Valleys, vineyards and surprisingly excellent wines on a trip to the Czech countryside

With picturesque historical towns and rolling hillsides, Moravia is worth a visit

Most Irish visitors to the Czech Republic go no further than Prague in Bohemia, which is a pity as Moravia deserves to be better known. Dotted with picturesque historic towns, the gentle verdant rolling hillsides are worth a visit. As well as quaint villages, there are numerous cycling and walking paths and five natural parks to explore.

An added attraction is wine; while the Czech Republic is known for its beer, Moravia has been growing grapes and producing wine for centuries. The region accounts for more than 90 per cent of all Czech wine. Most of the wines are white and refreshing, perfect for enjoying in the sunshine. Many wineries are open for visits, so it is possible to incorporate some enotourism into your visit. The region is in the south of the Czech Republic, running along the border with Austria and Slovakia. If you are thinking of making the journey, it may be easier to travel via Vienna.

I visited a handful of wineries over three days and found some excellent wines that deserve to be better known over here. As well as the well-known international grape varieties, there is pálava, a cross between Gewürztraminer and müller Thurgau, Frankovka (blaüfrankisch) and zweigeltrebe (Zweigelt), all producing good wines.

The Lahofer Winery, owned by two cousins, is a smart new winery in the Znojmo region. There is a well-designed modern visitor centre, offering tours, wine tastings and good food. The winery is on a tourist route, so they receive plenty of passing trade. During my visit there were lots of cyclists pausing to refresh themselves with a glass of wine. The winery holds regular musical concerts too, so it is worth checking out their website before travelling. Lahofer produce a comprehensive range of well-made red and white wines. My favourites included a Grüner Veltliner (Moravia borders Austria) and their Riesling.


A visit to Vino J Stávek was a highlight of the trip. Jan Stâvek produces a range of excellent wines, largely made from either the sauvignon blanc or frankovka (blaufränkisch) grapes. Visits to his historic traditional cellar in the picturesque village of Némčićky should be arranged in advance.

Habansky Sklepy is part of the largest producer of sparkling wine in the Czech Republic. The visitor centre, with a cellar dating to 1614, is open by appointment. The sekt or sparkling wine is very good and there are views over the river and surrounding countryside. A visit should include a walk around the village of Velké Bílovice, with its traditional winery alley.

Vinařství Čech is a highly successful organic family winery based in village of Tvrdonice close to the Austrian border. The youthful Petr Čech adores sauvignon blanc and makes a range of highly regarded wines, alongside a range of other whites and reds.

Vinařství Lacina is a unique winery and mini museum in a building that dates to 1525. It was originally built by the Hutterites, a branch of Anabaptists who lived in the area. Based in the prosperous town of Velké Pavlovice, as well as a range of wines, he uses locally grown apricots to make a series of unique fruit wines that provide a welcome change from Aperol. The multimedia visitor centre is worth the visit alone.

I stayed in Hotel Ryzlink (or Riesling), a Swiss style hotel in the pretty town of Mikulov, nestling in the foothills of the Pálava mountains. The hotel has its own family-owned boutique winery, called Fučik, and a spa offering health treatments including wine baths or vinotherapy. It is a good starting point for trips to wineries in the surrounding area and offers a range of its own wines to accompany the local cuisine. Czech food is rich in meat, potatoes, dumplings and pickled cabbage, with comforting soups and stews.

Moravia has much to offer besides wine, though. Mikulov is a picturesque town with an attractive historic centre full of shops and cafes. A stroll through the town during daytime could include a visit to Mikulov castle with its wine museum and underground cellar. There is a synagogue, cemetery and Jewish museum that tells the story of the Mikulov Jews, who once made up 40 per cent of the population. At dusk it is worth climbing the Holy Hill to enjoy the spectacular views over the countryside. Younger couples and groups enjoy an evening picnic with some of the local wine. At night the town of Mikulov has a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of bars and wine bars, including the Hotel Galant, which has its own microbrewery and serves well-made local cuisine.

The nearby walled medieval town of Znojmo is picturesque and worth a visit. Enjoy a stroll through the historic town centre with plenty of shops and cafes. I went up the Wolf Tower (by arrangement with the tourist office in the town centre) and enjoyed spectacular views over the surrounding countryside. Fans of modern architecture will enjoy the functionalist shopping centre/cafe designed by Bohuslav Fuchs that looks over one of the town squares. Alternatively, there are wonderful views over vineyards and valleys from the medieval walls by the river. Underneath the town is a labyrinth of passageways and catacombs developed over centuries.

Zámek Lednice is a castle set on beautiful grounds. A fine example of English neo-Gothic architecture, highlights include an intricate carved wooden staircase, made from one single tree, and a large botanic garden, the second oldest in Europe after Kew. Finish your visit with a leisurely stroll around the gardens and lake followed by an ice cream or lunch.

I also visited Archeopark Pavlov, a place of world heritage based on the archaeological excavations dating back 30,000 years close to the site. Numerous artefacts from prehistoric times are on display in the underground museum a short distance from Mikulov and the beautiful Věstonice Reservoir.

John Wilson travelled as a guest of Czech Tourism and the Czech government. See for details on holidays

John Wilson

John Wilson

John Wilson, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a wine critic