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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.