Make way for the Czech Beaujolais: St. Martin's wine explained

A record number of Czech and Moravian wines qualify for the St. Martin’s wine this year, arriving in Czech restaurants and shops from Nov. 11.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 05.11.2021 17:00:00 (updated on 05.11.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

St. Martin’s Day, which falls on Nov. 11, has become a winter wine celebration across the Czech Republic. The day has a long tradition for new wine from the recent harvest to be consumed alongside a meal of roasted goose.

The arrival of St. Martin’s Day Wine (Svatomartinské vino) at Czech eateries and markets now overshadows the launch of Beaujolais nouveau, the first of the French wines, which cannot be sold until the third Thursday of November.

But not any new Czech or Moravian wine is entitled to use the Svatomartinské designation or associated logo. These are trademarks overseen by Vinařský fond, a Brno-based organization that promotes Czech wine, educates the public, and preserves wine heritage.

After two rounds of evaluation, an expert panel this year decided that 328 wines from 80 winemakers, totaling about 2.2 million bottles, can use the Svatomartinské label. The logo depicts St. Martin riding a horse.

Some 355 wines were evaluated. “Fewer than 8 percent of them failed to meet the strict quality conditions for the award of the label,” Vinařský fond director Jaroslav Machovec said in a press release.

He added that it is the highest success rate since 2005, when the Vinařský fond began to oversee the label and support the renewal of St. Martin’s Day traditions. The Svatomartinské label was actually registered in 1995 but was under different management for its first decade.

Wine glasses with the registered Svatomartinské logo. (Photo: Vinařský fond)
Wine glasses with the registered Svatomartinské logo. (Photo: Vinařský fond)

As is typical, white wines are most represented, with 155, followed by rosés and clarets, with 94, and red wines, with 79. Only certain varieties and their blends can use the Svatomartinské brand. For whites these are Müller Thurgau, Veltlínské zelené rané, and Muškát moravský. Rosés are Modrý Portugal, Svatovavřinecké, and Zweigeltrebe. Reds have only two varieties: Svatovavřinecké and Modrý Portugal.

Potentially 2021 could also set a sales record. “Today I can definitely say that after last year's coronavirus-affected vintage, Svatomartinské wines are back in full force,” Machovec said.

“Interest from winemakers and consumers is extremely encouraging. It shows that even last years’ limit of about 2 million bottles of Svatomartinské wines may not be the maximum,” Machovec added.

While there is a saying that wine gets better with age, Svatomartinské wines are meant to be consumed within a few months, and not stored away for years.

"St. Martin's wines are young wines, and as such, they are light, fresh, and aromatic,” National Wine Centre’s chief sommelier Marek Babisz said.

In cooperation with Vinařský fond, he organized the evaluation of Svatomartinské wines in the Center of Excellence in Valtice.

“They retain these qualities for several months and can therefore be enjoyed not only in November. They will be in perfect condition for Christmas, but we don't have to worry about them losing their youthfulness at Easter next year either," Babisz added.

White wines this year will have strong tropical fruit aromas and freshness, according to the Vinařský fond. Rosés will be similar, with hints of cherry, strawberry, and raspberry. Red wines will be playful with fresh acidity and an aroma of meadow flowers, cherries, currants, and plums.

Svatomartinské wine, while referred to as young wine, is fully fermented bottled wine. It is not to be confused with burčák, which is also called young wine but is partially fermented grape must. Burčák cannot legally be sold after Nov. 1.

Vinařský fond allows the first bottles to be opened at 11 am on Nov. 11, which falls on Thursday. A large festival organized by Vinařský fond will take place that day in Brno on náměstí Svobody.

Prague 3 after a gap last year is again organizing a big public celebration at náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, but on Saturday, Nov. 13, from 8 am to 7 pm, with goose dishes, music, and a theatrical performance of the St. Martin legend for children. Many Prague restaurants will also have events starting Nov. 11 and lasting throughout the coming weeks.

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