Young Wine an Old Custom


A few weeks ago, the word burcak began to appear in the windows of pubs and bars across the Czech Republic. It's the Czech word for young wine. But what does it taste like, and why do Czechs drink it?

A barman pours a cloudy, mustard-colored liquid from a plastic keg into a glass. This is young wine, or burcak. Like an early sign of autumn, it starts to appear in restaurants and pubs in the Czech Republic every September.

Hear that fizz? It's the sound of micro-bacteria at work inside the burcak.

Jirka Reichl is owner of the Boda wine bar in the Vinohrady section of Prague.

"Burcak is really one phase in the making of wine, during which grape cider transforms into wine. Proper burcak is grape juice at the peak of the fermentation process, and it has an unusually high alcohol content....It's really something between cider and wine."

"Now you're about to taste quality burcak.."

"I'm about to try quality burcak. ...oh that's good. It's very sweet, almost like juice."

Like many sellers of burcak, Jirka Reichl offers the young wine either to drink right away by the glass, or in a re-used plastic liter bottle, to take home with you. Just be sure to not wait too long before you drink it.

"If you were to close burcak into a barrel, it would quickly expand like a balloon. I've had the experience myself - I started with a cylinder of burcak that blew up into a big ball. You twist open the lid, it starts to hiss, and if you're too fast it'll explode all over the place."

"Hi folks, come on in"

Jiri and Pavel were lured inside by the signboard outside which read "burcak".

"A lot of Czech citizens they don't eat if they drink burcak. They call it the burcak cleaning process because there is the yeast and it makes your starving system getting clean after."

Whether burcak really does anything for your digestive system or not, there's no traditional accompaniment for the drink...except the company of friends.

"Na zdravi! Cheers!"

Burcak season lasts until the middle of October. If you live in the Czech Republic, you can almost certainly find burcak at your local wine merchant or pub.