Czechs determined to enjoy Saint Martin’s festivities despite soaring prices
This coming Saturday, Czechs all around the country will be celebrating Saint Martin’s Day, which falls on November 11. On this day, Czechs traditionally sample the season’s first wine and sit down to a feast of roast goose, dumplings and cabbage.
The tradition of Saint Martin’s festivities, the Czech equivalent of the Beaujolais celebrations, dates back to the Middle Ages and has become hugely popular in recent years.
Back in the reign of Charles IV, it marked the symbolic end of the farming season, when labourers received their pay. It was also the time when the first bottles of wine produced that year were opened.
According to a Czech saying, Saint Martin’s Day is also the day that brings the first snow to the country. While weather forecasters say that is unlikely to happen this year, most Czechs will definitely not miss the opportunity to sample the season’s first wine.
Martin Chlad, head of the country’s Winemakers Union, told Czech Radio that this year’s batch will be definitely worth tasting.
“In the second half of August and September we had high temperatures and a lot of sunshine, so the grapes got everything they needed, especially in terms of sugar content. Winemakers were able to harvest the grapes relatively early and that will definitely be reflected in the quality of this year’s St. Martin’s wine.”
St. Martin’s wines are light and fresh and have lower alcohol content because they have only been fermenting for a few weeks. Winemakers can only use certain grape varieties to produce these wines.
The wines go best with roast goose, which is served in homes and restaurants all around the country on the Feast of Saint Martin, usually accompanied with a variety of dumplings and cabbage.
To enjoy the traditional roast goose in a restaurant, Czechs will have to spend a fortune this year, with the traditional menu starting at around CZK 500 per person. But even preparing it at home will not come cheap, with a four-kilogramme goose costing around CZK 1,200.
Despite the soaring prices, most of the approximately 125,000 geese raised at Czech farms this year have already been sold out. Pavla Poláčková from a small organic farm in Žižice near Kladno, says that despite having to increase their prices, they have already sold nearly all of their 1,400 geese:
“We had to take down the offer from our Facebook page because we have nothing else to offer. And we didn't even publish any ads this year!”
Traditionally, Saint Martin’s festivities get underway on November 11 at precisely 11 hours 11 minutes a.m., when the first bottles of Saint Martin’s wine go on sale. They are easily recognizable by the logo of Saint Martin on a white horse pictured on the label.