintage!
Colourful, noisy, spectacular celebrations
Vintages take place in all larger wine-making villages, and celebrations are organised by many towns in major wine regions. These celebrations, usually lasting several days, take place in September and often have a mediaeval flavour to them, with processions of historical figures in rich period costume, traditional craft fairs, fireworks, knightly tournaments and, naturally, competitions for young and old, street theatre, concerts and toasts with wine and burčák.
The biggest celebrations of their type take place at the Pálava Vintage Festival in Mikulov and the Znojmo Historical Vintage. Historic processions are generally headed by a Czech monarch, with one of the most popular being Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia. You can meet him face-to-face at, for example, the Mělník Vintage and, obviously, the Karlštejn Vintage, where the historical procession goes from the vineyards to the Gothic Karlštejn Castle. Prague gets in on the action as well, with the Saint Wenceslas Vintage taking place at the Saint Wenceslas Vineyard in the grounds of Prague Castle. Litoměřice also organises a vintage, the biggest of its type in North Bohemia, which is accompanied by the Island Festival, a musical event featuring top Czech bands.
Autumn celebrations with mead, beer and slivovice
The name-day of the patron saint of the Czech lands, brewers and wine-makers, St. Wenceslas, is also celebrated in Český Krumlov! The Saint Wenceslas Celebrations are accompanied by gastronomic treats, a museum and gallery night and theatre performances in the streets of the town. The Queen Elizabeth Celebrations in Hradec Králové take place in a similar spirit, and a visit to these can be combined with the exciting CIAF – Czech International Air Fest, which takes place at the airfield in Hradec Králové.
At the traditional Tábor Meetings in the town of Tábor you can sample not only burčák and wine, but also mead or the local specialty, Žižkova rána (‚Žižka’s wound’). And if you like beer, slivovice (plum brandy), halušky (Slovak-style gnocchi) and the cuisine of the Wallachia region, why not visit the Sun in a Glass microbrewery festival in Plzeň or the Karlovský gastrofestival!