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SOUTH MORAVIA AND ITS WINE



photo:  vineyards close to Mikulov

Vineyards on the Palava Hills close to Mikulov


Winemaking was first introduced to South Moravia by the Romans, around 2000 years ago, and Valtice and Mikulov both became important centres of winemaking in the Middle Ages.  Mikulov was also an important feature on the old wine route connecting Vienna, Brno and Prague.  The Palava Hills, stretching from Pavlov in the north to Mikulov in the south, represent the westernmost  outcrop of the West Carpathian mountains.  It is one of the most important vineyard areas in South Moravia.


AN INDUSTRY RE-BORN

The area has had a turbulent history.  However, the dramatic political changes initiated in 1989, starting with independence from the Soviet Union and culminating in the Czech Republic joining the European Union in 2003, provided the impetus for major changes in the country´s winemaking industry.  After a period of about forty years in which large, state-owned wine factories dominated the scene, with a strong emphasis on quantity rather than quality, a number of small, privately-owned commercial wineries have now emerged and there is a new focus on quality in all parts of the industry. 

There has been an almost total renewal of equipment, embracing the latest technology, and innovative approaches can be seen in almost everything from production to marketing.  As both consumers and producers alike explore new styles of wines, and even new varieties, only time will tell which will prove to be the most successful and most enduring.


photo:  Mikulov town square

Mikulov town square

Some things, however, have not changed, and one of these is the opportunity to taste a wide range of varietal wines, all in the same cellar.  This great diversity is almost unparalleled in today´s wine world, and being able to visit small winemakers in their traditional wine cellars, and move from one to another within the same village, is a unique and highly enjoyable experience.

Today the wine industry forms a important element in the region´s cultural heritage and, in addition to the architecture, has become one of the chief attractions for the ever growing number of visitors who choose to visit South Moravia.  In recent years the EU has provided considerable financial support for the development of an infrastructure linked to wine tourism, and this has provided crucial support for small, family winemakers and given a welcome boost to local wine sales.





relief map of Central Europe

Central Europe in relief


The vineyards of South Moravia lie approximately half way between Brno and Vienna (Wien) on the north-western fringes of the Great Central European plain, a region which is more usually associated with Hungary.  The Austrian Weinviertel lies just across the border to the south, and historically these two areas basically formed just one wine region.  Today, however, there are intriguing cultural differences which separate the two regions, something which is also reflected in the styles of wines they produce.

The area has a continental climate with four distinct seasons and, in combination with the warm air which flows up the various tributaries of the Danube, this gives the region its distinct climatic advantages for winemaking.  It is a relatively dry region with warm summers and, crucially, cool nights during the autumn ripening period.  The result is a well-deserved reputation for producing high quality, aromatic white and rosé wines. 





photo: vineyard, soils

photo: ripening grapes in vineyard

The soils are either deep, fertile wind-blown loess soils (for which the local variety of Grüner Veltliner is ideally suited), sandy loams or chalky clays, each of which produce wines of a slightly different character. 


The normally dry conditions during harvest time mean that naturally sweet, botrytised dessert wines such as in Germany are almost never produced.  Straw wines or ice wines, however, are occasionally made in small quantities as a local speciality.



WHITE, RED or ROSÉ?

The range of grape varieties that are commonly cultivated in South Moravia is surprisingly large, for both red and white varieties, and there are over 40 approved varieties in total.  The region has long enjoyed a reputation for its aromatic white wines, but a relatively recent phenomenon has been to use the abundance of red wine grapes to make an interesting range of very attractive, varietal rosé wines.  This has meant that its red wines are now sometimes in danger of being overlooked, or possibly ignored, even though approximately a third of the vineyard area is planted to red wine varieties.  However, a handful of determined wineries (including Nesyt Lake Wines) are focussed on making quality red wines, and these may soon begin to attract greater attention from red wine drinkers, both at home and abroad.  For the moment, however, it is Moravia´s white and rosé wines which are making their mark on the international wine scene, with successes in various international wine competitions.




photo: Mikulov town and castle

The historic border town of Mikulov





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