Wine harvest down; quality of wine up

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The Czech Republic is one of the biggest beer drinking nations in the world. But among Czech women, wine is becoming ever more popular. Beer has taken second place after "vinny strik", wine diluted with water, because it is good, affordable, and a little classier. But wine growers say this year's production will be much lower than average.

First a couple of statistics. Czechs consume an average of 16.5 litres of wine per head every year. Wine growers harvest usually close to six tonnes of grapes per hectare of land, although this year, the harvest was down by a third. But the Secretary of the Czech Union of Wine Growers, Martin Pucek, says there may be less wine but it will be of better quality:

"The Czech Republic's vineyards cover 18,600 hectares. This year only 14,000 hectares were fertile. Lower production is due to a number of factors but the main cause was the weather. We had more rain. But while the harvest is smaller, this year's wine will be of better quality because the grapes have higher sugar content."

The Czech Republic is mainly an importer of wine because its local production only covers some forty percent of nationwide consumption. Sixty-five percent of production is white wine. Most of its wine is from non-native grapes - Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Tramin, Pino Grigio, Muller Thurgau.:

"We also have our own Czech grapes. A good example is the Palava grape, which has been quite popular with the French but has also been getting good reviews at wine markets in Italy and the nordic countries like Denmark, for example. The Czech Republic is a small country but some types of grape grow better in Moravia and others in Bohemia. The main difference between the regions is the climate. Bohemia is not as warm as Moravia.

"On the other hand, the conditions in Bohemia are more favourable for the production of red wine. In fact, some red wines from Bohemia are renowned for their quality - such as the Rulandske modre - or Blue Rulander and Svatovavrinecke - or Saint Lawrence. They are lighter wines. This means that wine drinkers can drink close to a litre on one evening without getting too drunk."