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Travel: Brno wines are a glass apart in the Czech Republic

© Shutterstock / Richard SemikVineyards, Palava region, South Moravia, Czech Republic.
Vineyards, Palava region, South Moravia, Czech Republic.

Deep in the heart of the picturesque region of the Czech Republic they call the Moravian Tuscany, I have found my perfect dinner companion, a fruity little number to suit any occasion.

Frankovka is a delicious red wine cultivated on the lush, undulating hills of a country more renowned for its quality beers than its wines. Moravia is one of two Czech Republic wine regions. Bohemia, an area nearer to Prague, and only produces 5-10% of the country’s wine.

I’m introduced to my first taste of Czech wine by Jan Stavek on a hill overlooking the nine hectares of vineyards his family have nurtured for four generations.

It’s a beautiful place with villages dotted among the landscape, their red terracotta roofs gleaming in the mid-morning sun, with Austria and Slovakia off in the distance.

Jan introduces us to two of his prized wines – the J Stavek sauvignon and rose, Tercie – before we head to his winery in the village of Nemcicky for an introduction to Frankovka.

Lashings of local sausages, pate and cheese are laid out as we devour the intensively ruby red wine. It’s one of many highlights in a whistle-stop tour of South Moravia, a region blessed with more than 17,000 hectares of vineyards and boasting oodles of charm, history, magnificent castles and ancient traditions.

Most of it can be found within a two-hour drive of the Czech Republic’s second city, Brno.

© Press Association Images
Wine cellars in Vrbice. (Shutterstock) 

Brno is an enchanting city, with a young, energetic vibe, no doubt helped by having no fewer than ten universities close by.

Outside our base for the first night, the Hotel Grandezza, dozens of vegetable and flower growers arrive early to sell their wares in the Cabbage Market, a daily ritual that has been going on since the 13th Century.

A bizarre statue of Mozart as a boy, but with an adult head, marks the spot where the genius performed when he was seven.

We head to the imposing Valtice Castle, one of the most impressive baroque residences in central Europe and a Unesco world cultural site. Before touring the castle, where the powerful Liechtenstein family once lived, we head down into the caverns for a wine tasting session.

More than 100 varieties of sparkling, white, red and rose wines are waiting for us, each summarised on bright poster boards with information on everything from their sugar content and acidity, to their sensory characteristics.

Although my taste is for dry white and red wines, I’m smitten by the sweeter Palava.

It’s a treat then to travel to the modern Sonberk Winery, nestled in 40 hectares of vines in the foothills of the Palava Hills to sample some more. As our guide tells us, it’s like tasting Palava wines in 3D. And it’s no surprise to see an image of the vineyard and hills on the cover of the encyclopaedic Wine Explorers tome, selected above hundreds of other pictures of vineyards from across the world.

Ancient traditions abound in this region, with thousands of people flocking to the colourful annual Ride of the Kings, close to the Slovakia border in Vlenov, also listed by Unesco.

© Press Association Images
Two of the villagers show off the colourful costumes that have helped make the Ride of the Kings event a UNESCO intangible heritage festival. (PA/Chris Wiltshire) 

It’s a privilege to be among them as locals in traditional folk costumes parade on horseback, dancing and singing, a ritual that dates back more than 200 years. At the front of the parade is the “king”, a 12-year-old boy with a rose in his mouth and two accomplices. Behind them, 18-year-old boys form an honour guard, waving swords to “protect” the king.

As they pass, they entertain the crowds with gentle teasing, encouraging them to drop money into a pouch on the horses to help cover the costs of the costumes.

It’s all great fun until one of them points his sword at me and bellows something in Czech, sparking great laughter among the hordes. I duly empty my pockets into the horse’s pouch and then ask a couple in the crowd what was said. “He was making fun of the fact you don’t have a beer belly and that you must like wine, not beer,” comes the reply.

Well, as insults go, I’m more than happy with that, even though it’s not strictly true. To celebrate, I resolve to toast the occasion with my new favourite tipple. Now where’s that bottle of Frankovka?


For a culinary treat, the hottest ticket in Brno is Element, a cool, tastefully decorated and surprisingly reasonable restaurant and bar in the centre of the city. Chris’s delicious trio of fish croquettes, grilled pork and deconstructed cheesecake came in at 730 Czech Koruna.


Rooms at Hotel Grandezza cost from £94 per night, with breakfast. Visit

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