Cheers! Or as we say in the Czech Republic Na zdraví!
You can hear this toast all around the country very often at this time of year. Surprisingly not because people are drinking beer. Even though the Czech Republic is mostly famous for its delicious beer, it can definitely please wine lovers as well. Not many people outside of the country knows that Czechs also produce very good wine.
The Czech Republic consists of three main regions, Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. And it is Moravia where the climate allows grapes of different varieties to grow and where you can enjoy the local atmosphere inside one of the hundreds of wine cellars. You can get this extraordinary experience any time of the year. However, if you want to taste the freshest young wine made of grapes which were harvested just a few weeks before, make sure you plan your trip during November.
On the special day of November 11 at 11 am sharp the first bottles of young St. Martin’s wine can be opened. All the wineries and restaurants are full of people who come to taste young wine together with a special menu which includes goose liver, strong goose broth and roasted goose with cabbage and dumplings. This is a traditional time of feasting before the Advent fast begins. In France you will find a similar custom around the Beaujolais Nouveau wine.
The tradition of serving young wine on St. Martin’s Day goes back to the 18th century when the Emperor Joseph II gave permission to serve wine from the fall harvest exactly on that day, which represented the end of the fall and the beginning of winter. Wine was already in the cellars and geese needed to be plucked to stuff the duvets and pillows with feathers to get them ready for cold winter. That was where the connection between young wine and roasted goose originated.
Nowadays it is quite a difficult process for winemakers to get the trademark of St Martin’s wine because the rules are really strict and only the wine of the best quality receives the official brand name Svatomartinské víno, or St Martin’s wine. You can be sure that only if you buy a bottle of St. Martin’s wine you get the best on the market. St Martin’s wine is fresh and dry with fruity character. It is always labeled with a distinctive stamp with the patron Saint Martin on a white horse.
Come to Prague and other places in the Czech Republic to enjoy the St. Martin’s Celebration. Meet locals and warm yourself up with fine wine and hearty meals. It is definitely worth it!
Missed November 11th?
Although the majority of the festivities are centered on the magical time of 11 am on the 11th of November, that’s not to say you’re out of luck. Many restaurants throughout the Czech Republic serve their special St Martin’s menu with the accompanying young wines until November 21st and some until the end of the month.