Burčák season starts

The young wine season is early due to warm weather

People who have long lived in the Czech Republic mark the ending of summer with seeing the first posted signs for “burčák,” the young wine at harvest season. The season for burčák has come early this year though, due to hot and sunny conditions, and wine festivals have already started in some areas.

The harvest this year should also be more abundant than last year’s, which was hurt by drought.

Prices should be about the same as last year, starting at around Kč 60 per liter.

Burčák can be found in Prague at wine bars, farmers markets and local wine festivals. It is also a reason to take a trip to Moravia, as the biggest and best wine festivals are there.

It is seldom sold in stores since it requires special handling.

Burčák is freshly pressed grape juice, known as must, that has been partly fermented. Typically it is about 4 percent to 6 percent alcohol. Its appearance is cloudy due to active yeast. If you buy some to take home in a plastic bottle, you should remember to loosen the cap every few hours to let the gas from fermentation escape.

Folk wisdom says that burčák packs a particularly strong hangover because it continues to ferment in your stomach, but that is not true, as the stomach is too acid for live yeast to work. The hangover comes from the high volume chemicals related to incomplete alcohol production. Also, since it tastes like grape juice, people tend to drink a lot of it without realizing.

Under Czech law, burčák can be sold starting Aug. 1. There are some less obvious legal rules. It must be made only from grapes harvested and processed in the Czech Republic during the current calendar year. It cannot be diluted or have added colors to mask poor quality.

It must have at least 1 percent alcohol under the law, otherwise, it is simple grape juice.

Information on the location of origin and producer has to be posted by the vendor.

Foreign products can be sold, but must be called something else, such as partially fermented grape must (částečně zkvašený hroznový mošt).

The same beverage is known in various parts of Germany and Austria as Federweisser, Sturm, Suser, Sauser, Neuer Süßer, Junger Wein or Neuer Wein. In Slovakia it is called burčiak.

Experts caution that burčák should still have active carbon bubbles visible and even audible, as the yeast should still be live. Burčák from white wine should be golden yellow in color, and not brownish.

It should also be stored in a chilled environment, and not out in the sun as heat speeds the fermentation too much.

Following is a list of wine festivals in Prague. Many have an admission fee that includes some drinks and often a special glass. Two popular free ones near the city center are Vinohradské Vinobraní at náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad and Vinobraní na Grébovce. Both are in Vinohrady, a part of the city that used to be mostly vineyards. Grébovka, the location of the latter festival, still has a working vineyard.

What is your favorite Prague wine festival or place to get burčák?

Sept. 7: Eden Shopping Center www.facebook.com/events and www.vinobrani-v-edenu.cz

Sept. 7–8: Summer Wine Party at Smíchovská Náplavka www.facebook.com/events

 Sept. 8: Troja www.facebook.com/events and www.mctroja.cz/akce/trojske-vinobrani

Sept. 8: Dožínky na Letné www.dozinkynaletne.cz and www.facebook.com/dozinkynaletne

Sept. 9: Vinobraní v klášteře, atDomov sv. Karla Boromejského https://www.facebook.com/events/271050913491295/

Sept. 14–15: Vinohradské Vinobraní at náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad www.facebook.com/events

Sept. 15: Pražské Vinobraní, Vypich www.facebook.com/events

Sept. 15–16: Sv. Klára, Botanical Gardens www.facebook.com/events and www.botanicka.cz

Sept. 15–16: Vinobraní na Pražském hradě www.hrad.cz

Sept. 21–22: Vinobraní na Grébovce www.facebook.com/events

Sept. 21–23: Kunratické Vinobraní www.facebook.com/events and www.kunratickevinobrani.cz

Sept. 29 Festival jak víno – Vinobraní at Náplavka www.facebook.com/events

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