First Day, First Bottle


Backyard view of our first weekend in Brno

We landed in Brno on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving 2018, following a flurry of stress, pressure, uncertainty of our VISA status and 20 hours of overseas travel with two cats. Prior to our November arrival, we had thankfully secured an apartment near the city center, which alleviated the daunting apartment search during the start of a cold, blustery winter.

The neighborhood, also known as Brno-střed (Střed meaning middle/center), comprises part of the city center, the University Hospital and provides easy tram access to various points in the city. During our summer pre-move visit, I wandered around the neighborhood to get my bearings and get familiar with the local offerings. I happened to pass a second hand shop down the road, selling glassware, clothing, games and kitchen appliances and popped it into my mental Rolodex.

Although our apartment came partially furnished, wine glasses did not come with the lease agreement. I know, hard to believe in a country that leads as #9 in alcohol consumption per capita. But as a true wine fanatic looking to assimilate in my new alcohol consuming (and alcohol friendly before noon) culture, I did make sure to pack a corkscrew and Vacu-Vin in my luggage.

Our first afternoon here in Brno, my husband and I knew that we would want to polish off a bottle of wine, to celebrate our arrival and help knock us out after weeks of stress and anxiety that culminated in two very long travel days.

We decided to take a walk to the local second hand shop, to see what inexpensive glassware they had in stock. After eyeing two simple water glasses in the window, we immediately exclaimed our relief. We were jet-lagged and ready to unwind, unconcerned with the specificity of wine glassware. We then headed to the local supermarket to pick up a random bottle, and were delightfully surprised with our purchase. The Frankovka (Blaufränkisch) from Habanské Sklepy is a delicious, medium bodied spicy red wine that has since been part of our ‘wine rotation.’

Although I had tasted Blaufränkisch quite a bit living in Raleigh, North Carolina, the majority were of Austrian origin. I loved them for their elegant simplicity. The wines exploded with red and black fruit, yet were fairly tame in both tannin and acidity. The peppery palate also makes it the ideal hamburger pairing : Yes, I said it. Hamburgers. And if you are passing thru Raleigh, N.C., head to Capital Club 16 for a burger and bottle of Blaufränkisch. You won’t be disappointed.

Blaufränkisch, a red grape varietal of disputed origin (Austria vs. Hungary vs. Slovenia seem to be the top three contenders) came to be as a crossing of Gouais Blanc and Blaue Zimmettraube. It is the second most widely grown grape variety planted in Moravia, the southern region of the Czech Republic, as the warmer, sunny days are ideal for a longer ripening season. Characteristics can include blackberry, peppery notes, delicate tannins and higher acidity, lending itself to the traditional Hungarian dishes of egg noodles and smoked meats.

Whether it was the fatigue from travel or simply the desire to sleep, we were surprised at the quality, the aromas and the sheer drinkability of this $3 dollar supermarket wine. We easily finished this bottle and breathed a sigh of relief. Not only was the wine pleasant and balanced, it was spicy, with hints of crushed black pepper and clove. Black and red berry fruit emerged on the palate, but the finish was delicate and inviting. A perfect way to welcome us to Brno.

WritingArielle DeSoucey