It’s been 10-and-a-half years since I went to Prague, but let it be said that at that time, it was less expensive to get a beer at a local bar than a coffee.
No-one was drinking wine, and definitely not at 9am. We didn’t even know that the Czech Republic was capable of making wine.
Apparently, obviously, things change and yes, the Czech Republic does make wine, and has been doing so for centuries, thanks to, whom else, the Romans. This should also be evident to those who have heard of the historic Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria, Queens, which has held a Moravian wine festival annually for many years.
As of recent, a wider range of quality Czech wine has come to the States, thanks to the establishment of Czech Wine Imports, an import company founded in autumn 2012 and dedicated to wines from the Southern Moravian region of the Czech Republic. It markets these under both the Vino z Czech label, and from individual grower-producers.
Founders Noah and Cheryl Ullman introduced their portfolio to New York at a tasting at the Czech Consulate in spring 2013. To see how the business has progressed since then, Vino247 caught up with Noah at the Specialty Importer Portfolio Tasting held at Terroir Tribeca on October 6, 2014. Also participating in the SIPT event were Little Peacock Imports (small-production Australian wines), Vinotas Selections (independent French and US producers), MatadorVino (Portugal’s taste-makers) and Pascal Schildt Selections (organic and daring South African wines).
Czech Wine Imports represents 12 independent Moravian producers, including Vinařství Vyskočil, Spielberg CZ, Château Valtice, Vinselekt Michlovský, Vinařství Galant, Stapleton-Springer, Víno Marcinčák, Vinařství Ludwig, Sonberk and Vinařství Mikrosvín Mikulov.
Its Vino z Czech line is made up of wines from various producers in Moravia that represent the best price-to-quality ratio in the country, Noah Ullman told Vino247. And yes, those are prints of Alphonse Mucha paintings on a selection of the labels. Mucha was himself a son of Moravia… and of a winemaker.
Mr Ullman said that this was legally possible because the images are in public domain. Even more so, the Mucha Foundation, which owns the rights to Alphonse Mucha’s signature, “is aware of what we are doing, and supports it”, he said.
The wines themselves reflect the cooler climate of Southern Moravia, and have noted brightness and elegance along with, in the reds, clean tannins. Grapes such as St-Laurent, Blauer Portugieser and Zweigelt ; Riesling, Welschriesling and Grüner Veltliner echo the plantings of wine regions in neighbouring countries like Austria and Germany… though monasteries in the Middle Ages, which brought in vines from France, also played a role.
For Czech Wine Imports, this history and sense of place is seen specifically in wines like the Spielberg Welschriesling 2011. Unrelated to the Riesling grape for which producing areas like Germany, Austria and Alsace are known, Welschriesling is also known as Laški Rizling, Olasz Riesling and Graševina. It is most commonly found in Central Europe—hence its presence in Moravia. The inchoate aromas of field and flowers in the nose came together smoothly in a mouth that was both fresh and pleasing.
Another wine made from local grapes (here St-Laurent and Blauer Portugieser, along with Pinot Noir), the Stapelton & Springer “Rouci” 2007 had good, clean tannins and exemplified the capabilities of practising organic viticulture in the Czech Republic.
“Response to the wines has been excellent. I think that some consumers are wary to spend their hard-earned money on a bottle of wine from a region they have never heard of,” Noah said, noting that once a person tastes the wines—thanks to a sommelier or wine shop tasting—he’s hooked. “Our repeat business is very strong,” he added.
Available in 44 states if purchased online, Czech Wine Imports’ selection is currently distributed in 6 states by the following companies, with California coming soon.
• New York : T. Elenteny Imports
• Texas : Czech Your Bag: Wine
• Illinois : Wirtz Distribution
• Connecticut : Missing Link Wine Company
• Rhode Island : MS Walker
• New Jersey : T. Elenteny Imports