Young wine and culinary delicacies, those are the trademarks of mid-November in the Czech Republic when the main protagonist is the St. Martin’s wine.
About Saint Martin’s Festivities
St. Martin’s Day, November 11, is the annual milestone for all wine-lovers. Many cities feature St. Martin’s Markets – special wine fairs where the Czech wine makers present their young wines. Restaurants offer St. Martin’s menus dominated by goose dishes and many of them are completely booked months in advance.
Where do these festivities come from, you ask? It all started with a Roman soldier called Martin to whom the God appeared. The soldier left the army, joined the church and was elected a bishop. However, he was so modest that he didn’t want to accept such a high charge and hid in the bushes. Some geese gave him away with their gaggling. Martin was proclaimed saint posthumously for his way of life and propagation of Christian beliefs.
The actual tradition, however, comes from the 18th century when the vineyard owners visited their property and sampled the new wines of the season and ate roasted geese and sauerkraut.
Saint Martin’s Wine
Svatomartinské víno (St. Martin’s Wine) is the first new wine of the season. Not just any kind of wine can be called St. Martin’s wine. Although it can be red, white or rosé, here’s where the free choice ends. The variety has to be cultivated in the Czech Republic and has to be one of the following: Müller-Thurgau, Veltlínské červené rané, Muškát moravský, Zweigeltrebe, Modrý Portugal and Svatovavřinecké. These varieties ripen early enough to assure the sufficient quality of the wine. A committee of experts gather to taste the samples anonymously and decide which wines will have the privilege to be called St. Martin’s each year. It’s recommended to drink the wine before Easter as it looses its fresh fruity taste later.
St. Martin’s wine is always dry with the maximum alcohol content of 12,5 % for white and rosé wines and 13 % for red wines. Traditionally, the bottles of St. Martin’s Wine are opened on the 11th of November at 11 am.
Traditional Food for St. Martin’s Festivities
Although the festivities usually take the whole week, the most important day is November 11, the St. Martin’s Day. On this day the families come together for lunch or dinner. As mentioned, the centerpiece of the family meal is roasted goose. The bird roasts very slowly (up to 12 hours) on very low temperatures which assures that the meat is tender and falls off the bone. Usually the goose is roasted with apples and cumin and served with two kinds of cabbage – acid called sauerkraut and sweet – and dumplings. Other delicacies include goose liver or paté, sweet pastry called koláče and patenty, which are potato pancakes filled with povidla and poppy seeds. All of this is typical Czech comfort food so you must count on gaining a few pounds!