Most people regard the Czech Republic as beer country, and understandably so. After all, it’s home to the city of České Budějovice, formerly known as Budweis, as well as Plzeň, better known as Pilsen. Prague remains in no danger of a brew pub or beer hall shortage, but in recent years, numerous wine and craft cocktail bars have also opened. Indeed, there are now so many tempting options that focus on either wine or cocktails, I found it difficult to trim my drinking itinerary into something that would fit into the time allowed (and that wouldn’t cause irreparable harm to my liver).
Even many dedicated connoisseurs will likely be surprised to learn that the Czech Republic makes excellent wines nowadays. A handful of vineyards dot the Bohemian countryside, but most are concentrated in the Southern Moravia region, south of Brno. I became especially fond of the local Ryzlink Vlašský (Welschriesling), which could well become the country’s signature grape. At its best, it has notable focus, refined acidity and certain exotic notes, like ginger, galangal and incense. The Czech Republic’s climate makes ripening red wine grapes more difficult, but I discovered a number of beautiful examples of velvety Svatovavřinecké (St. Laurent) and spicy Frankovka (Blaufränkisch). Exploring local bottlings in Prague’s stylish wine bars is a great pleasure.
In season, it’s wise to make reservations at most of these bars, especially those that focus on craft cocktails. But during our off-season visit, we were able to walk right in and sit down without having to wait at each of these venues.