Czech Republic is well known for its world class beers. The first Czech beer was brewed in 993 AD. But for Czech wine, there is even longer history.
It was in 276 AD when the Roman Emperor Probus ordered to set up vineyards in the Roman colonies behind the Alps. Covering large areas of Austria, one legion had also chose to plant out grapevine in the Pálava hills near Mikulov. The archaeological finds of viticulture knifes in the nearby villages date back to the Great Moravian Empire times.
892 AD – The first Czech wine
According to the legend, the Moravian prince has sent a gift of barrel of wine to the Bohemian prince and his wife to celebrate the birth of their son Spytihněv. The mother offered little bit of wine to the Goddess of the crops asking for a fruitful rain, her wish was fulfilled and the crops were saved. The pair then laid foundations to the vineyards around the town of Mělník, where wines are being produced until this very day.
There are numerous historical documents about the vineyard donations made by the Czech king Spytihněv II. in the warmest parts of Bohemia and Moravia from around 1100 AD.
After that, it was mainly monks from monasteries establishing new vineyards until 1249 AD, when the Lichtenstein dynasty colonised Mikulov and its surroundings and expanded the scale of the vineyards in this area.
In the 14th century the monasteries have created a complex vineyard systems and have mirrored the way grapevine was grown in France and Germany. These systems on hillsides were easier to protect from damage caused by people and animals, made it easier to pay natural taxes and control the floricultural state of vineyards.
The vineyard areas have quickly expanded throughout Moravia and the Brno citizens owning vineyards in the Moravian subregions were facing fierce competition from the Austria. This led to a new law stating that since the harvest right through to the Easter only the citizen’s wines can be sold in Brno’s tap-rooms.
The Roman Emperor and king of Bohemia Charles IV. has ordered Prague and royal towns to set up vineyards on all hills facing south within 14 days of his announcement. Who establishes vineyards in this time will be exempt from all taxes for the next 12 years, and will give the King 30 litres of wine a year from the 13th year onwards. Nobody can do any harm to the vineyards, high-born or not.
In 1307 AD Charles IV. has put a ban on importing wines to Czech from October until the end of April every year. This led to beliefs that Czech wine can only be drank while very young. In 1375 AD Znojmo got the right to export its wines to Bohemia and Silesia.
Throughout the 15th century, the wine production remains an activity of townsmen who have the necessary assets to aid the founding of new hillside vineyards. The wine production is on the rise and wines from abroad are an ever growing competition to the native produce. Wine makers are asking for a ban of the imported wines during winter and are trying to export their products to northern countries.
The first published document regulating quality of wine in Europe dates back to 1497 and comes from the Bohemian King, who states that wines from unregistered vineyards will not be allowed to be sold in Prague. He has also warned against the illegal use of sulphates and other ‘substances harmful to human health’.
More vineyards have been established in the countryside in the 16th century by the less wealthy population. More cases of wine falsification have been recorded and the King has to step in to avoid produce of wine damaging health. Mistakes in growing vineyard registrations have led to more accurate records.
The people have retaliated to the Austria-Hungarian import by exporting their Moravian wine to Austria. The Austrian people have asked their King Ferdinand I. to ban Moravian wines in 1539. In 1575 the Moravian congress had to threaten Austrian wine makers with not only ban on importing their wines but also not allowing them to transport their wine through Moravian territory.
In the 17th and 18th century the growth of vineyards is culminating. Some years the wine production is so high it outgrows the native market. Popularity of Czech wine has grown in Poland where 1,431 buckets of wine were sold in 1609 AD.
There was first strike of vineyard workers in Prague in 1619 due to the declining wage.
1763 AD, the Austrian wine makers are once again asking the ruler Maria Theresa to limit the vineyard tracts of Moravia because of the strong competition.
19th and 20th century
Military turmoil killed lot of people and many of them were forced to leave the land. The decrease in population had an effect on Moravian vineyards. A lot of them were left deserted. The townsmen stopped investing in regeneration of vineyards and spent more on business and trade. It was mainly the vineyards in the country that got recovered by poorer people who welcomed the extra income.
Inevitably, the area of Moravian vineyards has rapidly decreased. The ban of drudgery released workers from agriculture. Increasing number of people are becoming part of the ‘industrial generation’. They prefer beer and brandy and the wine production declines drastically.
The efforts to regenerate wine production in the second half of 19th century were only temporary. The vine fretter is ruthlessly damaging all vineyards by the turn of the century. In 1930 the vineyard area in Moravia has fell to mere 3,870 hectares. The reclamation speeded up in the mid-60s and levels have started to grow, there are currently 16,514 hectares in 2015.
Czech wine are fully conforming with the EU laws since 2004.
Thanks to privatisation and new viticulture law Moravia is experiencing the bloom of wine production again, and an investment in new technology reflects in the quality. Czech wines are becoming more popular thanks to their uniqueness and quality and the viticulture tourism keeps growing throughout Europe.
Czech wines nowadays are competition-able in the EU and beyond.
The natural conditions of Czech wine regions are presumption to the origin of superb quality wines, consisting of a root fullness and delicate aromatic substances. Apart from pleasant gustatory properties they also stand out thanks to their higher content of natural substances beneficial to our health.