Selling Wine (Way) Before It's Time

No corkscrew is needed to enjoy this unassuming young vintage.

What smells funky, is slightly fizzy, looks like dirty water, but tastes sweet and makes you feel woozy? If you live in the Czech Republic, you know the answer to that question is burcak, or more precisely, burčák.

Daisy and I were out for a ride in Roztoky, Unetice and Statenice on sunny Sunday (August 26), and saw the first signs of the season announcing the arrival of burčák. It's the Czech equivalent of the buzz surrounding Beaujolais nouveau from France each year, though more provincial in its appeal.

Burčák (pronounced burr-chahk) is young Moravian wine. Very young. Made from grapes harvested and squeezed just a few weeks ago. In fact, this murky grape cocktail is still fermenting, and legend has it that it keeps doing so in your stomach, making you even drunker during the course of an evening.

The alcohol content of burčák is only around 5 percent (wine is around 11 percent), but it goes down so easily, like drinking juice, that it can sneak up on you and hit you upside your head.

Burčák is an integral part of the Czech wine festivals, called vinobrani, that begin in September. I was told the burčák has appeared a bit sooner this year due to an early harvest brought on by good weather. Not sure if that's true, but it does seem to have arrived a few weeks earlier than I remember.

The Czechs imbue their alcoholic beverages with the aura of goodness. Beer is considered a health drink here, drunk at all hours of the day, including at breakfast.

Burčák is no different. You're supposed to drink seven liters of it each year -- both for good health and good luck. It does contain vitamins, like Vitamin B. Then again, my favorite cereal, Froot Loops, has vitamins in it, too, but no one ever mistakes Froot Loops for health food.

Daisy and I stopped for some burčák at a charming little neighborhood pub on the street known as Tiché údolí (Silent Valley) in Roztoky.

The pub is called Hospůdka Zvířátka (Little Animal), and it attracts lots of cyclists with its welcoming atmosphere, bike racks, and cheap, creamy and delicious Černá Hora beer. (It was 17 CZK, or $.83, for a half-liter the last time I was there in April, tying it with two or three other places for the cheapest half-liter I've found so far on my rides; I forgot to check to see if the price had gone up while I was there on Sunday.)

It even sells some cycling gear and accessories. What's not to like?

We bought a liter of burčák (60 CZK, or about $3) to take home. They siphoned it into an empty soda bottle from a large plastic barrel. Along with our beer, we also enjoyed a couple of small glasses of the yeasty brew while we were there. (Daisy likened the taste to drinking a glass of what old furniture smells like, but in a good way, I think.)

A Moravian boilermaker, if you will.

Six more liters to go!

Distance ridden: 30 kilometers
Average speed: 18.0 kph
Maximum speed: 39.6 kph
Time on the bike: 1.37.20
Distance ridden in 2007: 1,298.5 kilometers

We passed these beautiful grapes hanging from the terrace of a home in the village of Unetice.

These two cats were peeking out of the shrubbery at Hospůdka Zvířátka in Roztoky. The pub's name means Little Animal, and there certainly are lots of little creatures running around the place, including cats and birds.

Hospůdka Zvířátka in Roztoky (above and below) is an oasis, offering cyclists everything from klobasa to inner tubes. They also serve hard-to-find Černá Hora beer, whose brewery dates back to the 16th century.

A gorgeous red dahlia seen in Unetice.


Pip Hines said…
Found burcak avalable last week in the city centre too - at the Tynska Literarni Kavarna @ 24 kc. per 25 dl. glass. Delicious as a reviver on a warm afternoon. Even cheaper at a cafe nearby whose name I forget, but people-watching at the LitKav is worth the extra.
The descriptions of things were a riot. My favorite is the furniture polish comparison.

And the health Fruit Loops.
Kate said…
Hi there!
I just stumbled upon your blog while visiting the Czech republic for the first (hopefully not last) time and pondering how best to rent a bike and get to some castles from Prague. I too am a bike commuter, and going without a ride on vacation is strange - too much walking. The cats you saw at Hospůdka Zvířátka look a lot like my two cats. It looks like they'd be happy here. I feel trouble brewing...

good luck in your search for great rides and cheap beer!
Grant Podelco said…
Hi, Kate,

Thanks for the comments, and I hope you're having a great time in the Czech Republic. As for renting bikes, check out my post about renting bikes in Prague. It's got all of the info you'll need, I think. You can find the link on the left side of the blog under HOT TOPICS. Hope this helps. Keep me posted!

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