Experts question authenticity of burčák currently on sale

Burčák season is coming – but not, say experts, just yet. The end of August sees a number of festivals kick off around the country in honour of the sweet, deceptively fruit-juice-like, alcoholic drink. But with Czech grapes still to ripen properly, experts are warning that the burčák currently available is of dubious origin and a pale imitation of the real deal. I spoke to the head of the National Wine Centre in Valtice, Pavel Krška, to ask what made an authentic burčák:

“Well, in fact, burčák is a grape juice which is fermented. So, it is not yet wine, it is something on the way to this. So, it is a beverage with a lot of natural sugar, and some alcohol.”

Is it a Czech speciality, or is it made elsewhere in Europe?

“Well, in fact, every wine is burčák before it is wine! But the Czech speciality, also I think in Slovakia and Austria, is that people drink this beverage as a speciality, as a celebration of a new vintage, as something new for the new vintage.”

And what time of year is the season for burčák?

“The season starts right now. So, the end of August through to September and maybe October.”

But some experts are saying that it is still surprisingly early to be finding burčák along the roadside in Moravia or in wine bars in Prague. Do you agree?

Pavel Krška
“Well, my opinion is that when you see bottles of burčák near the road, it is not good. I would never buy burčák at the edge of the road. When you are trying to taste really good burčák, go to the wine producer, directly to his wine cellar. This is the best way. Or maybe try a good wine shop in your town, but you must be sure that the wine shop is supplied by a good wine producer.”

And what is the problem with the burčák that you might find alongside Czech roads right now?

“I think the first problem is the condition, when you see the sun shining on the bottles that is no good. And there is no guarantee of quality and no guarantee of origin. When you want to be sure of the quality and the origin, then you must go to a good wine shop.”

What sort of origin should consumers be looking for?

“Well, when you want to call this beverage burčák, it is a term fixed in Czech wine laws, so when you say burčák, it must be from the Czech Republic, either from Bohemia or Moravia.”