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Martin Nesvadba: It was a major challenge

Published: 8. 10. 2021
Author: Martin Mrnka
Photo: Photo archives of The Winnery JOHANN W
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Martin Nesvadba is a household name among Czech winemakers and connoisseurs. He was born in Moravia, graduated in enology and viticulture from secondary school and continued in the same vein in university to earn his degree. His name is connected to the Vinium Velké Popovice, Tanzberg Mikulov, and Pouzdřany’s Kolby wineries. Afterward he moved to northern Czechia.

What convinced you to leave the famous Mikulov vineyards for the volcanic hills of the Lovosice and Litoměřice region?

It was a major challenge to be a part of restoring Czech wines to their former glory, of course. The vineyards of northern Czechia have an amazing tradition. After all, the grapevines from Burgundy, brought to our lands by Charles IV, were planted right here in the Litoměřice region. To bring back renown and splendor to wines from an almost forgotten area is an opportunity that not many winemakers are lucky enough to be given anywhere in the world.

Are the grapes not affected by the colder climate compared to Moravia?

Recent years have been very warm, climate change as a whole is playing a role in this as well. Nothing new, really – temperatures change, during the aforementioned period of Charles IV it was also much warmer. Later, in the 16th century, it was so cold that even the Vltava river would not thaw fully. The current period of warmer climate is beneficial to growing grapes in Great Britain, which is currently going through a boom of local sparkling wine production, and even Canada. After all, even in our region of Central Europe, you can find vineyards located much more to the north than ours are, close to Leipzig or Dresden for instance. What’s more, the cold can actually be beneficial for some grapes, depending on the variety. Thanks to the colder climate, varieties like Rieslings and Pinots flourish here, Pinot Noir and Blanc do very well for instance. The grapes accrue a lot of acid thanks to the cold, allowing them to ripen well and fully.

What else is characteristic of your wines?

Besides the acid, which transforms into delicate flavors through aging, our wines are also full of minerals thanks to the soil. They can give certain varieties an almost Burgundy-like character. During our blind tastings, some people have a hard time believing that these are Czech wines and not ones coming from Germany or the north of France.

The volcanic soil is crucial then?

In part, I would say. Of course, it is amazing to have the opportunity to grow our grapevines on volcanic basalt soil, interspersed with limestone sediment and marlite. That endows our wines with distinct mineral, salty undertones. The way the grapes are processed is also important, however. Thanks to Honza Dienstl’s investments, I can work with high-quality stainless tanks and let certain wines age in oak barrels. To give you an idea – each of those barrels can cost up to 1000 Euros, while you can only fit 225 liters of wine inside, and they have a limited service life.

What factors decide whether you will use a barrel?

It depends on the variety. The Traminer is only vinified in stainless tanks, most of our white wines end up in massive wooden barrels from Austria. The Pinots and some Rieslings are aged in the smaller French barriques.

What varieties do you grow anyway?

There used to be a lot more, the Blauer Portugieser, even the Saint Laurent. Nowadays, we try to specialize in the classic varieties of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Müller Thurgau, and Rhein Riesling. They are wines meant predominantly to accompany food. The Rieslings are good with fatty sweetwater fish or salmon, Pinot Blanc works with white meats or mild cheeses, Pinot Noir with lamb or duck breast, sharper cheeses or even grilled asparagus.

Who is Martin Nesvadba

Cellarman and enologist. Born among the vineyards of South Moravia, he got his “taste” of winemaking work at a young age.

After graduating in winemaking from secondary school in Valtice, he went on to earn his degree in enology and viticulture from the Faculty of Horticulture at the Mendel University in Lednice, which is the most prestigious and longest-standing enology educational institution in the country.

During his final year, he worked at the Vinium Velké Pavlovice company, gaining hands-on experience with state-of-the-art technologies and methods used to produce wine.

Nesvadba brought his technological expertise to help establish the Tanzberg Mikulov winery, he later worked at the Kolby vineyards. Several years ago, he accepted a major challenge and relocated from the famous Mikulov wine region to the north of Czechia to take part in restoring the tradition of local winemaking and viticulture.

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