Wine Classification in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic, similarly as other countries where wine is grown, has a wine classification regulated by law, specifying what can be written about wines on the label and also that which cannot be put there. The basic aspects, which the wine classification is based on, include primarily the sugar content of grapes at the point of their harvesting, furthermore the origin of grapes and the variety.

In Bohemia and Moravia an overwhelming majority of wine is still produced as varietal, while good cuvees – are more or less made by some small “more informed” viticulturists, who by blending varieties try to obtain an even higher quality wine flavour. The wine law allows giving individual quality levels only on a label of varietal wines and cuvee are sold only as basic wines although they might have been made by blending several wines of very high quality. Logically, some wine-makers are dissatisfied with this standard, because the permitted labelling degrades their well blended quality wines.

The most basic wines, that is to say the simplest, are table wines. Such wine may be produced from any variety, also those unregistered, originating from any country of the European Union. As the wines of the lowest category, they do not have criteria, which they have to follow, but during presentation they must observe several rules preventing them from being confused with wines of higher quality. For this reason their labels must not state the variety, place of origin, region or vineyard.

Although, taking into consideration quality, country wine is not at a very high level, it has to follow rules, which must be strictly observed in the course of its production – these are for example the domestic origin of grapes, regulated output per hectare and the set minimum degree of sugar content  (in this case 14° and more). In return, the label on country wine may state the area of its origin, variety and year.

Quality wines follow the same rules, which apply for country wines with the difference being that the minimum degree of the sugar content of the grapes is one degree higher and the grapes also have to be processed in the place of their origin. In order to classify quality wines as varietal, they must be made of no more than three registered varieties.  Multi-varietal blends are referred to as quality brand wines.

Quality wines with special attributes – not only do these meet all the requirements for processing quality wines, but in addition come from only one wine-growing sub-region. They are produced with no added sugar and their parameters are monitored and checked by the Czech Agriculture and Food Inspection Authority.

Individual attributes differ in their minimum sugar content of grape must. The lowest degree in wines with attributes is represented by Kabinett wine. Their grapes reach 19 to 21 degrees of sugar content at the point of harvesting, giving lighter dry wines. Higher sugar content can be found in Late Harvest and grapes of 24° and more are a basis for wines classified as Special Selection.

Wines of a sugar content exceeding 27° are classified as semi-sweet or sweet, these are Selected Berries or Selected Dried Berries – grapes shrivelled to small and very concentrated raisins.  Ice wine, which is also particularly sweet, is very popular and rather expensive. Grapes are harvested late after the beginning of proper frosts and they are pressed at a frozen stage. Straw wines are similar in being quite rare and of comparable sweetness. They are produced by letting the harvested grapes dry on straw or reed beds for several months. This procedure results in the grape losing a greater part of its water content leaving a more concentrated body, thanks to which the must pressed afterwards is very thick. Production of ice and straw wines needs really high quality and healthy grapes, suitable for these technologies, where it is possible to presume that after processing, the wine made out of them will be in good order. Due to the lengthy processing, these wines are also very rare, because yields from this technology of pressing grapes of low-water content are quite low. These sweet wines are bottled in smaller sized bottles (500 or 200 ml) and are suitable for drinking for example at the end of a meal after the dessert or with coffee. Drinking wine like this, which is quite unusual and whose processing required a lot of thorough human work, is a real pleasure.

Still wines are the main domain of the Czech and Moravian viniculture, which overshadow other types of wine produced by a specific technology. Although sparkling and fortified wines must follow similar detailed regulations and classification, they are not produced much in our wine regions and do not have a great tradition.

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