Wine harvest celebrated at historic vineyard in Prague

September is a time of wine harvest festivities around the country. Typically, they take place in the traditional winegrowing regions of south Moravia and the Melnik district north of Prague. But the Czech capital itself boasts five vineyards, some dating back as early as the 12th century. The vineyard closest to the city centre, Grebovka, held celebrations this past weekend and Radio Prague was there.

Period music sounded through the park evoking the times of Emperor Charles IV, the founder of large vineyards in Prague which gave their name to an entire district - Vinohrady or "vineyards". They stretched from Vitkov hill all the way to Karlov hill in his day, making Prague the single largest winegrowing region in the Czech lands. The vineyards were later replaced by fields and orchards and eventually residential districts. Today a modest 1.5 hectares remains in Grebovka park in Prague's Vinohrady. Jana Cernochova is the mayor of the Prague 2 municipality which provides some subsidies to the vineyard, an important symbol of the Vinohrady district.

"The vineyard was in a sorry state during the communist era. In 1993, our municipality hired an experienced winegrower, Mr Antonin Turecek, who along with his wife has revitalised the vineyard. So now after almost fifteen years, the vineyard is healthy, with new vines, yielding grapes that produce award winning wines."

The varieties grown at Grebovka are Pinot gris, Mueller-Thurgau, Rhine Riesling, Dornfelder and Pinot noir and the produce is available right there at the vineyard. Right now, you can try there the new wine from this year's harvest, known as burcak - a cloudy, fizzy drink that resembles apple juice in appearance. I asked winegrower Antonin Turecek, who has devoted fifteen years of his life to the renewal of the vineyard, what exactly had to be done to make the vineyard bear fruit again.

"First of all we had to clean it up because it looked like one large waste dump. We had to do the measurements again, put up the stakes, buy new plants and make sure they took root properly. Step by step, the main work took three years and now we only need to renew some remaining small bits of the vineyard."

Hundreds came to take part in the festivities over the weekend, to see grapes being harvested and pressed and to try both the new and mature wines from Prague's Grebovka vineyard. The celebrations are over but there is something to look forward to. According to winegrower Antonin Turecek, thanks to a hot and dry summer, this year's harvest from Prague is likely to produce very fine wine.