About an hour's drive north of Prague, the mostly flat landscape starts arching and you can see the peaks of extinct volcanoes dotting the Central Bohemian Uplands. On the slopes of these scenic hills, volcanic rock meets pure chalky limestone and marlite, the sediment formed from the most delicate particles of the sea that once covered this area during the Tertiary.
Heritage of the baroness that Goethe fell in love with
Wines from Mělník, Žernoseky, and Roudnice nad Labem were the best-known Czech wines towards the end of the last century. Few people knew that not too far from here, west of Litoměřice, towards Žatec and Most, close to the Třebívlice village, lies dormant a vineyard that has been forgotten for almost a century.
The Litoměřice region has been home to wine growing during the warmer periods of Czech history for almost 1000 years. It is the oldest wine region in Czechia, established in 1057 by Duke Spytihněv II's decree. There were hundreds of acres of vineyards here once. Similar to the rest of Europe, the local grapes were ravaged by a phylloxera infestation towards the end of the 19th century. This left the vineyards to the sad fate of being overgrown with trees and thistle, potatoes were planted instead of wine in certain areas.
Thankfully, in the early 2000s, most of these abandoned vineyards were taken up by the patriot of northern Czechia, businessman, and wine lover and connoisseur, Jan Dienstl. This finance and energy industry entrepreneur gradually restored close to 90 acres of vineyards over the years. And he established the Chateau Winery Třebívlice, alluding to the last holder of the local barony, Baroness Theodore Ulrike Sophie von Levetzow, the fabled love interest of the aging Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In the year 2012, the winery produced its first wine made exclusively from local grapes. It is surely not by mere chance that the best known of local wines is the cuvée, or the JOHANN W variety.
Four different vineyards
Local grapes – young, fresh, and elegant, but also meant for aging – mainly grow on four beautiful vineyards in the area. The first being the romantic Hazmburk vineyard, dominated by two towers of the Gothic castle bearing the same name. The vineyard sprawls on slopes facing southward, giving it ample sunlight throughout the day. The hill, formed by a volcanic eruption 25 million years ago, is composed of volcanic basalt covered with chernozemic soil, endowing local wine with strong, mineral flavors.
A touch less minerality, but that much more elegance, is found in the wines of our next vineyard, surrounding a former Jewish cemetery. It is the Koskov vineyard, resting on soil formed purely by limestone. This helps the Pinot varieties from Burgundy – brought to Czechia by King and Emperor Charles IV – flourish.
Red grapes are mostly found at the Šepetelská Hora vineyard, whose underbed is composed of alkaline chalk sediment. The vineyard's profile is shaped by the warm local microclimate, giving the grapes the chance to ripen fully.
Similarly protected is the Skršínský Vrch vineyard, experimentally planted as early as 1970 and included in the Třebívlice winery's stock as one of the first. The 50-year-old grapevine roots reach as deep as 25 meters below ground and the grapes are safeguarded on both sides by rows of acacia trees.
Stainless tanks, oak barrels
High-quality vineyards and ripe, mature grapes are only some of the factors constituting the local success. Jan Dienstl, being the wine connoisseur he is, visited dozens of wineries around Burgundy, northern Italy, and Austria to decide on the best way to process his harvest.
The key is keeping the grapes as clean as possible, starting with meticulous hand-picking during harvest, and also handling the grapes and pressed juice in the most delicate manner when they are transported to the stainless vinificators and fermentation tanks. Huge stainless containers allow for temperature control, assuring that the yeast can do its job to perfection. The wine then ages in big French oak barrels or in the traditional French barrique, meant to produce an even 300 bottles of wine to be.
Depending on the vintage and variety, white wines age for at least a year, the reds for 18 months and more. Certain vintages of the Chateau Winery's gem – Pinot Noir – can stay in the oak barrels for up to five years.
A first-class winemaker and the wine culture
The old French winemaker's adage says that the terroir is the mother of the wine, the variety of the grape is the father, and the vintage is its fate. All of it is made possible by the presence of the winemaker, however.
The Třeblívice winemaker is cellarman and enologist, Martin Nesvadba, who graduated in viticulture from the Mendel University in Lednice. After having success in several famous wineries, he was taken by Jan Dienstl's vision to bring back the lost fame of the wines of northern Czechia. Having reached an agreement with the owner, vintner Nesvadba started focusing on traditional Czech varieties such as Müller Thurgau or Saint Laurent as well as the aforementioned Burgundy varieties, mainly Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. He also chose the Rhine Riesling, which flourishes in the local colder climate.
Up to half a million liters of wine might age at a time in the Třebívlice winery, and some of them are meant for consumption only many years after harvest. The fact that Jan Dienstl did not focus solely on wine is important for the region's development as well as many other things. The excellent food produced by the Winery kitchens, and most of all the project resulting in regular concerts of famous Czech and Moravian bands, theater plays, and all sorts of festivities are a part of the wine culture.
In so doing, the Třebívlice Winery not only brings back the glory of wine, established by Duke Spytihněv II and supported by Emperor Charles IV but also brings about a new era for the northern regions of Czechia, which have been so overlooked in the recent past.
About the winery
Chateau Winery Třebívlice was built from the ground up by Czech businessman and wine lover, Jan Dienstl. In the years 2004–2010, he returned almost 90 acres of high-quality vineyards to the Central Bohemian Uplands landscape. The first harvest of exclusively local grapes took place in Třebívlice in 2012. This is the most extensive winemaking project in Czechia in recent years.
The bottle and label were designed by Mr. Oldřich Kulhánek, a legend of Czech graphics and illustration, known as the author of lithographic prints that can be seen on a variety of famous books, stamps, and bills. Depicted on the label is Ulrike von Levetzow, the last love interest of Johann Wolfgang Goethe. The vineyards originally belonged to her, in fact. She was sixteen when she met Goethe, who was 76 at that time, in Marienbad. This was her domain.