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Wine in Hungary and the Czech Republic

Odile and I are going to Hungary and the Czech Republic at the end of September. I would appreciate any advice regarding the wines there.
The cuisines there are meat-laden though for my gout-sensitive diet I expect I will order fish occasionally. Unfortunately I have already drunk my last beer in this life.

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  1. There are quite a number of beers made in Japan with 0% purines. Those should be fine for you to drink...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Tripeler

      Thank you.

      Now only if you'd said Belgium or Scotland.

      1. re: collioure

        Hungary has the fabled Tokaj dessert wines, reported to give decent Sauternes a run for their money.

    2. I was in Prague w/ my wife this past Spring and we tried some of the local wine at a couple restaurants and at a wine shop tasting. The affordable wines we tried (~$25 retail) were awful. The much more expensive wines could be decent but your better off in my opinion of just drinking French or Italian.
      We haven't heard about Moravian wine for good reason.;]

      4 Replies
      1. re: Chinon00

        Chinon, I think you are a bit tough on Czech wines. I get over there a fair bit, and if I stay away from the awful generic restaurant/bar offerings and go to the wine shops and vinarnas, there are some nice whites in the German style. One is Tramin, which I'd think is a Gewurz. Some nice floral/spicy ones certainly under $25.

        I think we don't hear of Moravian wines because they don't export them much. Perhaps they drink all they make? I think there is a range of quality among them.

        1. re: comestible

          we bought a couple of bottles of a Moravian red that were harsh and acrid when first opened, but on breathing for 15 minutes, blossomed into a really lovely wine.

        2. re: Chinon00

          Chinon - expert comment clearly based on years of experience.

          1. re: Asomaniac

            Hey I inserted the ;] at the end of my comment. It wasn't a judgment just an observation.

        3. In Budapest, you may want to go to Borkonyha Wine Kitchen and in Prague to the Red Pif. Both are wine-centric restaurants (with good food), where the servers are very knowledgeable and wine is sold by the glass. They may be able to steer you to wines that fit your needs. Both are very popular so do make reservations.

          2 Replies
          1. re: masha

            Well, I'm reserved at Alabárdos, Mak Bistro, Café Pierrot and Muzeum in Budapest. Borkonyha is a good idea too.

            Prague is more difficult. I could only find Cestr and Kampa Park. So I have stenciled in Red Pif for our free night. Another excellent suggestion.

            Thank you!

            1. re: collioure

              Red Pif focuses on natural wines. They also focus on foreign rather than Czech Republic wines (they do have Czech Rep wines, just not a massive number of them). Nice selection in general (I like the fact that they do Slovenian Simcic and Cotar, both of which producers I like and you don't see enough of abroad), but it is not the place to explore Czech wines. Not that I am saying that you necessarily want to explore Czech wines, but for a unique experience - as they definitely do not get exported), there are many better places. Given that you say on the wine board that weird and unusual is something you are interested in, you might want to give th a try.

          2. Good thing I checked in on the wine board today. I live in the Moravian region of the Czech Republic and hope this is where you will focus your wine tasting/buying while in CZ. Moravia produces the vast majority of CZ wine and you will not find a lot of the best, outside the region, including Prague. The reason, it is consumed locally and exported only to specific hotels/restaurants outside the region.

            To the wine; the reds in this region are not fantastic in large part because most reds don't do terribly well in colder climates but several whites do. The most popular local red varietal is Frankovka, from time to time you will find a good one but if you are more familiar with French or Italian reds it will generally disappoint. But, and I can't recommend this highly enough, please go to some of the high end restaurants in Moravia and ask the staff/sommelier for recommendations; the better establishments know the product they are selling and are proud of it. If you happen to be coming through Brno please post on the Europe board and I'll be happy to point you in the right direction for high end in Brno, and do note high end here is not high price in Euro/dollars... Moravia and Brno are very good value.

            As for whites, there are some outstanding wines being produced here, my favourite after a couple of years research are from Mikrosvin (http://www.mikrosvin.cz/) located in Mikulov, south of Brno on the border with Austria. The Welshriesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Blancs are all outstanding IMO. Again, high end restaurants in the region will point you in the right direction if you want local and have particular preferences.

            I also agree with another poster with regard to where to buy in the region. Small specialty shops and vinarna's are the best, do not go to local grocery stores as the local wines there are the bottom of the barrel (pun intended). In Brno two of the best little shops are Petit Cru (Údolní 326/11 602 00 Brno) and the shop of the Czech National Wine Salon in the tiny city centre mall, Velky Spalicek (Mečová 695/2, 602 00 Brno).

            If you do some country driving you will want to swing through Lednice/Valtice/Mikulov along the Czech side of the Austrian border. This is the heart of the wine country and you'll find interesting places to stop along the way, including the headquarters of the previously mentioned Czech National Wine Salon in an old Lichtenstein chateau (http://www.salonvin.cz/en/). The wine shop is often very low on wine to purchase and taste but downstairs in the belly of the cellar you can take tasting tours, very reasonably priced but not guided except by written information. In Mikulov, up in the heart of the town, near the castle, you will find several excellent little specialty shops with a great deal to taste and buy. You can also do a castle tour in Mikulov that includes a very impressive history of viticulture in the region starting from Roman days.

            If you will be here around Sept 13/14 the small town of Znojmo, south west of Brno, will be having their local historical and wine fair that weekend. A great opportunity to try the local product.

            Most wineries in the region do not do tastings or sales at the vineyard, but on the road from Brno south to Vienna you will find a few signs indicating wineries and tastings, Sonberk is one I know of for certain (http://www.sonberk.cz/?lang=2).

            As you will be here in late September you will also get the chance to try Burcak (pronounced bur-chack), it is the equivalent to Austrian/German Jungwien. Very yeasty, sweet and carbonated. In this area I actually prefer the red burcak as the whites can be overly sweet. You will find it for sale at street side stalls, malls and in town squares throughout Moravia, either by the glass or in take away bottles.

            Last but not least, if you plan to go over the border into Lower Austria let me know, the wines there tend to be better than 1 km away in the CZ and I'd be happy to point you at some excellent locations for tasting/buying. From my discussions with locals here, the reason Lower Austrian wine is better, and do remember not too long ago Moravia was part of Lower Austria, is that the former Communists did not see wine as a proletarian beverage and "discouraged" it's production. Families still produced for themselves but they did not continue to progress with their production techniques and refinements for quite some time... now they are playing catch up while trying to convince new generations that wine production and farming are good jobs to have, not easy.

            I could go on, if any of this is of interest let me know, if you have more specific questions about the region I'll do my best to get you some info.

            8 Replies
              1. re: vanderb

                Thank you for some on-site advice. I'll not be shopping for wine (to bring home to France!), but looking for something good to go with the meat-laden cuisine at dinner. My best advice so far was to buy French, but decent local wines are of interest.

                Trip is to Buidapest (4 days) and Czech Republic (9 days).

                1. re: collioure

                  When dining your best bet for good wine in CZ is not at the pubs but at more upscale restaurants. Pubs here focus on beer and have a very limited and usually questionable, small selection of wines.

                  I can help with restaurant selection in Brno, and a little bit in Prague if you want to post over on the "Europe" board. Country places are more difficult as they tend to be pubs and very rustic (not necessarily in a good way).

                  1. re: collioure

                    I worked a lot in Brno and also a few times in Prague. I liked the local wines which have two great advantages, one they are pleasantly low in alcohol, around 12% and secondly they are surprisingly inexpensive in restaurants – which is where I mostly drank them with dinner – even the business hotel the company put me had decent local wines at ridiculously low prices. (tho' Prague was very much more expensive than Brno).

                    Czech Republic grows a very large number of different varieties and many have names that won’t be recognisable to visitors. Checking my CT records I had the following reds:

                    I particularly liked Frankovka (local name for Lemberger/Blaufrankish) and Svatovavřinecké (which is the local name for St Laurent).

                    Rulandské modré is local name for Pinot Noir

                    Modrý Portugal is the local name for the Austrian Blauer Portugieser

                    Cabernet Moravia is a local variety – cross of Cab Franc/Zweigelt

                    Andre is another local variety, cross of Blaufrankish/Zweigelt

                    But there are many many more, including international varieties such as Cab Sauv and Merlot, but the above is what I recorded as buying so I could look up what they were when I got back. There is a wine bar in Brno where I had a very jolly time with locals trying wines with names I didn’t recognise by the glass.

                    One thing that worried me was sometimes seeing the word Suché after the variety name as this means sugar and I thought it meant the wine was sweet, but in fact it indicates a superior wine made from riper (i.e. with more sugar) grapes.

                    I suggest you just plunge in and try as many different local wines as you can as you probably will not get the chance to buy them when you get home and if you really hate one (unlikely) then it won’t break the bank to buy a different bottle.

                    I also had no problems at all with language, everyone spoke some English especially in hotels and restaurants so you can ask about the wines, whether they are sweet or dry if concerned (as I was at first).

                    I try to drink only the local wine when I travel to a wine producing country: Just as I wouldn’t buy a non-French wine when I am in France and I wouldn’t buy a French wine in the Czech Republic.

                    1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                      Thank you. The above plus Robert's usual fine advice below is what I am looking for.

                      We are not going to Brno, and I have already picked all out restaurants. The only wine bar is the restaurant Red Pif recommended by Masha above. Dining upscale in big cities. In smaller cities like Olomouc,Telc, Litomerice in the best pub (only) pub.

                      As for gout I'm becoming an expert, able to eat just about whatever I want and drink plenty of (usually red) wine. A balancing act that's in my head every day of my life now. I take some natural pills that are a cocktail of beneficial ingredients and I eat cherries daily. No oysters, no beer.

                      1. re: Gussie Finknottle

                        @Gussie Finknottle:

                        "One thing that worried me was sometimes seeing the word Suché after the variety name as this means sugar...".

                        No - "suché" means "dry". It does not indicate anything about riper grapes. The word for "sweet" is "sladké", but this also does not indicate superior wine made from riper grapes. It just means "sweet". There are many different quality indicators on czech wine bottles, like for example "pozdni sber", which means "late harvest". But "sladke" and "suche" only indicate degree of dryness (or lack thereof).

                      2. re: collioure

                        I was in Budapest for a few days this June - I reckon the best local red is Kékfrankos - which is indeed our old friend Blaufrankish also found in Czech Republic as Frankovka, and they also make pretty good Cab Franc

                      3. re: vanderb

                        Well, as it turns out, in perfecting our itinerary and cutting out hundreds of kms of driving, we will be taking the train from Budapest to Brno to pick up a car for a short trip to Olomouc. Saves a hefty drop charge as well. Hey, I know a few things about wine, but I am the ultimate tourist, and one of my rules limits driving to 3 hours per day.

                        We might have time to stop at a vineyard on the way to Slavonice and Telc the next day to buy a bottle of wine to be consumed in a little pub that seems not to have wine. Going to try to work that out with the tourist office in Telc this week as no one in the pub seems to speak English (or French).

                        I have looked at the menus of all the pubs where we will dine in Olomouc, Telc, Ceský Krumlov, Plzen, Litomerice and Kutna Hora. Frankovka seems to be the ticket. Thank you.

                        And in a big city I will finally get a shot at Grüner Veltliner.

                      4. If you will be in Prague consider Degustation. An excellent restaurant near the center of town that offers not only a super meal based on local foods, but if you desire pairs it with local wines.
                        Both the dinner and the wines, 8-10 if l recall, was wonderful.

                        As a aside, yes indeed beer is a major trigger for an acute gout attack. l have been on a new medication and my first gout med since February called uloric My uric acid is 3.5 down from 8.8 and l can drink beer to my heart's delight.
                        Check with your internist; as a retired medical guy l went to a uloric drug rep dinner and that is how l learned of its efficacy in treating gout.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                          Degustation has changed a bit of late, perhaps it's just a summer change as I've only been twice, once in the winter and then a couple of months ago.

                          Anyway, they are no longer doing an international tasting menu and a Czech tasting menu, instead they have blended the two and offer only one menu each evening. As such the wine pairings are no longer strictly focused on Czech wines, although the few that were included in our last meal were excellent. Here is the report I did from my last visit there - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/906849 .

                          1. re: vanderb

                            Thanks, hate when things change like that.

                            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                              My understanding is that the shorter, 6 course menu is still a Czech only menu with only Czech wines. The 11 course menu include the 6 czech courses with the same Czech wine pairings, plus another 5 which are the chef's creations and laregly based on international dishes.

                              I am going there again in September and just cannot wait. One of my favoute restaurants anywhere in the world, and I love the fact that they pair with Czech wines - most people don't even know that the country produces wine, and I must sayhat a lot of it is rather good! Plus the sommeliers at La Degustation are friendlier and more competent than at many high profile restaurants in more established' wine countries.

                          2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            I decided to avoid medications like that which reduce uric acid production.

                          3. This US distributor's site has some good information about Hungarian wines, anything they carry is worth seeking out:


                            1. There are lots of excellent Czech wines, but most are mediocre so you need to know what producers you are looking for.


                              Top Pinots: Stapleton-Springer in Boretice (not his basic Pinot,but his top one is incredible).

                              Even better: the Stapleton-Springer blend of Pinot and St Laurent called "Rouci". Try to source the 2006, though it is mostly the 2007 that you would find in restaurants now.

                              Frankovka (Blaukraenkisch in Austria). Most are not great, but a very good one is the Springer Frankovka (NOT the above Stapleton-Springer, just Springer; they are brothers and split, I think, in 2004 and now have two completely independent, rival wineries).

                              The Springer 2004 Skale is a Bordeaux blend of cabernet sauvignon and Merlot, with a dash of St Laurent, an is probably the best Czech red ever produced. Beware other vintages though - there is lots of vintage variation and Springer changes the blend a lot year-on-year. The 2005 Skale, which is cabernet-dominated, is not very good. The 2006 is Merlot-dominated and much better (but does not begin to approach the quality of the 2004).

                              Dobra Vinice do some excellent red blends that include Frankovka, most notably the "Velke Cervene".

                              Dobra Vinice also do some of the best Czech white wines, most notably the blend "Velke Bile" which world sommelier of the year Olivier Pousser (or similar, I have forgotten his exact last name) compared to an excellent Burgundy. The same Dobra Vinice (which by the way just means "good winery"!) also produces a stunning blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir (obviously the Pinot Noir processed without skins so ts remaisn a white wine). I think that blend is called "Quattro" now (it changed names a few years ago). Dobra Vinice do lot of other great whites, most notably a fabulous Riesling on the lees.

                              For Sauvignion Blanc try "Barnabas".

                              For great Gewurztraminer, try Reisten. They also do very decent Pinot Blanc and other whites.

                              96% of wine production in the Czech Republic is in Southern Moravia,but Bohemia does some excellent Rieslings (and decent Pinot Noirt, but that is much more hit-and-miss). Tichy, for instance, is a very decent Bohemian Riesling producer.

                              There are many others, but this is a good start.

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: Asomaniac

                                Well, I'm looking at the website of Red Pif where we dine on our first of three nights in Prague. Their E-shop Moravian reds are from Svidrunk.

                                But they must have others in the restaurant.

                                Thank you for the advice.

                                1. re: collioure

                                  Svidrunk is a vineyard, not a producer. The producer is Gotberg, which is fine, but not amazing.

                                  I can recommend lots more, depending on how much interest you have and what exactly you are after.

                                  1. re: Asomaniac

                                    I'm just need some general guidance at dinner.

                                    I'm going to eat nine dinners there and I can't drink beer.

                                    We'll be driving across southern Moravia from Olomouc to Telc, but I don't see any reason to stop at a vineyard.

                                    1. re: collioure

                                      I see. So you are not actually interested in the wine, you just need something half decent because you can't drink beer. Then I guess there are no more recommendations required - in any decent restaurant the sommelier should be able to help you if you describe what you are after. You should be aware that in inexpensive Czech restaurants (more like pubs) you should not expect much good wine. Sometimes you can get something decent, but it is hit-and-miss as those are not wine kind of places.

                                      If you do change your mind and feel like exploring good local wine, try http://www.vinograf.cz. Vinograf is the best wine bar in Prague for domestic wine (of their two locations, the smaller one focuses on domestic wines - the concierge can help distinguish between the two). They also have food.

                                      In terms of upscale restaurants, La Degustation is the best for local wine. A less expensive place with a decent wine list is Savoy (a restaurant, has nothing to do with the hotel chain).

                                      1. re: Asomaniac

                                        I understand that even the best pubs in provincial Czech cities may offer mediocre wine, but that's what I will have to order.

                                        We will eat rather well in Budapest, but I'm not interested in 140€ meals in Prague. I can get a very good meal here in France for 30€.

                                        I may be one of the few posters here for whom food comes first, wine second.

                                        1. re: collioure

                                          IMHO, your loss, Degustation is that extraordinary.

                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                            I find the implication that a very good 30 Euro meal in France matches La Degustation a bit odd, but each to their own. I have eaten in many 2 or 3 Michelin star restaurants in Paris, they were not exactly 30 Euros (far from it), and often not as good as La Degustation, and they were certainly less unique. I live in Tokyo and can honestly say that some of the top French restaurants match the top of what you get in France - but there is nothing quite like La Degustation. Not because La Degustation is so much better - it isn't, and they won't have access to the same jaw-droppingly amazing quality ingredients, but it is genuinely different. A rare trait in a restaurant if you are lucky enough to get to dine in wonderful restaurants around the world, many of which sadly lack originality.

                                            I agree that there are very good meals in France for 30 Euros (and less) - great food, great seasonal ingredients, accompanied by fantastically matching and inexpensive wine from the same region - but those are very different animals from what La Degustation does, so there is no point in comparing those. If you simply do not want to spend that sort of money on dinner in Prague then fair enough, but the comparison seems odd. I have also eaten at the top Budapest restaurants; not cheap, certainly more than 30 Euros, and not one of them as good as La Degustation (although you can eat extremely well in Budapest, and there is a larger number of top restaurants than there is in Prague).

                                            BTW Delucacheesemonger - always really enjoy your contributions on the Japan board, and have heard good things about you from people who have eaten with you.. drop us a line when you are back in Tokyo, a few of the Tokyo chowhounds would enjoy some food and good wine with you if you are up for it.

                                            1. re: Asomaniac

                                              First of all, thank you for your wine advice; I will be looking at the wine lists of some of these restaurants in the coming weeks.

                                              As for food I have dined at the best restaurant in the world 7 times now - twice at Fredy Girardet in Lausanne in the 80's and five times at nearby El Bulli before it closed a couple of years ago (and it never cost as much as Degustation!);

                                              I'm really not favorable to one menu restaurants.

                                              We will dine in better Czech restaurants. Probably the best will be Kampa Park. I expect we will eat better in Budapest than in the Czech Republic. Czech cuisine is not a plus for the country according to what I read.

                                              1. re: collioure

                                                Kampa Park has the best view (if you book a table by the river), not the best food. it is good, and the wine list is decent, so overall it is a nice experience. But from a pure food perspective, it can be a bit hit-and-miss, and V Zatisi or Bellevue or indeed a (largeish) range of other places is better (but obviously not El Bulli good, though having eaten there as well (only once) I have never quite understood its "best in the world" label with its gimmicky tiny dishes - give me a proper meal at a great French restaurant anytime over El Bulli for sheer enjoyment).

                                                Overall you are right - as I said, there are more good restaurants in Budapest. On the other hand, if you enjoy it depends on what sort of food you like. I like the heavy, peasanty, meaty fare in Czech pubs (if done well, which in many Prague pubs is not the case), especially duck, and game in winter, plus they can be wizards with pork. But for many Western visitors it is too heavy.

                                                Anyway, good luck with your trip.

                                                1. re: Asomaniac

                                                  I only went to El Bulli once for their degustation menu of 30 little plates, and I did not like that format.

                                                  Previously Adrià offered 7 apps and 7 entrées every season. It was magnificent. When I moved here, I expected to arrive 7 times a year to try everything, but then he got too, too popular and switched to one degustation menu for the whole 7-month season.

                                                  The four "norma"l dinners I had there were among the six best dinners in my life. Carpaccio of langustine with langoustine vinaigrette, dessert of chocolate and caramel with corn sauce . . .

                                                  He is truly a genius.

                                                  1. re: collioure

                                                    That's the format I had, and it really was not my thing. Very interesting, impressive, original, etc., but just not an enjoyable meal.

                                                    1. re: Asomaniac

                                                      I agree. What's more our replacement restaurant in Olot has done the same thing. Not sure where we wll go now. Maybe to Ca l'Enric in Santa Pau.

                                              2. re: Asomaniac

                                                Thanks for the kind words, sometimes see Lost Squirrel in Philadelphia, but will certainly get in touch before my next Japan trip

                                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                  Give my best to Mr Squirrel - we miss him over here!

                                2. A farewell thank you to those of you who offered sage advice. I'm printing it all out right now.

                                  Leaving on Friday. Will look for a vineyard between Olomouc and Slavonice on Wednesday, do our best in the pubs of Olomouc, Telc, Cesky Krumlov, Pilsen, Litomerice and Kutna Hora, and drink and eat better in Budapest and Prague.

                                  An adventurous trip, but you can't put me in a tour bus. I expect we'll have a few language difficulties such as the evening in Mykonos when we walked back and forth past our restaurant destination 6 times because we couldn't read the name in Greek script over the door

                                  1. Well, thank you again for your advice. The wines we enjoyed in Budapest were pretty good, esp two from Sauska - Merlot and esp. the Cuvée 13 in a screw-cap bottle that the house discouraged (but it gets an 88 from WE and goes with just about everything on their menu). Also got a taste of Gruner Veltliner althugh the occasion to order a full bottle never arrived.

                                    In the Czech Republic we did see a few vineyards near Snojmo in Moravia. I ordered a Dornfelder in Litomerice (I remembered it from ChowHound!) which was quite good. Frankovka was often a choice by the glass and usually worthy when Odile ordered beer.

                                    Our meal at Red Pif in Prague was excellent. They tried to sell us a Pinot Noir, but I never tasted a decent one in the Czech Republic. Their best red grapes seem to be the Bordeaux trio plus Frankovka and Dornfelder.

                                    1. Do you know where I could purchase in the USA a bottle of Sonberk Merlot 2011 from Czech Republic?

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: rgoot

                                        I'm going to be a nuisance...

                                        To answer, no, but I live about 15 kilometres from the winery and the shop next door to my apartment building carries this. (FYI, I live in Brno, Czech Republic).


                                        1. re: vanderb

                                          Thanks, if you know anyone coming to Houston, TX (or the states) that would bring a bottle (and ship it to me) let me know. Perhaps I could trade Texas BBQ or something, :).

                                          1. re: rgoot

                                            Write the winery here. See if they can help you.
                                            They might have a sales rep who can arrange this:

                                            Sonberk a.s.
                                            Sonberk 393
                                            691 27 Popice
                                            Tel: +420 777 630 434
                                            E-mail: sonberk@sonberk.cz