Celebrating the new wine in South Moravia

It is a special time of year in many regions of the Czech Republic when the nights get cooler and the days shorter. It is the time of "vinobrani", wine festivals which mark the harvest of grapes for wine making. Legend has it that these celebrations date back to Roman times, when the first grapes were planted.

Nowhere are these festivals more popular than in Southern Moravia, in the towns of Znojmo, Mikulov and Valtice. Celebrations are taking place in towns and villages throughout the eastern regions of the Czech Republic which celebrate the grape harvest. These include singing and dancing through the streets, large open-air markets filled with people enjoying local foods and of course sipping the drink of choice for this time of year, "burcak".

Burcak is the sweet, cloudy drink that resembles juice more than wine. However, don't let that fool you. The alcohol content ranges only from 4 to 6 percent but its strength can double once it is drunk because it continues to ferment inside the body.

One of the most famous wine-producing regions of the Czech Republic is located in the Valtice region, known locally as the 'pearl of South Moravia'. The most striking features of the town of Valtice are its castle and surrounding countryside. From the 17th to the 20th centuries the ruling Dukes of Liechtenstein transformed the surrounding landscape in the English romantic style. Today, the region boasts one of the largest artificial landscapes in Europe and the 200 square kilometer area is a UNESCO protected reserve.

The vast cellar of the Valtice Ch‚âteau is home to the National Wine Collection of the Czech Republic. Jiri Novak, tells us more.

"Now we are in the National Wine Salon which is found in the historical buildings of the Valtice Ch‚âteau and inside this cellar there are about 100 wines. Everybody who visits can taste all these wines and read information about these wines."

Each year the county's top wine judges select 100 different varieties of both red and white and present them at the National Wine Collection. And for a small fee, wine lovers can sample some of the best wines in the country.

Whether a wine of top quality is your forte, or you prefer to dance to the beat of the local music while quaffing burcak, Southern Moravia is the place to be at this time of year!