The 14th annual Czech Winegrower of the Year competition culminated in a gala ceremony held in Prague’s Žofín on Thursday evening. A jury of international wine experts evaluated a set of six wines from dozens of winemakers, the aim being to recognize all-round wine-making capabilities. 604 samples were tasted in total, with the overall winner, Bzenec chateaux winery in far eastern Moravia, scoring a unanimous victory from the judges. I spoke with Ivo Dvořák, chairman of the jury, and began by asking him to explain the state of the current Czech wine industry.
“The Czech Republic is famous for its beer consumption – 150 litres per capita each year. But wine consumption is increasing. Right now we are at about 21 litres per capita per year. And a lot of people are switching from beer to wine, because wine is becoming more fashionable. Consumption has been increasing for the last ten years.”
How is the Czech Republic faring in terms of recovering from the communist era and the collectivised approach? Are small and medium-sized wineries having to start from scratch?
“The last two decades have brought about some major changes in wine-making, including the availability of new technology. It’s not just in the Czech Republic that wine-making has been transformed, but in the whole world. Many of our wineries now have good technologies; our winemakers have spent time in Germany and Austria and are now very skilled in producing quality wines. For the last five years we have been producing some quality white wines in particular, because the Czech Republic is a very suitable environment for growing white grape varieties.”
Tell me a little bit about the winning winemaker Bzenec…
“The Bzenec Chateaux Winery utilises very good technology, but they also have very good grapes. They have strict controls on buying outside grapes and this is why they produce very good wines.”
“A lot of Czech restaurants now have wine lists with a lot of Czech wines. Or so many Czech wine bars, in Prague especially, now have a beautiful collection of Czech wines. And just a personal suggestion: please don’t hesitate to try something new, because we really have so many good Czech wines here.”