The Keys to the Cellar

always wondered what really goes on in a moravian wine cellar?

Moravia abounds in wine cellars and hospitable accommodation; and Czechs seem instinctively to know just where to go and what to do (or not) to capitalize on the benefits of their annual wine harvest.

For the rest of us, though, the idea of surrendering our sobriety to a strange host in a strange cellar in a strange language can be a little intimidating. So here are just a couple of sure bets when you want to sample the true taste of those inimitable Moravian wines . . . and the world- famous Moravian hospitality.

Penzion Moravský Sommelier in Valtice, 260 km southeast of Prague, is a friendly guesthouse which accommodates only 10 people; its private wine cellar seats a mere 20.

You will receive a warm welcome from the hosts, Radim and Yvona Štěpánek, and be escorted down the few stone steps to the family wine cellar, which dates back to 1890. A gourmet feast of Moravian delicacies spread out on the tables awaits you. When sommelier Štěpánek appears, he introduces himself and proceeds to entertain and educate wine-lovers with his commentary on all aspects of Moravian wines.

Wine cellar and a consumer faced with a choice of local wines
Above left: In the cellar of Penzion Moravský Sommelier, Valtice, which dates from 1890. Above right: A choice of local wines on sale in a Valtice wine shop

You can instantly perceive that this is a man who is totally absorbed in and enthusiastic about his profession.

The guests are then shown the inner realms of the bricklined cellar filled with its precious store of valuable wines. The sommelier has personally selected top-quality wines for this prestigious cellar, and presents a range of his special recommendations, white and red, to his guests. After answering questions, Štěpánek jokingly admonishes that they may certainly try to imbibe whatever remains in the bottles; but he recounts how, on one occasion, he came into the cellar in the morning to find several guests still sitting there in various stages of sobriety. With a cheery wave he leaves the wine-tasters to spend the rest of the evening in fine company.

Above: Valtice main street
But what if you don’t have time for the full overnight treatment? A stopoff, at least, at the Vinotéka Moravský Sommelier is essential. In this vinothèque on Náměstí Svobody (Freedom Square) in Valtice’s center, you may choose either to browse or buy from the 250 types of assorted wines from all the main Moravian wine-growers. There’s also a daily tasting of 10 types of Moravian wines! Emphasis is placed on the four South Moravian sub-regions: Mikulovian (Mikulov), Velkopavlovian (Velké Pavlovice), Slovan (Slovácko) and Znojemian (Znojmo). The Champions of Valtice’s Wine Fairs, the cuvée selection of grapes – Chardonnay and Veltliner – are also on offer.

Libor Nazarčuk is the patron of this wine cellar, a sommelier of enormous distinction. At Moravský Sommelier, you may thus be assured of tasting only top-quality wines that have personally been selected by a semi-finalist in the XII Concours Mondial for the Best Sommelier in the World, held on Rhodes Island in 2007.

Nazarčuk was also triple champion Sommelier of the Czech Republic from 2003–05. In addition, he was the Triple Champion of Slovakia, winning the Vinanza Trophy in Bratislava in the same years, 2003–05. Other prestigious awards have been bestowed on him at events in Brno, Pardubice, and Karlovy Vary in recent years. He is vice-president of the Association of Sommeliers of the Czech Republic. If you require any further convincing of this sommelier’s credentials, he is also a holder of the DIN, ÖNORM and ISO certificates of degustation, valid in the entire EU.
Valtice ChateauLeft: “Valtice-main wine town” sign, with the church of the Holy Virgin Ascension in the background

On sale is a staggering array of wine-related items, ranging from the domestic to the imported varieties, for immediate consumption to vintage wines dating from 1950 for collectors. There are attractive gift boxes of wines, foreign wines, and Cuban cigars. Other items on sale are wine glasses, carafes and wine-related domestic gadgets. Books and magazines for the gourmet and wine connoisseur are available, as well as many types of honey, and medovina, a honey-based liqueur.

Above all, however, Valtice itself is a wine-lover’s paradise. The streets and stores all exude an odor of wine and viniculture going back to Roman times. The Valtice Wine Market, which receives international participation, is held annually in May.

Valtice is graced by the beautiful Valtice Chateau, one of the largest Baroque structures in Moravia, set in vast parkland. The National Wine Center and Wine Saloon of the Czech Republic are housed in the cellars of the chateau, where 100 of the country’s best wines are collected.Valtice Chateau
Left: Valtice Chateau

The whole Valtice-Lednice region has been added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list, so do visit some of the region’s attractions before heading home.

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