Buying wine at the supermarkets here in Brno seems easy, but do you really know what you are getting? This seems to be an endless struggle for those expats I’ve met here, as the labels, grapes and quality levels are uncharted territory. The supermarkets do not post a rating system next to their wines, as is often done in the United States, leaving the buyer to randomly choose a bottle amongst the dozens of various Moravian wines. Flavor laden descriptors, listing exotic fruits, floral aromas and tactile characteristics of the wine, including body and complexity, are either in Czech or are not listed, leaving inevitable questions of quality.
Here in Brno, as in most places in Europe, the supermarkets sell beer, wine and liquor to anyone over 18 years of age. They are literally a one-stop shop for a country leading in alcohol consumption per capita. Various prohibitive alcohol laws, rampant throughout most of the United States, would never be taken seriously here in Europe. You can buy the alcohol you want, when you want in one convenient location. You can bring your bottle of wine on a picnic or just drink it in the middle of the street.
As compared to the United States, where I can skim over a wine label in a matter of seconds, here I spend a few minutes on each word, using Google to help translate, trying to see if the wine will be dry, sweet or something in between. I always like to know where the wine originated, who made it and when it was bottled. Yet I knew that if I was struggling in Brno with these points, than my English speaking friends would be in over their heads. If anything else, wine shopping in a foreign country teaches you patience, critical thinking, Google translation expertise and spiritual reconsideration.
In general, when purchasing wine, I try to frequent the local vinotékas and wine shops, speaking in broken Czech with the employees to see what they are drinking. As long as you have access to a local wine shop, it is a more effective way to buy your wine. It keeps local businesses flourishing and your wine purchases much more diverse. After all, the employees are the ones who sample the wine before they bring it into the store. They are the experts in their field and are always happy to recommend a great bottle. I highly advise these following recommendations if you want to become a more serious wine buyer: Choose to buy wine at your local wine shop or winery, never buy a bottle based on the label and always ask for a recommendation.
Yet facing the unfortunate facts of life, most people do not have the luxury to shop at various specialty stores for all of their items. We have busy lives, families, budgets and jobs. Sometimes the convenience and cost factors take precedence and picking up a bottle or two of wine at the Albert Supermarket is all that is needed. Hopping on the tram to go across town to that really cool wine shop no longer seems that appealing. And that aisle of Moravian wine in the grocery store is really only ten paces away.
Immediately, I knew I had an idea. I needed to do a deep dive into these supermarket wines, to figure out what was what and to help the expat community become more informed consumers. The wine labels are in a completely foreign language and the grape varietals are translated into their Czech equivalent, making it confusing for the everyday English speaking consumer. I’ve learned to accept the fact that Czech is an extremely difficult language and the words look nothing like their Latin or Anglo counterpart. The quality levels are similar to the German quality system, denoting harvest sugar levels and subzone regions. But to the everyday English speaking wine buyer, all these wine bottles begin to blend together. After mentioning my idea to some friends here in Brno, they immediately exclaimed “I can totally use that!” These comments helped validate the need to share this information with the English speaking wine community in Brno.
I want to devote this post to the wines of the supermarket set. After all, this is Civil Wines and I prefer to focus on and include the everyday wine drinker. I am here to help you find your everyday bottle, to make wine more accessible to everyone. Full disclosure : I did have help from this website, Czech Wine Adventures, that explains labeling terms and quality levels. I highly advise checking out that website for more detailed information.
If you’ve been following my blog posts, you know that I am here for you. I always love a good deal and believe that great wines are available everywhere. This week, I decided to do a little investigative research. Luckily, my husband happily complied. I went to the Albert Hypermarket here in Brno. I picked up three bottles of white and three bottles of red, all priced under 120 korunas. I used a 5 star rating scale, determining overall quality, taste, aroma and balance. I’ve also noted the producer, vintage (when available), price and some of the key descriptors on both the back and front labels, to guide my readers on some tips to look out for when buying wine.
Réva Rakvice Ryzlink Rýnský – 109 Kc
This wine greeted my nose with a pronounced bouquet of lemongrass, honeysuckle and tropical fruits like kiwi and melon. In the glass, it had a pale lemon color with a light intensity. On the palate, the wine was clean with vibrant notes of tropical fruit, candied green apple and a hint of vanilla. A juicy mid-palate finished with bright acidity leads me to believe that the wine has a slight amount of residual sugar, leaving a touch of sweetness. Overall, a simple Riesling but I can only imagine having a cold glass on a hot summer day.
My rating: ★★★
Moravian Collection Veltlinské Zelené 2017 – 99 Kc
This Grüner Veltliner had a fairly intense, ripe lemon color. A pronounced bouquet of fruit including lemon, apple and hints of white pepper popped from the glass. The wine lacked any underripe vegetal qualities, and displayed a pleasant, rounder texture with fairly high acidity. It seems to me that this vintage had an overall warmer growing season, as there was a more mature fruit characteristic both on the nose and the palate. Lacking the traditional minerality typical for an Austrian Grüner, I still found this Moravian Grüner to be complex and elegant. The Moravian Collection is an exclusive for Albert Supermarket.
My rating: ★★★★
Vinselekt Michlovsky 2017 : Chardonnay - 119 Kc
This Chardonnay is not the heavily oaked, creamy, buttery style found back in California. The color of this wine was a pale lemon with fairly low intensity aromatics on the nose. There was instead a pleasant bouquet of green apple, ripe pear and slight hints of vanilla. The luscious texture was matched with medium acidity and notes of honeydew, melon and green apple. Plump on the mid palate, the wine had bright acidity on the longer finish. Not your typical oaky Chardonnay, so perfect for a spring thirst quencher.
My rating: ★★★½
Moravian collection Rulandské Modré (Pinot Noir) 2014 – 119 Kc
Pinot Noir is known in the wine world as the ‘heartbreak grape,’ as it is delicate and difficult to grow. That being said, this Pinot was a lovely surprise. The wine had a pale to medium intensity, with a ruby/cranberry color and slight hues of tawny brown, reflecting a few extra years in the bottle. Fruit forward aromas included raspberry, red and black currant, macerated strawberry and some rustic notes. The wine had delicate tannins and lifted acidity. Flavors of cranberry, dark red rose and black plum on the palate made this wine sing.
My rating: ★★★★
Hábanské Sklepy Svatovavřinecké (Saint Laurent) 2017 – 79 Kc
A concentrated magenta and fuchsia color greeted our eyes when this Saint Laurent was poured into our glass. This wine definitely had a more floral nose with aromas of violets, black fruit, blackberry and purple flower. Black fruit, blackberry, black currant, and hints of fig and cocoa were very pleasant on the palate. Leaning towards a more medium bodied style, the wine had soft tannins and medium acidity. A surprising delight.
My rating: ★★★★½
Vinařství NEOKLAS Šardice ‘Sovín‘ Modrý Portugal (Blauer Portugieser) - 109 Kc
This Blauer Portugieser had a lovely, concentrated magenta color. Showing a slightly umami nose, there were notes of mushroom, blackcurrant, and gamey, venison notes. Certainly this is a more powerful, medium bodied wine, with richer tannins and medium acidity. A slightly short finish and some eucalyptus notes were the only thing for me that was holding it back.
My rating: ★★★½
So there you have it! My supermarket wine ratings. Overall, all the wines were enjoyable, pleasant, affordable and easy to drink. Sometimes a wine from the supermarket is all you need. Now you can buy wine with confidence! Cheers!