Goose and wine are the stars of this November 11 holiday celebrated across the Czech Republic. If you are familiar with the French tradition of Beaujolais you already know pretty much what will happen on St. Martin’s Day. At 11am on November 11, bottles of Svatomartinské víno (St. Martin’s wine) are opened in wine cellars and bars across the country. Contrary to the Beaujolais events (in which a young red wine from a specific grape is served) St. Martin’s wine is a young Czech or Moravian wine from the current year’s harvest, allowed to mature for only a few weeks. In order to be certified a St. Martin’s wine (nope, not any old new bottle will do) wine must be either Müller-Thurgau or Veltlínské červené rané for the white and Modrý Portugal or Svatovavřinecké for both rose and red. Expect the whites and roses to be dry and fruity, while the reds are quite smooth, but lacking a little body compared to a fully matured red.
Goose with dumplings and cabbage is the traditional meal served alongside the young wine. If you are in Prague anytime in November, many restaurants will offer special goose menus, so be sure to look for St. Martin’s posters in local restaurants or ask your local JayWay representative to suggest one for you. The feast typically continues long after that first bottle of young wine has been finished. If you’d like to visit a Prague wine shop or bar to get some advice on St. Martin’s wine (or Czech wine in general), we suggest Cellarius, Monarch or Bokovka. St. Klara’s Vineyard in the Botanical Garden will be opening bottles at 11am on November 11.
The tradition of St. Martin’s goes back to the 18th century when vineyard owners would visit their producers on November 11 to sample their new wine. Based on this taste test, owners would decide whether or not to prolong the producers’ contract for another year. Another version has the tradition going even further back to Rudolf II. At the beginning of November, innkeepers would decide the fate of their current household staff, and hire new ones. The work contracts would be celebrated with a bottle of new wine.
Photo of St. Klara’s Vineyard courtesy of the Prague Botanical Garden